Gary and Mary West have another top prospect for this year's Kentucky Derby. On Saturday, their homebred Maximum Security made his stakes debut and led the Grade 1 Florida Derby field from gate-to-wire to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Ridden by Luis Saez and trained by Jason Servis, the 3-year-old son of New Year's Day may have debuted for just $16,000, but the colt is now undefeated in four career starts. Sent to post at odds of 9-2, Maximum Security covered nine furlongs over Gulfstream Park's fast main track in 1:48.98.
The win earned Maximum Security 100 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, securing him a spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May.
“The plan was not to go to the lead,” said Servis, laughing. “I talked to Luis about it. I didn't want to overread the race. Luis agreed that there was going to be a couple speed horses that might not be as good as a Derby horse, so we were really thinking that we were goin to be laying third. At the end of the day I told Luis, 'Look, he's yours. He breaks, and you ride him however you want.' I worked in the jock's room for 20 years, and if I heard anything I heard jockeys say, 'If this guy would have left me alone I could have won this race for him.' I just wanted to stay out of Luis' way. It was his decision 100 percent. They went slow early, and the rest is history.”
Longshot Bode Express finished second at 70-1, while Fountain of Youth victor Code of Honor (7-2) completed the trifecta. Bourbon War (5-2) was fourth.
Saez and Maximum Security took the lead out of the starting gate and were unhurried in the early stages, setting mild early fractions of :24.42, :48.98 and 1:12.90. Bode Express tracked about a length behind the leader, while Hidden Scroll grabbed third at the rail to the inside of Union's Destiny.
Code of Honor, hung three-wide all the way around the first turn, stayed wide down the backstretch. When the running started around the three-eighths pole, jockey John Velazquez waited until the last possible moment aboard Code of Honor, hoping for an inside route down the stretch.
Maximum Security sprinted away at the top of the lane after his easy lead, with Bode Express chasing him all the way. Hidden Scroll did not respond when asked, but both Code of Honor and Bourbon War were making up ground as they turned for home.
Loose on the lead, Maximum Security wouldn't be caught in the Florida Derby and crossed the wire about three lengths ahead of Bode Express.
“It was beautiful,” Saez said. “He broke so perfect and I just took it. He was traveling beautiful, and when he came to the half-mile pole and you feel the pressure I knew I had a lot of horse and in the stretch he just took off. My plan was if [Hidden Scroll] or somebody else took the lead I'm going to sit because I don't want to make the race for somebody else. He took it so easy, so I just went with it.”
Code of Honor may have had a shot to run second, but he darted across the track at the sixteenth pole and lost momentum. Velazquez got him straightened out and Code of Honor ran on to hold third over Bourbon War, Current was fifth and Hidden Scroll faded to sixth.
“I thought we were done in the turn and he kind of kept going,” trainer Shug McGaughey said of Code of Honor. “I think he tried to get him going early because he could see what was going on. It just didn't work out. I'm not overly disappointed with the way he ran. We'll have to see how he comes out of it and go from there.”
Maximum Security was bred in Kentucky by the Wests, who also raced his sire New Year's Day (Street Cry) through a Breeders' Cup Juvenile victory. He is out of the winning mare Lil Indy, by Anasheed. Debuting in a maiden claiming race for a $16,000 tag, the colt surprised with a 9 3/4-length victory. In his next two starts at Gulfstream, Maximum Security captured starter allowance races by 6 1/2 and 18 1/4 lengths, respectively. Including his Florida Derby victory, Maximum Security is 4-for-4 and boasts earnings of over $660,000.
“He wasn't beating anything, he really wasn't, but he was three-for-three at the track and I had Luis Saez,” said Servis of the decision to step up to the Florida Derby. “I was like, 'Hello, what's the downside?' I'll leave it to Team West. They've got some really good managers and we'll see what they think they want to do. They've got that horse Game Winner, so I don't know what we'll decide. I guess I have to cancel my fishing trip in May.”
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