Maximum Security Nips Midcourt in San Diego Thriller
Whether he is conditioned by tarnished trainer Jason Servis or by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Maximum Security just keeps winning.
Racing July 25 in the $150,000, Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar, his first start for Baffert, who began training him this spring after Servis was indicted on doping-related charges, last year's champion 3-year-old male prevailed by a nose over Midcourt. The victory was his ninth in 11 starts, a record that includes victories at 3 in the Xpressbet Florida Derby, TVG.com Haskell Invitational Stakes, and Cigar Mile Handicap.
He also won the Feb. 29 Saudi Cup in his previous start, though the $20 million purse is on hold pending an investigation by The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia after the indictment of Servis.
He had to work for every dollar of the $90,000 first-place check in the San Diego. Though he held the lead entering the first of two turns in the 1 1/16-mile race, that advantage was short-lived when Midcourt, under an aggressive ride from Victor Espinoza, urged him forward.
Seeking to avoid a speed duel, Abel Cedillo on Maximum Security eased his mount back, only to find Flavien Prat on Higher Power hustling to secure position. Suddenly, Maximum Security was in third early on the backstretch.
Taken to the outside at that point, as Midcourt set the tempo with splits of :23.74, :46.87, and 1:11.40, Maximum Security came under a ride from Cedillo, but the colt responded, gradually passing Higher Power and cutting into Midcourt's lead. He collared the front-runner in midstretch and maintained a slight edge to the finish line as Midcourt refused to give way.
The 4-year-old son of New Year's Day completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.54, paying $2.80 as the favorite.
The victory was one of three on the day for Cedillo, who also won the fourth race with Secret Keeper and the co-featured San Clemente Stakes on Laura's Light.
Higher Power ran third, 6 1/4 lengths behind the top pair, and was followed by Ax Man and Combatant in the field of five. The latter hopped in the air at the start and never threatened following his tardy break.
Maximum Security is owned by his breeders, Gary and Mary West, along with Coolmore Stud-affiliated Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith. Coolmore purchased 50% of the colt in mid-December.
Under the race's handicap weight assignments, Maximum Security carried 127 pounds, spotting his rivals five to nine pounds. He was one of three Grade 1 winners that raced in the San Diego along with Higher Power and Combatant.
The San Diego is regularly used as the prep for Del Mar's TVG Pacific Classic Stakes, a $500,000 race this year on Aug. 22.
Saturday's victory was the second in the San Diego for Baffert following Fed Biz in 2014. He has won the Pacific Classic five times, most recently in 2017 with Collected.
Betting Against Maximum Security in San Diego Handicap
Six horses are slated to enter the starting gate in Saturday’s rescheduled $150,000 Grade 2San Diego Handicap at Del Mar, and it’s safe to assume most eyes will be focused on Maximum Security (#5), the champion 3-year-old male of 2019.
Since his December 2018 debut in a maiden claiming race, Maximum Security has crossed the finish line first in nine of his 10 starts, including a controversial renewal of the 2019 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. The front-running bay colt lost the lead when he ducked out on the far turn, and while he battled back to prevail by 1 3/4 lengths, he ultimately lost the race via disqualification for causing interference.
No matter, though – Maximum Security bounced back to win the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap, and Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap to end the season on a successful note. He was as impressive as ever in the inaugural running of the $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 29 overcoming a traffic-filled run down the homestretch to prevail by three-quarters of a length over 2019 champion older dirt female Midnight Bisou.
But although Maximum Security possesses deep reserves of talent and tenacity, he’ll be facing a bevy of new obstacles in the San Diego Handicap. He’ll be returning from a 4 1/2-month layoff while carrying top weight of 127 pounds, conceding between five and nine pounds to his rivals. He’ll be ridden for the first time by Abel Cedillo because regular jockey Luis Saez is on the sidelines after testing positive for COVID-19. And Maximum Security will be racing for the first time under the care of Bob Baffert, who assumed training duties following the Saudi Cup.
The switch to Baffert’s barn means Maximum Security is training in a completely different manner than in the past. Whereas he used to stay fit with long gallops and slow workouts, under Baffert’s tutelage he’s been cranking out fast workouts week after week, culminating with five-eighths of a mile in :59 3/5 on July 11 at Del Mar. This training regimen could potentially sharpen Maximum Security’s speed and fitness, perhaps propelling him to an even higher level of performance. But then again, it could also take a little getting used to, so it’s hard to know what to expect of Maximum Security off the layoff.
There’s another obstacle standing between Maximum Security and the winner’s circle – formidable competition. Four of his six rivals are graded stakes winners, including Higher Power (#1), who can challenge for victory if Maximum Security brings anything less than his A-game.
