(Mischevious Alex / Photo Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Owners Cash is King and LC Racing and trainer John Servis enjoyed a perfect Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack with Mischevious Alex victorious in the Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham following a winning effort by Diamond King in the $125,000 Stymie.

Mischevious Alex, undefeated since the addition of blinkers, was prominent throughout the one-turn mile Gotham en route to a two-length score under Kendrick Carmouche. The Into Mischief bay, bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, continued a three-race win streak that includes a 9 ¾-length score in the seven-furlong Parx Juvenile in November and a last-out seven-length score in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Swale in February at Gulfstream Park.

“It was a very good day. They both came out of the race very well,” said Servis. “I knew he’d settle and sit anywhere and he ran the way I expected him to. Since we put the blinkers on, he’s all business.”

Mischevious Alex, who garnered a 90 Beyer Speed Figure in victory, also earned 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points in victory and now stands in third position on the leaderboard for a spot in the starting gate on May 2 at Churchill Downs.

Servis said Mischevious Alex is likely to make his next start in the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on April 4 at the Big A, where 100-40-20-10 Derby points will be on the line.

“He hasn’t done much wrong. I think the Wood is the logical spot on the radar,” said Servis. “I’ll sit down with Mr. Zacney [Cash is King] and Mr. Bennett [LC Racing] and decide where we’re going to go next.”

Servis, who won the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness with Smarty Jones, was full of praise for Carmouche who was aboard Mischevious Alex for the first time.

“Kendrick rode him perfect. I told him if he runs to his PPs, he’ll break like a rocket,” said Servis. “He broke sharp and he let him sit off it a little bit. When he had to call on him to maintain his position, he got right up there and sat again. Turning for home, when he asked him, he drew off. I think he had a little more left in the tank.”

Mischevious Alex finished third in the one-mile Sapling in September at Monmouth Park, his only two-turn test on dirt. Cash is King Stable’s Chuck Zacney said he is hopeful his colt can make the distance.

“Our motto is one furlong at a time. We did seven, we did eight, what’s next? I guess it’s nine,” said Zacney following the Gotham.

Cash is King and LC Racing captured the Grade 2 Remsen last year with the Robert Reid-trained Maximus Mischief and looked to be Derby bound before an injury that led to them retiring the colt. Zacney said Saturday’s win was a special one.

“Absolutely it [brings back memories],” said Zacney. “There’s no place like the winner’s circle and last year with Maximus Mischief was pretty special. It was kind of a letdown after that. To come back and get this is special and especially to share it with my son [Alex] who loves the game like I do. There were about 25 of us here today. It started with Diamond King in [the Stymie] and continued. So, it was a really good day.”

Diamond King, making his first start since finishing fifth in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler on October 26, earned a 98 Beyer for his 1 ¼-length score in the Stymie. With Carmouche in the irons, Diamond King attended the early pace in the one-turn mile and dug in gamely down the lane to hold secure the win over American Anthem.

A 5-year-old son of Quality Road bred in Kentucky by JSM Equine, Diamond King improved his record to 18-6-4-3 with a bankroll of $713,350.

Servis said he will point Diamond King to the Grade 2, $1 million Charles Town Classic, a nine-furlong test for 4-year-olds and upward slated for April 18. The ultra-consistent bay finished second in the Charles Town Classic last year.

“I thought he ran great. He runs good fresh for me,” said Servis. “We’ll probably aim for the Charles Town race as he ran well there last year. After that, I might back up on him again and get him ready for something in the summer. He runs well fresh.”


Sacco in New York state of mind with Mind Control

Trainer Gregg Sacco could not speak higher volumes of Mind Control the morning after the colt launched a dramatic rally to win the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The Stay Thirsty bay overcame a bad start and had to make up eight lengths at the top of the stretch, but successfully caught stakes winner Happy Farm in the final half-furlong to notch a fifth graded stakes win.

Owned by Steve Brunetti’s Red Oak Stable in partnership with Sol Kumin and Jason Monteleone’s Madaket Stable, the 4-year-old did not display his usual prominent running style, racing in sixth position early. Jockey Junior Alvarado gave Mind Control his cue around the far turn, and he displayed a devastating turn of foot at the top of the stretch to bypass Happy Farm in hand to win by 1 ¼ lengths.

“He came back great,” Sacco said. “We didn’t expect to be that far back, but the little stumble caused that. He was on his wrong lead down the backside and Junior just let him be. He didn’t want to start fooling with him. He just let him settle into stride and when he got him in the clear, he took off. It was a pretty explosive run.”

Mind Control’s ledger includes a pair of Grade 1 wins at Saratoga Race Course, beginning with the Grade 1 Hopeful as a juvenile and the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens in August. Sacco said he will next point Mind Control toward a third top-flight score in the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap on April 4 at the Big A.

