Is there anything more exciting in racing than an undefeated, graded stakes-winning Kentucky Derby contender? Hard to say, but in the quiet months of winter such a horse has to rank pretty high on the excitement meter, and Maximus Mischief has the racing world abuzz after bringing his race record to a perfect 3-for-3 with a victory in the December 2nd Remsen Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct.
Bred by Martha Jane Mulholland, Maximus Mischief made his way through the auction ring several times before being sold for $340,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale. That was the seventh-highest purchase price at the sale—and a pretty hefty sum no doubt—but with the benefit of hindsight it’s looking more and more like a bargain.
Now racing for the partnership of Cash is King LLC and LC Racing, Maximus Mischief showed a world of talent in his first two starts for trainer Robert “Butch” Reid, Jr., though from a mental standpoint it seemed evident that the colt was still something of a work-in-progress. His debut on September 29th was excellent—he crushed seven rivals by 8 ¾ lengths while leading all the way—but in a seven-furlong allowance race one month later, Maximus Mischief broke outward at the start and continued to drift outward through the opening furlong while fighting the restraint of jockey Frankie Pennington. It was a testament to Maximus Mischief’s overwhelming superiority that he overcame his early antics to win by six lengths with something left in the tank.
Still, that performance left some question marks about Maximus Mischief’s ability to successfully step up in class and negotiate nine furlongs in the Remsen Stakes. Would he get rank again and waste his energy fighting his rider? And even if he did relax, would a two-year-old son of Into Mischief out of a Songandaprayer mare really relish the challenge of running such a testing distance?
In the end, Maximus Mischief answered both questions in decisive fashion. He was far from rank in the Remsen, relaxing nicely through slow early fractions of :25.12 and :50.67, and when he was put to pressure during the second half of the race, he accelerated strongly through successive quarters in :23.93 and :23.88 plus a final furlong in :12.86, very promising fractions that left no doubt about his ability to handle racing around two turns, at least at this point in time. For his effort, he received a solid 97 Beyer speed figure, his third straight number in the 94-98 range.
Understandably, some handicappers will continue to point toward Maximus Mischief’s pedigree as a reason why he won’t excel running 1 ¼ miles on the first Saturday in May. But rare is the two-year-old who can run a pair of sub-:24 quarters during the second half-mile of a two-turn route race, and those fractions—even coming off the heels of a slow pace—hint that Maximus Mischief might have a much bigger and stronger engine under the hood than anyone realizes. He might just be an abundantly talented runner with a surprising dose of stamina that will carry him farther than his pedigree suggests, and if this does prove to be the case, then we might be looking at a very promising Derby contender indeed.