Maximum Security’s career has been mired in controversy but that didn’t stop the colt giving Bob Baffert his sixth TVG Pacific Classic Stakes win on Saturday (August 22) at Del Mar, equaling the legendary Bobby Frankel’s record number of victories in the race.
The smooth performance of his four-year-old owned and bred in Kentucky by Gary and Mary West gained a guaranteed berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland in November.
Contested over a mile and a quarter, the grade one Pacific Classic is a ‘win and you are in’ ticket for the Classic. The Wests are hoping and possibly praying that Maximum Security’s preparation goes ahead without interruption this season. Last year their star son of New Year’s Day suffered a bout of colic that forced him to miss his Breeders’ Cup engagement as his training schedule was compromised by time off the work rota.
Ridden by Abel Cedillo in the Pacific Classic, Maximum Security was sent off as the odds-on favorite at 2/5 and did not have to give maximum effort to reward the bettors who supported him, scoring by three lengths. Cedillo did use his whip in the backhand position at least seven times before holding it aloft in celebration but his colt always looked very comfortable. After crossing the wire Maximum Security kept galloping with his ears pricked and would happily have completed another circuit. The Wests were delighted that he appeared to win so easily.
Cedillo said afterwards that he thought Maximum Security had not had to try too hard to win. The reserve tank of gas should theoretically be available for another day when he is in need of it and there are more valuable contests ahead.
In contrast Mark Glatt’s six-year-old gray Sharp Samurai, a 10/1 shot, appeared to have given everything to finish second under Juan Hernandez. He was followed by John Shirreffs’ Midcourt (74/10) who denied John Sadler’s Higher Power (5/1) a third placing by the smallest of margins three lengths further back. Photographic evidence was consulted to confirm the finishing order. The micro field of six was completed by the Maria Munoz-trained Mirinaque (23/1) and Peter Eurton’s Dark Vader (18/1) who finished in that order.
Maximum Security broke well from stall five and found it easy to gallop around the diminutive pack and grab the rail before the first bend. Sharp Samurai was similarly compromised by the draw, starting from the widest berth of all and was urged forward by Hernandez to keep him company.
Midcourt who finished a close second to Maximum Security last time out took the third spot choosing not to run wide of Sharp Samurai into the first turn and raced behind the leading pair after Victor Espinoza decided not to cover any extra ground. Higher Power was ridden forward by Flavien Prat to track the leaders. The two long shots, Mirinaque and Dark Vader were struggling to keep pace with the leading quartet and had their own battle for position in the third row of runners.
Going round the final turn Sharp Samurai managed to hold his place at Maximum Security’s shoulder showing impressive attitude. Higher Power and Midcourt were relegated to the second rank of pursuers and looked unlikely to feature when it mattered. Rounding the turn Cedillo deployed the persuader and gradually shook off the threat of Sharp Samurai who did not give up without a fight. Higher Power looked threatening for a few strides racing wide of them but failed to follow through with his challenge.
Cedillo admitted that he was surprised by Sharp Samurai’s determination to pursue him. Without him the whip might not have been needed at all. Baffert was delighted with Maximum Security’s performance on his second run for him.
Maximum Security is not only one of the world’s most talented thoroughbreds but has a resume that would make interesting reading. Foaled on May 14 2016 out of Lil Indy, a daughter of Anasheed, Maximum Security was not raced as a juvenile. His birthday is much later in the year than is ideal for a two-year-old campaign.
Trained until March 2020 by Jason Servis, his work at home must have been impressive as he was sent off the heavy favorite on his debut in a starter optional claiming race over six furlongs at Gulfstream Park in January 2019. Maximum Security won convincingly by more than six lengths. A month later he took part in a similar contest at the same track but over seven furlongs and won by nearly 20 lengths.
It was a massive step upwards in class and an increased distance of a mile and a quarter next for Maximum Security in the Florida Derby in March. For the first time he was not top of the betting and was sent off as the third favorite at 5/1. Ridden by Luis Saez, connections were confident he would have the necessary stamina. They were right, he won the race from the front, making all and winning by over three lengths.
On May 4 similar tactics were used in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Although headed briefly a quarter of a mile from home, Maximum Security soon regained the lead and powered clear of his rivals to win by nearly two lengths. There were joyful interviews with his elated owners and trainer but, twenty minutes after his victory it was announced that he was disqualified for causing interference.
The track was sloppy with some standing water that day and a number of experts believe that Maximum Security was trying to avoid galloping into a puddle when he veered right and crossed the path of Mark Casse’s War Of Will before taking the final turn. Others believe Maximum Security may have reacted to the sound of the cheering crowd. Slow motion shots of the incident suggest it was lucky that neither colt sustained an injury as their legs were momentarily tangled together. The 65/1 shot Country House who finished second was ultimately awarded the race. War Of Will was well beaten and would not have won under any circumstances.
Maximum Security was next seen in a lesser contest at Monmouth Park in mid June, presumably to give him the opportunity to have a good look at the track. He started at 1/20 but stumbled badly leaving the gates and was beaten a length into second place. There were no issues when he lined up in the grade one Haskell Invitational at the same venue in July. Maximum Security was strongly challenged by Baffert’s Mucho Gusto but beat him by more than a length.
In October 2019 Maximum Security scored in the grade three Bold Ruler Handicap at Belmont Park and, having been forced to miss the Breeders’ Cup, won the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct in December. This year appeared to start well for him, passing the wire first in the inaugural Saudi Cup in Riyadh at the end of February. It was the richest horse race ever held with a total purse of $20 million and a useful $10 million for the winner. However due to the ongoing investigations into his former trainer, Jason Servis, the winner’s purse has yet to be paid out.
That was the final race for Maximum Security in the care of Servis. In March the Wests had to move all their horses when he was indicted for ‘performance enhancing drugs’ offences and suspended from training. Servis’ current bail conditions prohibit contact with racehorses. There is a strong possibility that the owners will never receive the Saudi Cup riches because if Servis is found guilty, the horse will likely be disqualified.
Maximum Security is the 6/1 second favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic betting, let’s hope the dramas that have surrounded his life so far do not prevent him taking his chances with Tiz The Law in November.