By Ed McNamara
For all of his accomplishments — five Grade 1 victories, 11 first-place finishes (10 wins, due to that controversial Kentucky Derby DQ), a 3-year-old championship, taking the richest race of all time — Maximum Security doesn’t have much of a fan club. He’s been outrun by only two horses in 13 career starts. How much does he have to do to get some serious love?
This star-crossed colt had the misfortune of being the first Derby winner taken down for an on-track violation. His score in the $20 million Saudi Cup was sullied by trainer Jason Servis’ indictment on federal drug charges nine days later. The $10 million winner’s share would have made Maximum Security the all-time leader with more than $22.2 million, but it’s being withheld until more evidence is released.
“Max,” as trainer Bob Baffert calls him, will be a bigger price than he should be in the Classic because he comes off his worst race. He ran second, 4 1/2 lengths behind stablemate Improbable, after a brutal trip in the Awesome Again. If that’s your career low, you’ve done pretty well.
“I think he’s going to bounce back,” Baffert said. “He was coming off a big race at Del Mar, and maybe I brought him back too soon. The Awesome Again didn’t set up for him. There was a lot of speed, and he ended up chasing. He’s a horse who looks terrific right now.”
Maximum Security went 5 furlongs in 1:00.60 Saturday at Santa Anita in his final tune-up for the Classic. “He went nice,” Baffert said. “He’s a horse who never gets tired.”
Derby hero Authentic, the third of Baffert’s Classic runners, is a need-to-lead type. Maximum Security also likes to set the pace, but the feeling here is he could sit second, which Authentic can’t do. Baffert was asked whether he is concerned about a duel that burns out both.
“These riders are going to be on their own,” he said, meaning John Velazquez (Authentic) and Luis Saez. “It all depends on the break. The riders know their horses, and they’re just going to play the break.”
Maximum Security is a live horse who’s excelled in top company, never running a bad race. He’s a serious threat to win the Classic.
Post position: TBD
Jockey: Luis Saez
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Owner: Gary and Mary West; Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith
Career record: 13-10-2-0
Career earnings: $12,251,900
Top Equibase speed figure: 123
Pedigree: New Year’s Day-Lil Indy, by Anasheed
Running style: Front-runner
Notes: Maximum’s next-to-last workout on Oct. 25 was excellent, a bullet 5 furlongs in 59 4/5 at Santa Anita. He drew away powerfully from his workmate … Talk about humble beginnings: He debuted as a 2-year-old in a $16,000 maiden claimer on Dec. 18, 2018. He crushed it by 9 3/4 lengths … He was 4-for-4 entering the Derby, when the historic disqualification for interference enraged bettors and co-owner Gary West.
|2||Tiz the Law||Manuel Franco||3-1|
|3||By My Standards||Gabriel Saez||10-1|
|4||Tom’s d’Etat||Joel Rosario||6-1|
|5||Title Ready||Corey Lanerie||30-1|
|6||Higher Power||Flavien Prat||20-1|
|7||Global Campaign||Javier Castellano||20-1|
|8||Improbable||Irad Ortiz Jr||5-2|
|10||Maximum Security||Luis Saez||7-2|
Ed McNamara is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about thoroughbred racing for 35 years. He has handicapped races for ESPN.com, Newsday and The Record of New Jersey. He is the author of “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” and co-author of “The Most Glorious Crown,” a chronicle of the first 12 Triple Crown champions.