(Mischevious Alex headlines Saturday’s G1 Woody Stephens Stakes / Photo Courtesy of NYRA)
Cash is King and LC Racing’s Mischevious Alex, who captured the Grade 3 Gotham last out on March 7 at the Big A for trainer John Servis, headlines Saturday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Woody Stephens presented by Claiborne Farm.
The Into Mischief bay, bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, arrives at Saturday’s seven-furlong test for sophomores on a three-race streak that includes scores in the Parx Juvenile in November and the Grade 3 Swale in February at Gulfstream Park ahead of his Gotham glory.
Servis said he had considered Saturday’s nine-furlong Grade 1 Belmont Stakes for Mischevious Alex, who is returning to the top flight off a three-month layoff.
“I’d love to be running in the Belmont,” said Servis. “But I wanted to run him shorter first back off the layoff and then stretch him out after that. The Woody Stephens seemed like a good spot.”
Mischevious Alex worked a half-mile in 51.42 seconds Tuesday morning at Parx Racing in preparation for the Woody Stephens.
“He’s training very good coming into the race,” said Servis. “We had some time between races with the coronavirus and I eased off on him a little bit because we didn’t have a schedule.”
Undefeated since the addition of blinkers for his Parx Juvenile score, Mischevious Alex boasts a record of 7-4-1-1 with purse earnings of $344,230. Servis said he is looking forward to racing at Belmont Park.
“It’s awesome,” said Servis. “Anytime you get to run in a Grade 1, it’s exciting and the fact that I’ll be able to go up there and saddle him and see him run is even more exciting. I haven’t been able to do much of that of late.”
Kendrick Carmouche, aboard for the Gotham win, retains the mount from post 3.
Maggi Moss and Greg Tramontin’s No Parole, trained by Tom Amoss, has won 4-of-5 career starts. The Louisiana-bred Violence bay, a $75,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, posted double-digit wins in his first two career starts in restricted affairs at Fair Grounds romping a six-furlong maiden event in December before sprinting to a 13 ¼-length allowance score in January.
No Parole made it three straight wins with a 6 ½-length score in the restricted one-mile Premier Night Prince in February at Delta Downs ahead of an off-the-board effort in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Rebel in March on a sloppy strip at Oaklawn Park.
Last out, No Parole returned to sprinting with a front-running score in an open optional-claiming sprint on April 14 at the Hot Springs, Arkansas oval.
“This is a horse that showed he’s an open company caliber horse last out,” said Amoss. “With limited options these past few months, there have been allowance races popping up with some really good horses at Oaklawn, here at Churchill and at Belmont, so that was a good race out of him last time. We think he’s a top sprinter.”
No Parole will emerge from the inside post under Luis Saez.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will saddle Grandview Equine, Cheyenne Stables and LNJ Foxwoods’ Shoplifted and L and N Racing’s Echo Town.
Shoplifted, an $800,000 purchase from the Fasig Tipton Florida Select 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, graduated on debut in a maiden sprint in July at Saratoga Race Course. The Into Mischief bay next contested a trio of Grade 1 events finishing second in the Runhappy Hopeful on September 2 at Saratoga, fifth in the American Pharoah on September 27 at Santa Anita and seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on November 1 at Santa Anita.
Shoplifted, off the board in a trio of sophomore starts at Oaklawn Park at distances of one mile or longer, returns to sprinting Saturday.
Echo Town, by Speightstown and out of the Grade 2-winning Menifee mare Letgomyecho, is a half-brother to 2017 Grade 3 Gotham winner J Boys Echo. A $100,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Echo Town has made five starts, all in six-furlong sprints on the main track. He graduated in January at Fair Grounds ahead of a trio of efforts at Oaklawn Park that included an allowance win in March and a runner-up effort in the Bachelor on April 25.
Last out, Echo Town went gate-to-wire on May 25 in an optional-claiming sprint at Churchill Downs.
“Echo Town came in Tuesday in good shape. He’s got a lot of weight on him and looks really good,” said assistant trainer Toby Sheets. “Shoplifted has been here and he’s been training beautifully. I think he’s got a really good shot.”
Jose Ortiz will pilot Shoplifted from post 5 and Ricardo Santana, Jr. will guide Echo Town from post 4.
Colts Neck Stables’ Meru has flashed brilliance in just four career starts for trainer Jorge Duarte, Jr. Bred in Kentucky by Godolphin, the Sky Mesa bay graduated on debut in July at Monmouth Park and followed up with a career-best 95 Beyer Speed Figure, winning the six-furlong Smoke Glacken at the Oceanport, New Jersey oval.
Meru endured a troubled trip in the one-mile Grade 3 Nashua in November at the Big A when pinched at the break and steadied before rallying to finish second behind well-regarded Independence Hall. Last out, in his seasonal debut in a May 25 optional-claiming sprint at Churchill Downs, Meru demonstrated a good late kick to be fourth, defeated less than a length by Woody Stephens-rival Echo Town.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. has the call aboard Meru from post 2.
Carded as Race 2 at 12:25 p.m. Eastern on Saturday’s 12-race slate, the Grade 1 Woody Stephens presented by Claiborne Farm will feature on America’s Day at the Races, produced by NYRA in partnership with FOX Sports, and airing live on FOX Sports and MSG+. Free Equibase-provided past performances are available for races that are part of the broadcast and can be accessed at www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.