By Alan Carasso
Whether you love him or have mixed feelings about him, there is one thing about Maximum Security (New Year's Day) that is very hard to dispute: he is an outstanding racehorse.
Prohibitively favored at 40 cents on the dollar to take Saturday's GI TVG Pacific Classic in his second start since being transferred to the barn of Bob Baffert, the bay absorbed race-long pressure but, realistically speaking, never looked like losing in securing an all-expenses-paid berth in the GI Breeders' Cup Classic in early November. When the dust had settled, the 4-year-old had a margin of three lengths on a very game and persistent Sharp Samurai (First Samurai), while Midcourt (Midnight Lute)–who almost stole the show in the GII San Diego H. last time out-came home a well-beaten third.
“We mapped it out that he's the quickest horse, he's ready and now you can ride him with a lot more confidence. Once he took the lead I figured he'd be fine,” said trainer Bob Baffert, winning the marquee race of the Del Mar meet for the sixth time, equaling the record of the great Bobby Frankel. “'Max' was relaxing really nice. He was a totally different horse today. [Maximum Security] just does things effortlessly. He wasn't even blowing when he came back. I'm just so happy for this horse. It's not his fault what he went through. Today he showed that he is a great horse.”
Having won the inaugural Saudi Cup in February, Maximum Security was making his debut for Baffert in the San Diego in the aftermath of the federal indictment of trainer Jason Servis. Adding further intrigue to an already complicated situation was news that the jockey that knew Maximum Security best, Luis Saez, had contracted the coronavirus and was restricted from traveling from New York.
Enter Abel Cedillo, a rising star on the Southern California circuit, but who had never known a spotlight as white hot as the one he was about to experience. Very little went according to script in the San Diego. Clearly the one to beat, his fellow riders race-rode Maximum Security and he was unable to make the running. Under a drive for the better part of the last four furlongs, he somehow managed to peg back Midcourt on the wire to score by a nose. Connections promised a fitter racehorse this time around and he delivered–to the max.
Kicked straight into the lead from gate five by Cedillo, Maximum Security took the Pacific Classic field under the line for the first time and although the opening fraction of :23.93 was hardly demanding, it was a contested pace, as Sharp Samurai was glued to his flank, with defending champ Higher Power (Medaglia d'Oro) prominent three wide. Midcourt was restrained off the pace this time around, with longshots Mirinaque (Arg) (Hurricane Cat) and Dark Vader (Take of Ekati) the back markers.
Maximum Security galloped them along at an even tempo–the half-mile was posted in :47.98–and was asked for a bit more speed passing the four-furlong pole after six panels in a very comfortable 1:12.37. Sharp Samurai kept up the pressure around the turn and at one point perhaps looked to be traveling slightly better than the chalk, but Maximum Security turned away his very pesky foe entering the final eighth of a mile and pulled clear, covering his final quarter-mile in a solid :24.74.
“The race went pretty much how I thought,” said Cedillo. “[Trainer] Bob [Baffert] told me to keep him off the rail, because the speed was inside. If someone wanted to run up inside of us, I would have let them. He just galloped around the track. I was a little surprised that the outside horse [Sharp Samurai] was with us early and he stuck around. He ran big, but whenever he would get close, my horse would pull away on his own. He still had a little left at the end. I have to say this is probably the best horse I've ever ridden.”
Maximum Security's dam was acquired by Gary and Mary West for $80,000 in foal to Pioneerof the Nile at Keeneland November in 2014 and was sold to Korean interests for $11,000 carrying a full-sibling to the then unraced 2-year-old Maximum Security, who would make a victorious debut in a maiden $16,000 claimer about six weeks later. Lil Indy and her weanling Korean-bred full-sister to Maximum Security were acquired and returned to the U.S. and prepared for last year's Keeneland November sale. Lil Indy fetched $1.85 million in foal to Quality Road, while the weanling was bought back on a bid of $190,000. Lil Indy, a half-sister to MGISW Flat Out (Flatter), produced a colt by Quality Road Apr. 23 and was bred back to Curlin.
Saturday, Del Mar
TVG PACIFIC CLASSIC S.-GI, $500,500, Del Mar, 8-22, 3yo/up,
1 1/4m, 2:01.24, ft.
1–MAXIMUM SECURITY, 124, c, 4, by New Year's Day
1st Dam: Lil Indy, by Anasheed
2nd Dam: Cresta Lil, by Cresta Rider
3rd Dam: Rugosa, by Double Jay
O-Gary & Mary West, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor &
Derrick Smith; B-Gary & Mary West Stables Inc. (KY); T-Bob
Baffert; J-Abel Cedillo. $300,000. Lifetime Record: Ch. 3yo Colt,
12-10-1-0, $12,191,900. Werk Nick Rating: A.
Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Sharp Samurai, 124, g, 6, First Samurai–Secret Wish, by
Street Cry (Ire). ($85,000 Ylg '15 KEESEP). O-Red Baron's Barn
LLC, Rancho Temescal LLC & Mark Glatt; B-Cudney Stables
(KY); T-Mark Glatt. $100,000.
3–Midcourt, 124, g, 5, Midnight Lute–Mayo On the Side, by
French Deputy. ($450,000 Ylg '16 KEESEP). O-C R K Stable LLC;
B-Dixiana Farms LLC (KY); T-John A. Shirreffs. $60,000.
Margins: 3, 2 3/4, NO. Odds: 0.40, 10.10, 7.40.
Also Ran: Higher Power, Mirinaque (Arg), Dark Vader.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.