Gary and Mary West's Maximum Security has been the subject of controversy throughout his sophomore season, but there could be no argument that the 3-year-old son of New Year's Day was much the best in this Saturday's Grade 1 Cigar Mile. Out-sprinting Breeders' Cup winner Spun to Run on the lead, Maximum Security and Luis Saez pulled away with ease in the stretch to cross the wire a winner by 3 1/2 lengths. Trained by Jason Servis, the 6-5 favorite ran the one-turn mile over Aqueduct's fast main track in 1:36.46.
“It's a big deal to win the Cigar Mile here,” said Saez. “It means so much to me, Jason, Henry [Argueta, assistant trainer], the Wests [owners] and everyone involved. He's a fighting horse. I knew the other horse [No. 6 Spun to Run] has a lot of speed. I knew we had to fight, so my attitude was let's see what happens. That's what we brought him here to do and we just battled. He felt amazing. When we hit the turn, I knew we had a lot of horse. He gave me everything and it showed. He was amazing.”
Despite his historic disqualification in the Kentucky Derby seven months ago and skipping the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita, Maximum Security's victory over his older rivals puts him firmly in the race for the 3-year-old Eclipse Award. He is now listed as the official winner of three Grade 1 races in 2019: the Florida Derby, the Haskell Invitational, and now the Cigar Mile.
“We're talking about a horse that's ran the entire year and only one horse [King for a Day in the Pegasus at Monmouth Park] has crossed the finish line before him,” said Gary West. “My personal opinion is he ought to be the Three-Year-Old Eclipse Award winner. I don't think anyone has the credentials that he has demonstrated throughout the entire year. He's had setbacks with colic and fought through some things, but that was a pretty impressive race we saw there.”
Speed had been holding well on Aqueduct's main track for the latter half of Saturday's card, so neither Saez nor jockey Irad Ortiz on Spun to Run wanted to take that weapon away from their colts in the Cigar Mile. The quick 3-year-olds were the fastest out of the gate and moved in unison for the first few strides, but it was Maximum Security who came away with a half-length advantage as the field settled in for the run up the backstretch.
Spun to Run shadowed Maximum Security through fractions of :22.80 and :46.17, while fellow sophomore Looking at Bikinis traveled three-wide in third position. Entering the far turn, Saez was motionless on Maximum Security, but Ortiz was already having to ask Spun to Run for more.
Turning for home, Maximum Security shook off his competition and pulled clear with authority, cruising under the wire a winner by 3 1/2 lengths. Spun to Run managed to hold second over the late-running True Timber, while Looking at Bikinis had to settle for fourth.
“I've got to hold back tears,” said Servis. “We were concerned. I didn't get up out of the chair until late stretch. This track was very slow today and it was hard to go fast and sustain that.
“He's special, that horse. It's just a shame because he was the best horse in the Derby.”
Bred in Kentucky by his owners, Maximum Security is out of the Anasheed mare Lil Indy. The dam of the controversy-ridden colt recently sold for $1.85 million to Summer Wind Farm at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, while in foal to Quality Road.
Making his first start in a $16,000 maiden claiming race at Gulfstream Park West, Maximum Security won by 9 3/4 lengths. The horse who ran third in that contest, Math Wizard, won this year's G1 Pennsylvania Derby.
Maximum Security followed up his debut victory with three more wins, including a 3 1/2-length victory in the Florida Derby. He crossed the wire first in the Run for the Roses, but stewards made the decision to disqualify him to seventeenth for interference in the stretch run. The colt's owners then held him out of the rest of the Triple Crown, bringing him back to run second in the listed Pegasus Stakes at his home back of Monmouth in a prep for the Haskell.
He was beaten by King for a Day in the Pegasus, but it was Maximum Security who reigned supreme in the $1 million Haskell. Just as he was preparing for a start in the Pennsylvania Derby, the colt suffered an episode of colic and had to hit the sidelines. After three months without a start, Maximum Security returned to win the G3 Bold Ruler in his prep for the Cigar Mile.
The Cigar Mile victory improves the colt's official record to seven wins from nine starts, with earnings of over $1.8 million.
The G1 Pegasus World Cup could well be next for Maximum Security.
“Gary's been talking about it and he's undefeated at Gulfstream – 4-for-4,” Servis explained. “It would be hard not to go.”
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