Controversial Maximum Security Debuts For Baffert in San Diego Handicap

Bob BaffertMaximum Security will probably be posted as the long odds-on favorite when bookmakers issue betting for the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 25. The $150,000 Grade 11 race has attracted just seven entries but, despite the concession of weight to the field, the other runners may be competing for second place.

The 2019 Champion three-year-old colt has plenty in hand on form and ratings. He was first past the post in the Kentucky Derby but was placed 17th by the stewards. Higher Power could be the horse for the place and forecast, but winning the race is a tough ask with Maximum Security in opposition.

The Bob Baffert trained horse was last seen on the racecourse winning the $20m Saudi Cup for suspended trainer Jason Servis at the end of February. The San Diego Handicap is a decent prize in its own right. However, it will be a prep race for Maximum Security’s next main target for the season, the Grade 1 Pacific Classic back at Del Mar on August 22. The track’s biggest race is run over 10 furlongs while Saturday’s contest is a mile and one sixteenth contest.

The owner moved Maximum Security to Baffert’s yard in March. The horse was formerly with Servis but he was indicted on federal charges related to doping horses with performance enhancing drugs. Maximum Security has won three Grade 1 races in the United States, in addition to the lucrative Saudi Cup.

The horse became the first horse to lose the Kentucky Derby off the track when the stewards judged there was interference with the runner up, Country House, who was awarded the 2019 race. Maximum Security should get a small amount of compensation by winning the San Diego Handicap.

The colt is part-owned by the principals in the Coolmore racing syndicate. Their horses based in Ireland are trained by Aidan O’Brien who won his record-breaking eighth Epsom Derby with Serpentine at the start of the month. The horse has had seven official wins from nine starts and has won $12m dollars on the track, although his prize from Saudi Arabia remains frozen pending the outcome of Servis’s situation.

San Diego Handicap Track & Stats

The San Diego Handicap is a race for horses aged three and older and is one of Del Mar’s most prestigious events. It is one of 29 graded races on the track of which six are a Grade 1 level.

The course is a left-handed oval and there are dirt and turf tracks. Saturday’s feature is run on the dirt course. From 2007 to 2017 the race surface was artificial dirt and since its inception in 1937 the distance has been between six furlongs to eight and a half furlongs.

The only three-time winner is Native Diver who won the race in 1963, 1964 and 1965. Chris McCarron and Victor Espinoza are the most successful jockeys with six wins. Charlie Whittingham and Robert J Frankel hold the record for trainers with five wins. Since the start of the century the number of winners by age is as follows: four-year-olds: 6; 5yo: 11; 6yo: 2; 7yo: 1.

The fastest time for the winner in the history of the race is 1:40.00. Catalina Cruiser won the race last year as the 1/9 favorite and was the winner in 2018, becoming the first back-to-back winner since 2005.

Here are some 10-year betting trends for the San Diego Handicap, based on fractional odds:

  • The average price of the winners: 7/2.
  • Range of Starting Prices: 1/9 to 17/2.
  • Number of outright and joint favorites: 3.
  • Odds-on favorites: 3.
  • Double-figure priced winners: 0.
  • Most common range of odds: 4 winners from 3/1 to 9/2.

The average Equibase speed figure for the 10 winners since 2010 is 114, in a range from 104 to 126. Five winners prevailed off a rating of 110 and lower and five won with a rating of more than 110. Maximum Security’s figure is 127 and the next best horse has run to 122.

Despite the concession of weight to all his rivals, the Baffert horse appears to be a worthy favorite for the San Diego Handicap. The odds will only appeal to the professional punters who may see some value in the market because many believe that Maximum Security is head and shoulders above the other runners.