Downtown Mischief get the win in the Cicada. (Joe Labozzetta)
By Mary Eddy
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Lady Sheila Stable’s New York homebred Downtown Mischief kept her perfect record intact when defeating open company in Saturday’s $100,000 Cicada, a six-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by the red-hot Linda Rice and ridden to victory by Jose Lezcano, Downtown Mischief made the first stakes start of her career a winning one to maintain a flawless 3-for-3 record. The victory followed a pair of six-furlong scores against state-breds at the Big A when taking an allowance on February 17 and a maiden by an eye-catching 7 3/4 lengths on January 14.
Rice, who is the leading trainer at the Big A winter meet with 35 wins, enjoyed the ninth win from the past 11 races she has entered, and improved to 10-for-12 one race later when Lifetime of Change broke his maiden in Race 10. Rice said she is relishing her recent run of success.
“When you’re a trainer you go through hills and valleys, but it sure is fun when you end up on the right side of it,” said Rice. “Last winter, we were struggling to get there [to the winner’s circle]. Sometimes at Saratoga, we’ll get 18 seconds, and we never win a photo.”
Away cleanly from post 3, Downtown Mischief broke a step slow and was urged to confront the fast-breaking Fabulously Funny as the field exited the chute. Hot Little Thing, who was away slowly and trailed the field at the start, was rushed up quickly by Alex Achard and battled for the lead down the backstretch through an opening quarter mile in 22.89 seconds over the fast main track.
Downtown Mischief raced between foes mid-turn as a stubborn Fabulously Funny gave chase to her inside with an all-out Hot Little Thing to her outside after a half-mile in 47.19. Downtown Mischief came away with a clear advantage at the top of the lane and kicked clear from her retreating pace pressers, left only to deal with the late turn of foot from Tappin Jose, who rallied from fifth to make her bid at the eighth pole. Tappin Josie drifted wide to the center of the racetrack and could not make up enough ground to catch Downtown Mischief, who reached the wire 1 1/2 lengths in front and stopped the clock in 1:13.72.
Tappin Josie completed the exacta by 3 1/2 lengths over Fabulously Funny with Fancy Azteca finishing another four lengths back to complete the superfecta. Hot Little Thing and Musicmansandy completed the order of finish.
Rice said the plans she discussed with Lezcano were a moot point once the swift Hot Little Thing missed the break from post 2.
“I told Jose that I thought the little filly on the inside of us had tremendous speed. She looked fast in the paddock,” said Rice. “I was also a little concerned about the four-horse on the outside [Fabulously Funny], but Jose Lezcano had ridden her before, and he said she’s not that fast. I said, ‘OK, you’re going to be sitting second to the two.’ And he said, ‘that’s probably where we’ll be, sitting right outside.’ It totally went upside down. The two doesn’t break and then she comes rushing up through, but Jose is such a pro, and he never loses his cool. When he needed to hold his ground, he did – and I think that makes a difference.”
Lezcano said Downtown Mischief handled the pace pressure professionally.
“She didn’t break that sharp,” said Lezcano. “The number two didn’t break either, so I had to go for my position. When I asked her, she gave me a good run. I stayed in my position when I saw the two on the outside. I asked her at the quarter pole, and she ran on like the good horse that she is. She got a little tired late.”
Rice said Downtown Mischief is likely to return to state-bred company for her next start in the seven-furlong $125,000 Bouwerie for sophomore fillies on May 29 at Belmont Park.
Downtown Mischief is out of the Speightstown mare Downtown Mama, a three-time winner campaigned by the same connections and a half-sister to graded stakes-winner Alpha Kitten. She returned $3 for a $2 win ticket as the 1-2 post-time favorite.
Kevin Gomez, who guided Tappin Josie from off the pace to pick up place honors, said the Horacio De Paz trainee may have been distracted down the lane.
“I don’t know if she saw something inside, but coming down the stretch she was coming with momentum and when she started getting out she slowed down,” said Gomez. “If she kept running straight on the outside, we could have won the race.
“She ran a great race. She’s getting better and better race by race,” Gomez added. “The owners are happy with it, so I feel pretty good about it.”
Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with a nine-race card, featuring the $100,000 Damon Runyon in Race 8. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.