If you’re among the many handicappers who figure to place their betting dollars on #5 Network Effect in Saturday’s $250,000 Remsen Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct, I certainly can’t blame you.
What’s not to like? He’s got the powerful team of trainer Chad Brown and jockey Javier Castellano in his corner, and he’s done little wrong in two starts to date. After breaking his maiden by three lengths sprinting seven furlongs at Saratoga, he stretched out to a mile for the Nashua Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct and turned in a game run to finish second behind the talented Vekoma. Furthermore, Network Effect finished seven lengths clear of the proven graded stakes winner Call Paul and fired off a 99 BRIS speed figure in the process.
There’s no clear reason to think that Network Effect won’t run another big race on Saturday, even while stretching out to nine furlongs for the first time. He’s the obvious choice to take home the winner’s share of the purse plus 10 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
But despite Network Effect’s obvious virtues, I’m just as intrigued by #6 Maximus Mischief. This son of Into Mischief might be bred like a sprinter, but I nevertheless have him ranked in my Kentucky Derby Top 10 thanks to the abundant talent that he’s displayed in two starts at Parx Racing. He’s been a little green, and he hasn’t beaten much, but Maximus Mischief has not been remotely challenged while winning a maiden race and an allowance race by a combined 14 ¾ lengths. In both races, he seized the lead at the start and simply ran his rivals off their feet to win easily with something left in the tank.
Just going by the eye test, I think Maximus Mischief possesses a great deal of talent and potential, and that’s reflected in his BRIS speed figures—he posted a 94 on debut and improved to a 104 in his allowance win. If he can handle the stretch-out to nine furlongs for the Remsen Stakes—admittedly a big test—I think his raw speed and talent will be enough to contend for victory.
In the exotics, I’ll play both Maximus Mischief and Network Effect on top to varying degrees, while for the bottom slots of the trifecta and superfecta I’ll add in the longer-priced #7 Tax, who makes his first start for trainer Danny Gargan (who has won with six of his first 16 starters at this Aqueduct meet) after being claimed out of a maiden claiming race at Keeneland, which Tax won by two lengths. From a pedigree perspective, Tax should have no trouble handling nine furlongs, and he’ll also be racing on Lasix for the first time while picking up the services of Aqueduct’s leading jockey Manny Franco. What’s not to like?