“He’s a special horse and showed another dimension yesterday,” Sacco said. “We’ll keep marching on here and the Carter will be the next step. It’s an important race and we’ll see how everything goes there. We’re kind of on the New York path here. We’ll take things one race at a time, but I think every race is New York for him.

“He probably won’t work for another two weeks, which should give us two works leading into the Carter,” added Sacco. “I’ll probably work him back a half and five-eighths before the race. He’s really fit and he really blossomed during that time off from three to four. He needed that break after the Jerkens.”

Mind Control was an 11-1 price when taking the Hopeful at age two, fresh off a second out maiden victory at Monmouth Park.

“We knew he could run going into that race, even when he broke his maiden at Monmouth,” Sacco said. “He’s the kind of horse we thought had gears, but you never know until you run against that top level. Last year, was a real good year for him, with some stumbled starts and mishaps but then he capped it off in the Jerkens. It was special to have him win a Grade 1 at two and three.

Bred in Kentucky by Red Oak Stable, Mind Control is out of the stakes-winning Lightnin N Thunder broodmare Feel That Fire, who has produced four other progeny of racing age, three of which are winners.

Jeff Fazio and Michael Fazio’s stakes winner Joevia will get some time off after incurring a displaced pallet following a seventh and last-place finish in the Stymie. Third in last year’s Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, this was the son of Shanghai Bobby’s second uncharacteristic performance of the year after finishing 11th in the Grade 3 Razorback at Oaklawn Park last month.

“He displaced his pallet and blocked off his air so he’ll have surgery and get a few weeks off,” Sacco said. “It may have happened at Oaklawn and you don’t always pick it up on the scope. [Jockey] Chris DeCarlo said he was making a lot of noises. It’s a minor surgery, but hopefully he’ll bounce back.”


Water White wows in $250K Busher

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez, currently second in the trainer standings at the Big A winter meet, said E.V. Racing Stable’s Water White was in good order on Sunday morning following her 17-1 upset score in Saturday’s $250,000 Busher Invitational.

A $50,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Yearling Sale, the Conveyance gray rallied from sixth to nail Kansas Kis by a nose in the final stride of the one-turn mile.

“My voice is still hoarse,” said Rodriguez. “By the sixteenth pole, it looked like the other horse was stopping and we were coming but it looked tough. But I knew at the wire she had won it.”

Her winning effort, which earned a 76 Beyer Speed Figure, garnered 50 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points and is now third on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 54 points.

Rodriguez said a contested pace set by favored Lake Avenue helped his filly’s chances.

“The pace helped us. The two top horses didn’t run their race and that helped us,” said Rodriguez. “She’s a grinder and she kept coming and coming.”

Water White graduated at third asking on November 15 in a one-turn mile at Aqueduct ahead of an off-the-board effort in the Grade 2 Demoiselle which was won by Busher rival Lake Avenue. Water White entered the Busher off a distant second in the Busanda on February 7 at the Big A, when 7 1/2-lengths back of the victorious Harvey’s Lil Goil.

Rodriguez said Water White is likely to make her next start in the Grade 2, $300,000 Gazelle, a nine-furlong tilt set for April 4 at the Big A which offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-four finishers. The Grade 1, $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks will be contested on May 1 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

“She came out of the race good. We’ll take the points and hope for the best. If she keeps her weight then that’s what we’ll do,” said Rodriguez regarding the Gazelle.

The veteran conditioner won the 2015 Busher with Condo Commando, who went on to capture the Grade 2 Gazelle ahead of an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.

“Condo Commando was bigger and stronger. This filly is coming around and she’s going to be a nice filly. Hopefully, she takes us to the Kentucky Oaks,” said Rodriguez.

Salerno Stables’ War Stopper, an impressive maiden winner on January 11 at Aqueduct, was bumped at the start of Saturday’s Grade 3 Gotham before setting the early pace and fading to 11th in the one-mile Kentucky Derby qualifier.

Rodriguez said he will regroup with the Declaration of War chestnut.

“The jockey said he broke a little slow and that he had to use him a lot,” said Rodriguez. “The pace was quick and then he flattened out. He’s okay this morning, so we’ll regroup and take it from there.”


Will Sing for Wine could try turf after maiden win; Mott maps out plans for stakes-winning sophomores

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott was pleased with a third-out victory from Will Sing for Wine for Barry Irwin’s Team Valor Stable and Edward C. Potash and said the chestnut son of second crop sire Will Take Charge could run on the turf at some point.

Piloted by Manny Franco, Will Sing for Wine was last in a tightly-packed field of seven, went five-wide approaching the far turn, and made the lead all on his own while holding off a late charge from Cousin Andrew to win by three-quarters of a length. He earned an 80 Beyer Speed Figure for the win.

