Swale Winner to New York
Mischevious Alex has posted back-to-back stakes wins in impressive fashion and will now try to earn qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby as part of a competitive 11-horse field in Saturday's Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Cash is King and L C Racing's Mischevious Alex enters the one-turn mile with momentum as the field's only graded stakes winner courtesy of his seven-length score in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Swale on Feb, 1 at Gulfstream Park. The John Servis trainee is 3-1-1 in six career starts, including a third-place finish under jockey Trevor McCarthy in his only previous start at one mile in the Sapling, a two-turn event, on September 1 at Monmouth Park.
The Into Mischief colt tried turf for the only time in his career, running seventh in the Laurel Futurity, on Sept. 21. Servis moved him back to the main track and added blinkers, resulting in a 9 3/4-length win in the Parx Juvenile on Nov. 5 before his sophomore debut in the Swale, which earned him a personal-best 93 Beyer Speed Figure.
"If you look at his Sapling, he looks like a horse that maybe doesn't want to go that far, but Trevor [McCarthy] was adamant after the race that he should have won but the horse got to the front and started waiting on horses and pulled himself up," Servis said. "I think the blinkers have solved that."
Servis said a good Gotham performance could mean a return engagement at the Big A for the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on April 4 that will offer 100-40-20-10 Derby points.
"If he runs good in the Gotham, we'll have to try him two turns again to see how he handles it," Servis said. "I think the Wood would be the most logical spot, but nothing is etched in stone. We have to get by Saturday first."
Servis is no stranger to the Triple Crown circuit, having won the first two legs when Smarty Jones captured the Derby and Preakness in 2004 before finishing second, one length back to Birdstone, in the Belmont Stakes in his bid for history.
"They're not a lot alike other than neither of them is very big," Servis said. "Smarty was not a big horse and Alex isn't a big horse. There's not a lot of similarities other than both of them being pretty talented."
Mischevious Alex, purchased for $140,000 at the 2019 Ocala Breeders' Sale, will pick up jockey Kendrick Carmouche's services for the first time, drawing post 6.
"He's a good horse and has a great mind on him and will do what you want him to do," Servis said. I'll reiterate that to Kendrick and let him know he's pretty push button and to ride him accordingly."
Southern Equine Stable's Sixto was an impressive debut winner on January 30 in a six-furlong sprint at Aqueduct, earning an 81 Beyer for his 1 3/4-length score against a five-horse field. Trained by Eric Guillot, Sixto has breezed three times at the Belmont Park training track since his win, including a three-furlong blowout in 37.12 seconds on Monday.
"He's doing great," Guillot said. "His last time to the track we just gave him an easy work from the gate. It was a deep track and he finished up strong. Stepping up into the Gotham against better horses, we knew he had to be sharper so we just gave him that reminder to focus on breaking good and it worked out.
"He's really a push-button horse," he added. "He's a late foal and I think once he develops more, he'll be a nice two-turn horse but for now, the one-turn mile should suit him fine."
The Curlin colt, who was a $250,000 purchase at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Santa Anita 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, will see Eric Cancel pick up the mount from post 7.
Trainer Linda Rice will saddle a pair of contenders in last-out stakes-winner Montauk Traffic and First Deputy.
Montauk Traffic, owned by Chris Fountoukis, dwelt at the start of his first race on Dec. 14 before winning each of his next two starts, breaking his maiden by 4 1/2 lengths on Dec. 28. The Cross Traffic colt handled the step up to stakes company, winning the seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield on Feb. 8 on a fast Aqueduct track.
Jose Lezcano will have the call again, drawing post 8, as Montauk Traffic makes his first start at a mile.
"We like to think that the added distance will only help him," Rice said. "I was a little concerned around the turn [of the Jimmy Winkfield]. Jose opted to quit chasing faster fractions and just let the horse settle. Around the turn it looked like he was getting some kickback and trying to work his way through that as well. He made a nice move at the end of it, and we believe that the further the better for him."
Calumet Farm's First Deputy will make his first stakes appearance in his eighth start following consecutive wins at six furlongs. The $200,000 purchase at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Mid-Atlantic Sale will have Dylan Davis aboard from post 11.
"It's a big step up in company. We're giving him a shot, he's training well," Rice said. "Being an Awesome Again colt, the distance should be within his wheelhouse."
Untitled, owned by Gary Barber and Michael Sebastian, broke a string of poor breaks last out, running second to Gouverneur Morris in an optional claimer on Feb. 14 at Tampa Bay Downs.
Mark Casse took over the training duties after the son of Khozan won his first start in December. After being knocked around out of the gate in the Swale, in which he finished fourth, Casse saw a cleaner break last month in Tampa in which he led the five-horse field through the quarter-mile and half-mile marks.
Making his first start outside of the Sunshine State, Casse said the Florida bred has looked good training at Palm Meadows.
"He's been training really well," Casse said. "He's a beautiful horse. He's a big, long, good-moving horse. The problem he has sometimes is he breaks a bit slow. After we bought him, we breezed him from the gate trying to get him to be a little quicker right from there. I always wanted to run him long, and I figure the longer I run him, the less important the start is. But he broke pretty good last time."
Junior Alvarado will pick up the mount from post 10.
Two other contenders enter with Derby prep points to their credit, including Imperial Racing's Celtic Striker, who earned one point thanks to a fourth-place Jerome finish on New Year's Day at Aqueduct for trainer Raymond Handal. Romero Ramsay Maragh will ride from post 1.
Informative, owned and trained by Uriah St. Lewis, also earned a qualifying point for finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Remsen for juveniles on Dec. 2. The Bodemeister colt won his only start in his 3-year-old campaign, breaking his maiden at eighth asking on Feb, 8, and will now make a big step up in class.
John Bisono will have the mount for the seventh straight time aboard Informative, breaking from post 2.
The remainder of the field is:
--Necker Island, fifth in the Swale in his only stakes appearance for trainer Stanley Hough [post 5, Manny Franco];
--War Stopper, a first-time stakes starter, for conditioner Rudy Rodriguez [post 3, Jorge Vargas, Jr.];
--Attachment Rate, making his stakes bow after a maiden-breaking win on an off track Feb. 15 at Gulfstream; he could turn out to be the "other horse" for trainer Dale Romans [post 4, Luis Saez];
--and Flap Jack, winner of the Arlington-Washington Futurity in September, making his first start in six months for trainer Jack Sisterson [post 9, Declan Carroll].