When 2019 began, Maximus Mischief looked every bit like the best Parx-based Kentucky Derby prospect since Smarty Jones in 2004. The colt was unbeaten in three starts, dominant twice at his home track and a powerful winner of the Dec. 1 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct.

MM was big, fast and had the kind of effortless, long stride that suggested anything was possible. Then, he raced far below his best form when he finished third in the the Feb. 2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. He was supposed to run next in the March 2 Fountain of Stakes. He did not make the race and will race no more.

“We believe Maximus Mischief hurt himself prepping for the Fountain of Youth Stakes in late February,” majority owner Chuck Zacney said. “It was determined to be a soft-tissue injury to his front leg. After speaking with several vets, it is very unlikely that he will race again at the elite level that we recently witnessed. Therefore, we will be retiring him.”

“What if” are the two most wistful words in sports. Maximus Mischief was a rare talent. If only the colt had been able to show it this spring, he absolutely could have been a serious Derby contender.

“We recently received several calls from breeding farms in Kentucky,” Zacney said. “Our goal is to see little Maximuses hitting the ground in early 2021.”