By Richard Rosenblatt
With a dominating stretch run, Maximum Security cruised to victory in the $750,000 Cigar Mile (G1) on Saturday at chilly Aqueduct Racetrack and likely clinched an Eclipse Award as 3-year-old champion.
Not even quick fractions in the early going (22.80 seconds for the first quarter-mile) could deter the 3-year-old colt from taking charge over Spun to Run and winning by 3 ½ lengths under Luis Saez.
The victory was the third Grade 1 for the Gary and Mary West-owned Maximum Security ($4.60 for a $2 win bet), the most of sophomore male.
In one of the wildest years ever, Maximum Security finished first in seven of eight races but also made history by becoming the first horse to be disqualified from first in the Kentucky Derby (G1) after stewards ruled he interfered with rivals in the stretch.
The son of New Year’s Day also pulled through after a severe bout of colic kept him from running in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) a few months ago.
He’s won the Florida Derby (G1), Haskell Invitational (G1) and now the Cigar Mile.
Code of Honor, also a top contender for divisional honors, has G1 wins in the Travers and the Jockey Club Gold Cup (via disqualification of first-place finisher Vino Rosso), and finished third in the Kentucky Derby (elevated to second after Maximum Security’s DQ to 17th).
“If he’s not the 3-year-old Eclipse Award winner,’’ Gary West said after the race, “I don’t know who ought to be.”
Trainer Justin Servis, who was emotional after Maximum Security won the Bold Ruler (G3) in first race following his illness, was short on words again a few minutes after the Cigar Mile.
“I’m still emotional,’’ he said. “I’ve been through a lot. We’ve been through a lot, but it’s good to see that he’s getting what he deserves.”
True Timber, a 32-1 shot, was third. Winning time for Maximum Security was 1:36.46.
Earlier at the Big A, Lake Avenue ($4.40) was an easy winner in the $250,000 Demoiselle (G2) for 2-year-old fillies and Shotski, with Luis Saez aboard, took the $250,000 Remsen (G2) for juveniles by a half-length over Ajaaweed – both races at 1 1/8 miles.
Each winner earned 10 points toward qualifying for their respective races in the 2020 Derby and the 2020 Oaks for fillies.
Shotski ($19.60) gave trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer his first graded stakes victory and improved the colt’s record to 2-for-4.
“He broke his maiden at six furlongs, so we know he has speed as well. He has the right demeanor for racing. He just does what you ask him to do and he has some talent on top of that as well,” O’Dwyer said.
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.