OZONE PARK, N.Y. — Returning to New York a little more than a year after his resounding victory in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct Racetrack last March, Mischevious Alex became a Grade 1 winner on Saturday at the Big A, taking the $300,000 Carter Handicap with ease as the odds-on favorite under Irad Ortiz, Jr.
A compact-but-talented group of five assembled for the seven-furlong Carter, and the winner certainly delivered a Grade 1-caliber performance, rallying from off the pace to prevail by 5 ½ lengths and light up a stellar undercard for the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino.
Departing from post 4, the Saffie Joseph, Jr.-trained Mischevious Alex broke well and sat in third position early as the fleet-footed Chateau went out to lead the field down the backstretch through an honest opening quarter-mile of 23.09 seconds, with Souper Stonehenge in second, multiple Grade 1-winner Mind Control in fourth, and Shoplifted at the tail of the field.
Chateau spurted away from the trailing quartet around the far turn, picking up the pace to run a half in 45.89, but Mischevious Alex and Ortiz remained patient while perched three-wide on the track. Turning for home Chateau maintained a sizable advantage, but once straightened out for the drive Mischevious Alex came with steady strides, gobbling up ground to overtake the frontrunner at the eighth pole and from there drawing off handily before being geared down nearing the wire.
“I broke so well and the other horse [Chateau] went, so there was some speed. I was in no hurry,” said Ortiz, Jr.. “I just rode him with confidence and patience. Turning for home, I changed leads on him and he just took off.”
The win was a long time coming for Mischevious Alex, who burst onto the scene last year as a 3-year-old for trainer John Servis with daylight wins in the Gotham and Grade 3 Swale at Gulfstream Park before his sophomore year was cut short after disappointing performances in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens at Saratoga Race Course and Grade 1 Woody Stephens at Belmont Park.
Transferred to Joseph for his 4-year-old campaign, the son of Into Mischief won a pair of races at Gulfstream in style, including the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint on February 13, prior to his breakthrough score on Saturday, which gave the young Florida-based horseman just his second Grade 1 victory.
“I was a little concerned early in the race,” said Joseph. “He was a little far back and I know the track has been heavy and I didn’t know if he could make up that much ground. Obviously, he was giving Irad some feel and he rode him with a ton of confidence. He ran well but I didn’t expect him to win a Grade 1 as easy as he did. Mind Control is a Grade 1-winner and the horse on lead, Chateau, going seven-eighths might be a tad further than what he wants to go, but he has been very impressive. I have a lot of respect for the competition.”
A popular choice at the windows, Mischevious Alex returned $3.70 on a $2 win wager and completed the seven-furlong distance in 1:23.97. Notching his seventh win from just 12 career starts, the bay colt bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm also increased his career earnings to $614,730 for owners Cash is King LLC and LC Racing.
The classy millionaire Mind Control rallied to get second beneath Junior Alvarado, finishing a length in front of Souper Stonehenge in third. It was another neck back to Chateau in fourth, who distanced Shoplifted by 17 ¾ lengths.
“We were stuck on the rail a little bit but that’s how it goes,” said Mind Control’s trainer Gregg Sacco. “We took what they gave us. The winner ran dynamite, take nothing away from him. Congratulations to Saffie and his crew. We were coming off a little bit of a break and we’ll meet again down the road. We’re very proud of Mind Control. It was a great way to start the year.”
As for Mischevious Alex’s next assignment, it would appear the Grade 1, $1 million Metropolitan on June 5 at Belmont Park on the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes undercard is squarely in play, though the Met Mile may not be an ideal spot for the brilliant sprinter, according to Joseph.
“Chuck [of Cash is King Racing] has always wanted to go to the Met Mile because we want to make him [Mischevious Alex] a stallion,” said the trainer. “Winning a Grade 1 today takes a lot of pressure off. In my opinion, he wants to sprint six or seven furlongs. Can he get a mile? Yes, against the right company. But it all depends on who shows up. The Met Mile is definitely under consideration and then the two Grade 1s at Saratoga [Forego and Vanderbilt]. There’s a lot of options. Hopefully, he comes out of it good and then we’ll make a game plan.”
With Aqueduct closed on Easter Sunday, racing resumes at the Big A next Thursday with a scheduled first post of 1:20 p.m. Eastern.
Aqueduct Press Release
Photo: Mischevious Alex, (Lauren King)