Higher Power has shown flashes of significant talent since last summer, when he romped in the 1 1/4-mile, Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar by 5 1/4 lengths, earning impressive speed figures across the board. In fact, the 110 Brisnet Speed rating he posted is higher than Maximum Security’s career-best 108 from the Cigar Mile.
After taking a little time off, Higher Power returned from a four-month layoff in the June 6 Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup racing 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita. While he was no match for runaway winner Improbable, Higher Power did gain ground down the homestretch to finish second, beaten just 3 1/4 lengths with a 105 Brisnet Speed rating.
With this prep race under his belt, Higher Power figures to run just as well or better while returning to Del Mar for the San Diego Handicap. The Del Mar dirt track can be tricky for some horses to handle, so the clear affinity Higher Power demonstrated for the surface last summer is encouraging. If Maximum Security wins as expected, Higher Power should round out the top two. And if the favorite falters, Higher Power can steal the show.
So what’s the best strategy for playing the San Diego Handicap? If you want to shoot for a modest score on a small budget, boxing Maximum Security and Higher Power in the exacta is the way to go. If they run 1-2 in either order, you’ll cash a winning ticket.
But if you want to aim for a higher return on investment, why not take a stand against Maximum Security and play Higher Power on top? Getting a fair price on a proven Grade 1 winner returning to his favorite track is an enticing (and potentially lucrative) prospect.
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$7 exacta: 5 with 1
What to say at the betting window: Del Mar, 10th race, $7 exacta: 5 with 1
$3 exacta: 1 with 5
What to say at the betting window: Del Mar, 10th race, $3 exacta: 1 with 5
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget
$20 to win on #1 Higher Power
What to say at the betting window: Del Mar, 10th race, $20 to win on 1
$10 exacta: 1 with 5
What to say at the betting window: Del Mar, 10th race, $10 exacta: 1 with 5
Good luck, and enjoy the race!
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Running for the first time for his new trainer, Bob Baffert, the 4-year-old , Maximum Security captured the San Diego Handicap on Saturday night at Del Mar in California. Maximum Security nipped runner-up Midcourt by a nose at the wire.
Those two runners had battled head-to-head during the final sixteenth of the mile and a sixteenth test.
“That was crazy. I knew I didn’t have him really drummed up for this race, we were going to use this to get ready for the next one. But we’re learning about the horse,” said Baffert after sweating out the photo finish.
Maximum Security had not raced since taking the Feb. 29 Saudi Cup, though the $20 million purse is on hold pending an investigation by The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia. The horse’s previous trainer, Jason Servis, was indicted in the U.S. after he had been investigated for drugging some horses in his stable.
Maximum Security was ridden at Del Mar by Abel Cedillo, who was subbing for regular jockey, Luis Saez. The winning time for the mile and a sixteenth was 1:44 .54
Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.
Maximum Security Wins Return In G2 San Diego Handicap
Showing his determination, Champion 3-Year-Old Maximum Security dug deep in the Grade II San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on Saturday to win his fifth consecutive stakes race.
Making his first start for Bob Baffert, the colt shot to the front in the 1 1/16 mile race before dropping back to third down the backstretch with Abel Cedillo aboard. The 4-year-old clicked back into gear half-way down the backstretch and took his spot dueling for second until Cedillo asked him to move around the turn.
Maximum Security caught up to the leading Midcourt as they entered the stretch and the race was on. Maximum Security was ready for the fight, sticking to Midcourt’s side and not willing to give an inch down the length of the stretch.
Maximum Security proved to be the stronger finisher when digging down and sticking his nose in front for his ninth career victory in 11 starts.
“That was crazy,” Baffert said. “I knew I didn’t have him really drummed up for this race, we were going to use this to get ready for the next one. But we’re learning about the horse. He won today when he had every reason to get beat. He showed what a great horse he is today. He’s such a fighter.”
Co-owned by breeders Gary and Mary West and the Coolmore partners, Maximum Security is one of three winners from four runners out of Lil Indy, a daughter of dual stakes winner Cresta Lil. Lil Indy is a half-sister to three-time Grade I winner Flat Out and Listed winner Our Best Man as one of 10 winners out of their dam.
Crest Lil herself is a half-sister to Listed winning Worrisome Thing with Maximum Security also sharing a family with Grade I winner Got Koko.
Named last year’s Champion 3-Year-Old Male, Maximum Security’s wins include the Grade I Florida Derby, Grade I Cigar Mile, and Grade I Haskell Invitational. Maximum Security is set to join the Coolmore America roster upon his retirement.
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