Controversy on the Track
Hard to believe a horse can be controversial, but Maximum Security fills the role of contentiousness. Call it anthropomorphism.
The horse disqualified from first place to 17th in the 2019 Kentucky Derby after being held responsible for a Demolition Derby at the front of the pack as the field turned for home, has been tabbed as the even-money, morning-line favorite in a field of six for Saturday’s $500,000 TVG Pacific Classic (Gr I) at Del Mar in California. The horse that finished second in the Run For the Roses, Country House, was moved up to victory despite not being impacted by the incident. He never raced again.
The Derby hasn’t been the only time trouble and Maximum Security has been associated. He rose — some thought suspiciously — from a $16,000 claimer at Gulfstream Park months before the Run for the Roses. The horse appeared to win the Derby only to be taken down after an interminable wait by the track stewards at Churchill Downs.
He won the Haskell Stakes in July 2019 at Monmouth Park in New Jersey and once again saw his number blink on the tote board. This time, Maximum Security survived the inquiry.
Maximum Security will be heavily favored in the Pacific Classic, having beaten his two principal foes, Midcourt and Higher Power, in the San Diego Handicap July 25 at Del Mar when spotting them five pounds apiece. All starters will carry 124 pounds Saturday.
The San Diego was his first race since he crossed the wire first in the Saudi Cup Feb. 29, which carried a $20 million purse. It also was his first race in the barn of Bob Baffert.
Maximum Security landed in the Baffert barn because his previous trainer, Jason Servis, faces multiple charges after being indicted on doping-related charges in March. That added to the cloud that seemed to hover over the now 4-year-old. His earnings for the Saudi Cup are currently being held up pending an investigation by Saudi officials.
The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia announced on Aug. 10 that prize money from the inaugural Saudi Cup would be held back from connections of the inaugural winner of the Saudi Cup, Maximum Security, due to the sealed federal indictment of then-trainer Jason Servis. Purse funds are to be distributed to those finishing second or lower.
Co-owner Gary West responded publicly, calling the decision “unprecedented” and requesting further transparency into the JSCA’s investigation.
Maximum Security will start from gate five and will be ridden by Abel Cedillo, who was on board in the San Diego victory, as he seeks his sixth straight victory. W win would guarantee Maximum Security a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November.
This is the 30th edition of the Pacific Classic and the first that will not carry a purse of $1 million.
The Field for the Pacific Classic:
Grade I; 1 1/4m; Dirt $500,000; 3 & up; 9:30 p.m. ET
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Midcourt Victor Espinoza 124 John A. Shirreffs 7-2
2 Higher Power Flavien Prat 124 John W. Sadler 3-1
3 Mirinaque Josue Pereira 124 Maria C. Munoz 10-1
4 Dark Vader Umberto Rispoli 124 Peter Eurton 12-1
5 Maximum Security Abel Cedillo 124 Bob Baffert 1-1
6 Sharp Samurai Juan J. Hernandez 124 Mark Glatt 8-1