By Richard Rosenblatt
If all goes well over the next seven weeks, and in the case of Maximum Security that’s asking a lot, racing fans may find themselves cheering on a most unlikely hero.
First things first, though. And that would be that Maximum Security came out of his dominating victory in the $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap no worse for the wear in the final race of a 3-year-old campaign that’s worthy of a Hollywood script.
The win, the third Grade 1 for Gary and Mary West’s colt, all but clinched the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male for a horse who not only became the first in history to be disqualified after finishing first in the Kentucky Derby, but also overcame a life-threatening bout with colic a few months ago.
Since he’s been healthy, Maximum Security has been brought along beautifully by trainer Jason Servis, winning the Bold Ruler (G3) at Belmont Park on Oct. 26, then dealing with 10 challengers — including Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Spun to Run – on a chilly day in winning the Cigar Mile by 3 ½ lengths at Aqueduct on Saturday.
What comes next is a little rest, a likely trip to Servis’ winter stable in Florida, and then training up to the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) on Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park, a track where Maximum Security won his first four starts, including the Florida Derby (G1) five weeks before the kerfuffle at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
“He’s undefeated, four for four at Gulfstream,” Servis said. “We’ll probably give him two or three days and if the weather looks good temperature wise,
then we’ll probably ship (to Florida) Tuesday (Dec. 10).
Whether he’s back at 100 percent in time for the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus is anyone’s guess, but the Wests and Servis are sure to be in attendance on Jan. 23 – two days before the Pegasus – when Eclipse Awards are handed out at Gulfstream Park. At this point, there’s little doubt that this $16,000 claimer who has finished first in eight of his nine career races (1-for-1 as a 2-year-old), will be honored with a divisional championship. And would we be surprised if he ended up as a finalist for Horse of the Year, along with the likes of Bricks and Mortar, Midnight Bisou and Mitole?
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.