“We’ve got a month to figure it all out. We may even give the horse a try on the grass at some point. He’s worked very well on the grass,” Mott said.

Bred in Kentucky by Normandy Farm, Will Sing for Wine is out of the graded stakes winning Singspiel broodmare Miss Singhsix.

Mott breezed Will Sing for Wine over the turf at Payson Park Training Center in South Florida on February 24 going five furlongs in 1:01.40.

Mott said Frank Fletcher Racing Operations’ Frank’s Rockette will likely stick to one-turn races following an emphatic seven-length win in the Any Limit on February 22 at Gulfstream Park, where he registered a career-best 98 Beyer Speed Figure.

Favored in all five of her career starts, including runner-up efforts in the Grade 1 Spinaway and Grade 1 Frizette, the daughter of Into Mischief will likely target the $150,000 Purple Martin on April 4 at Oaklawn Park or could attempt a graded stakes win in the Grade 3, $150,000 Beaumont on April 5 at Keeneland.

“I think we’re going for the shorter races. I think that’s going to be her thing,” Mott said. “The owner is from Arkansas so we might go there, or we could go to the Beaumont.”

Pam and Martin Wygod’s Modernist returned to the work tab on March 3 following a triumph in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds Race Course going five furlongs in 1:02.20. He will likely return to New Orleans for a start in the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 21.

Modernist is currently fourth on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 50 points. The Louisiana Derby offers 100-40-20-10 qualifying points to the top-four finishers.

“That would be the first option,” Mott said. “We like what he’s done. If it all goes smoothly, we can pick up some more points in the Louisiana Derby. If he runs well, it’s on to the Derby. He has 50, so you’d like to have more.”

The Estate of Harvey Clarke and Paul Braverman’s Harveys Lil Goil, winner of the Busanda on February 4 at the Big A, has been training forwardly alongside Mott’s winter division at Payson Park and will return to New York next month for the Grade 3, $300,000 Gazelle on April 4.

The gray daughter of 2015 Triple Crown winner and second crop stallion American Pharoah is out of the Tapit broodmare Gloria S., who is a half-sister to 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another and graded stakes winner Golden Award.

Mott’s assistant Leanna Willaford said Godolphin’s Lake Avenue was in good order on Sunday morning after finishing fourth in the Busher as the 4-5 favorite. The daughter of Tapit, out of dual Grade 1 winner Seventh Street, will ship back to Florida on Monday.

“She came back fine, it just wasn’t her day,” said Willaford. “She came back well, ate up last night and she’ll be back again. She’s going to go back to Florida [on Monday] and I can imagine she’ll show up either at Keeneland or back here.”


Handal looks to regroup and move forward with Kansas Kis and Celtic Striker

Nosed out of a victory in Saturday’s $250,000 Busher Invitational, conditioner Ray Handal reported 3-year-old filly Kansas Kis returned from her game second-place effort in good order Sunday morning.

Kansas Kis, who entered the Busher off a second-place optional claiming effort going six furlongs on February 21, was making her seventh career start and stakes debut while stretching out to the one-mile distance for the first time in her career.

The Constitution filly stalked 1-2 post time favorite Lake Avenue early and cruised by her at quarter-pole to earn the lead in the upper stretch. Kansas Kis dug in gamely down the lane, hooking up late with Water White who got the last bob in front at the wire.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” said Handal. “It’s tough to lose the race the way in which she did, but at the same time we know now that we have a legit filly. She came back out of it well. One thing about these Constitution babies is that they’re really tough.”

Earning 20 qualifying points to the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks with her second place finish, Handal said he would most likely next point Kansas Kis to the Grade 2, $300,000 Gazelle on Wood Memorial Day Saturday, April 4.

“For sure that’s in our plans now,” said Handal. “I feel as though the longer she goes the better she’ll get. You don’t want to play Monday Morning Quarterback, but we might have moved a little too early heading into the quarter-pole. But, when you put a 1-2 favorite [Lake Avenue] away like that and get comfortably to the lead you can’t second guess the decision. It was a game effort and she’ll move forward of it.”

One race later in the Grade 3 Gotham, Handal saddled Imperial Racing’s Celtic Striker who finished a disappointing eleventh after encountering trouble breaking from the rail.

The 3-year-old Congrats colt entered the Gotham off an impressive 1 ½ length first level allowance win on February 8 at Parx. Put under wraps for most of the trip following the break, Handal said he would speak with the owners about possibly circling back in the Grade 3, $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park on March 14.

“The post really did us in from the start,” said Handal “He just kind of got shuffled in there and never got the chance to do any type of running. I’ll talk with the ownership group to see if we want to wheel back and try him in the Jeff Ruby. He came back fine so I think it’s an option for us considering he didn’t really get a chance to show what he could do on Saturday.”