by Brian Bohl
A wide-open field of seven juveniles will look to earn their first respective graded stakes win when they compete in the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen as part of a stacked Cigar Mile Day Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
One of four graded stakes on a 10-race card, the 105th running of the Remsen will air as part of Aqueduct Live presented by Claiborne Farm from 3-4:30 p.m. on MSG+. Live coverage will also include the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile presented by NYRA Bets.
Carded as Race 8 with a scheduled post time of 3:12 p.m., the Remsen is the first of five races at the Big A that is part of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series, which awards 10 points towards qualifying for the Run for the Roses on May 4 at Churchill Downs. The runner-up will earn four points, third-place will garner two points and the fourth-place finisher will notch one point.
Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable's Bourbon War will make the step up to stakes company after an impressive debut win on November 14 at Aqueduct. In a one-mile race moved off the turf, the Tapit colt posted a 2 ¼-length win on the main track labeled fast. Trainer Mark Hennig said the effort made him confident the $410,000 purchase at the 2017 Keeneland Yearling Sale could handle the stretch out to the Remsen distance of 1 1/8 miles.
"He's doing well. We discussed it Tuesday morning and came to the conclusion that we'd fit with this group," Hennig said. "The timing is a little less than ideal, but he seems like he's been sharp and bright since his race, so we figured we'd take a chance.
"He's a horse who all along I thought would need to run and need more ground. I never anticipated that he's the horse who would run the race of his life in his first start. I think there's plenty of upside. The timing is a question mark, but he's acting like he's up to it. I think he'll be up to the challenge."
Bourbon War, who is stabled at Belmont Park, stayed off the pace in his win earlier this month before a strong finish earned him a trip to the winner's circle.
"I would think that he would relish more ground. I don't think distance is an issue," Hennig said. "I don't anticipate him being on the lead. He seems like a horse who wants to settle a little bit."
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. will pick up the mount from post 3.
Klaravich Stables' Network Effect will look to parlay graded stakes experience into a second win in three career starts. The Chad Brown trainee, who won his debut on August 11 at Saratoga Race Course with a three-length score in a seven-furlong contest on a main track labeled good, is coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Nashua on November 4 at Aqueduct at one mile.
On the Big A's main track labeled fast, Network Effect sat off the speed before rallying off a wide trip, finishing seven lengths in front of Call Paul for runner-up status. The son of Mark Valeski earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.
Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, who won the 2013 Remsen aboard Honor Code, will look to register his second win in the prestigious race, drawing post 5.
Maximus Mischief started his career 2-for-2 and will now be stepping up to stakes company for the first time. Owned by Cash is King and LC Racing, the Into Mischief colt already has a pair of blowout wins on his ledger, including an 8 ¾-length victory in his debut on September 29 at Parx in a 5 ½-furlong sprint. After earning a 94 Beyer for that effort, the Robert Reid, Jr. trainee recorded a 98 Beyer for a six-length win at seven furlongs on October 20 on the same track against allowance company.
The Kentucky bred has put in three bullet breezes at Parx since his last win, including a four-furlong work in 47.42 seconds with regular jockey Frankie Pennington aboard on Monday. Maximus Mischief will now face two new challenges in his young career: shipping in for a race and trying to conquer two turns.
"He hasn't missed a beat in training. We couldn't be any happier," Reid said. "He's got a real good head on his shoulders. Nothing bothers him. It's a big jump with an extra quarter of a mile, but all indications to me is that it shouldn't be a problem.
"We're asking a lot on this one," he added. "It's the first time shipping and the first time around two turns with the added distance, so he's going to have to step up."
Both of Maximus Mischief's wins have come in gate-to-wire fashion, though Reid said his charge might prefer a different style when running at a long distance.
"I think he'll come off the pace. He's never shown any problems in our early preparations going behind horses," Reid said. "He took dirt and he's shown no ill effects from that. It's all part of the learning process for a young horse. We're looking forward to getting some of those questions answered."
Pennington will have the return call from post 6.
Stronach Stables' Jungle Warrior won his first start on August 4 at Woodbine, winning over six furlongs on firm turf for trainer Sid Attard. He stayed on grass for his next start, when he ran fifth in the one-mile Grade 1 Summer on the same course.
Transferred to the care of trainer Jimmy Jerkens, the son of Animal Kingdom will make his dirt debut, drawing post 1 with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Tax, trained by Danny Gargan, will be making his first stakes appearance in his third start after breaking his maiden at second asking, winning at 1 1/16 miles on October 21 at Keeneland. The Arch colt drew post 7 with Aqueduct fall meet-leading rider Manny Franco set to ride.
Trainer Jamie Mejia will saddle a pair of entrants in Gladiator King and Chinomado, drawing posts 4 and 2, respectively. Chinomado is the field's most experienced runner, with a 1-3-4 record in 12 career starts, including a third-place finish last out in the Juvenile Sprint on November 10 at Gulfstream Park West. Luis Reyes will ride.
Gladiator King, a Curlin colt off back-to-back wins in turf sprints at Gulfstream Park West, will be making his first stakes appearance in his fifth career start. Julian Pimentel will be aboard.