Baffert Appears to Have Stranglehold on Awesome Again

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Maximum Security | Benoit

Twice in its last seven runnings, the GI Awesome Again S. has produced the winner of the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic, with Mucho Macho Man (Macho Uno) and Accelerate (Lookin At Lucky) completing the double in 2013 and 2018, respectively. Just a field of five faces the starter this weekend for the nine-furlong test–a ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifier for the Classic–but the two marquee horses have legitimate claims at Keeneland in six weeks’ time.

Maximum Security (New Year’s Day), whose topsy-turvy championship sophomore season saw him miss a start in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, is on track for this year’s race and looks to remain perfect in three tries for the Bob Baffert barn since being transferred from Jason Servis. Given plenty of time to recover from his hard-fought success in the $20-million Saudi Cup in February, the bay overcame an eventful trip to defeat Midcourt (Midnight Lute) by a nose in the GII San Diego H. at Del Mar July 25, but looked a different sort altogether when taking out the GI TVG.com Pacific Classic, scoring by three front-running lengths in a result that never truly looked in doubt. Luis Saez, who missed the two post-Saudi rides owing to COVID-19 travel restrictions, makes the trek west Saturday.

In the form of stablemate and TDN Rising Star‘ Improbable (City Zip), Maximum Security faces his most formidable rival since besting champion Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute) in Riyadh some seven months ago. A low-odds fifth in last year’s GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, the blaze-faced chestnut turned in an enormous effort from a double-digit gate to finish 3/4 of a lengths behind Tom’s d’Etat (Smart Strike) in the Oaklawn Mile Apr. 11. An easy winner of the 10-furlong GI Gold Cup at Santa Anita June 6, he accounted for next-out GII Alysheba S. hero By My Standards (Goldencents) and the slow-starting, but fast-finishing Tom’s d’Etat in the GI Whitney S. at Saratoga Aug. 1.

Midcourt was in receipt of five pounds and had the benefit of recency in the San Diego, but was a no-match third at level weights in the Pacific Classic. He’ll get two pounds under the conditions of this race. Sleepy Eyes Todd (Paddy O’Prado) earned this chance via his powerful 7 1/2-length score in the GII Charles Town Classic Aug. 28, but will need a lot to go his way to be a factor. Take The One O One (Acclamation) comes off a one-mile Del Mar allowance win Aug. 22, but also looks in too deep.

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