Champion Maximum Security Finally Returns in Delayed San Diego
Champion Meets Five In California Debut
It looks like Gary and Mary West’s Maximum Security finally will make his long-anticipated return to racing in Saturday’s $150,000 San Diego Handicap (GIII) at Del Mar, a week later than anticipated after the race was delayed due to 15 jockeys in the San Diego track’s jockey colony testing positive for Covid-19.
The 4-year-old homebred son of New Year’s Day makes his first start since winning the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup at the end of February and his first for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who was given the horse to train earlier this year. Maximum Security’s previous trainer was federally indicted with several others in early March for a, “widespread, corrupt scheme by racehorse trainers, veterinarians, PED distributors and others to manufacture, distribute, and receive adulterated and misbranded PEDs and to secretly administer those PEDs to racehorses under scheme participants’ control” and is currently no longer training.
And even though Maximum Security’s career has been swathed in more than a bit of controversy aside from his trainer’s situation and he’s most well known for being the first horse disqualified in the Kentucky Derby (GI) for interference during the actual running of the race, he’s always risen to whatever challenge thrown at him and carved out an exceptional career. In addition to the Saudi Cup and crossing he wire first in the Derby, the former $16,000 claimer also won last year’s Bold Ruler Handicap (GIII), Florida Derby (GI), Haskell Invitational (GI) and Cigar Mile (GI) and has earned more than $11.8 million with his record of 10-8-1-0.
Local jockey Abel Cedillo will ride Maximum Security since regular rider Luis Saez, like all other out-of-town riders, is prevented from shipping into the San Diego track for the duration of the race meeting due to the pandemic. The jockey also tested positive for the coronavirus two weeks ago, but is already back riding at his summer base of Saratoga.
In this race, five rivals will take on Maximum Security in his return, including the reigning Pacific Classic winner Higher Power. The son of Medaglia d’Oro is owned by Hronis Racing and trained by John Sadler and in his quest for a repeat also seeks a third straight win in this race for his connections. The 5-year-old horse already has five wins from 17 career starts and earnings of $1,486,648 and has been training steadily since his second-place finish in the Hollywood Gold Cup (GI) last out.
Baffert also sends out Ax Man, a 5-year-old son of Misremembered who is owned by Patti and Hal Earnhardt III. The gelding has won six of his 13 career starts and has earned $288,917, and runs in this race off an allowance victory at 1 1/16 miles on June 20 at Santa Anita. He is multiple graded placed, but has yet to win one in his career so far.
Midcourt is a 5-year-old gelded son of Midnight Lute, who is trained by John Shirreffs for C R K Stable (Lee and Susan Searing), has earned five wins from 11 career starts, for earnings of $420,695 and enters this race off a supremely disappointing fifth, beaten 23 lengths, in the Hollywood Gold Cup last month. Previously he win the nine-furlong San Pasqual Stakes (GII) in February and was third, beaten just three-quarters of a length, by Combatant as the favorite in the Santa Anita Handicap (GI). He’s training well and fits here.
Combatant is Hronis and Sadler’s other runner here and the 5-year-old son of Scat Daddy brings his record of four wins from 25 starts and earnings of $1,033,098 to the table. The bay ridgling won the biggest race of career win in the Santa Anita Handicap (GI) back in March, but was a very dismal 10th in the Oaklawn Handicap (GII) at Oaklawn Park in May and makes his first start since then in here.
Sharp Samurai is co-owned by trainer Mark Glatt and the 6-year-old son of First Samurai returns to the main track after running his last 16 over the turf course. He’s a good turf horse with a big question of whether or not he belongs here.
The San Diego was Del Mar’s feature event until 30 years ago when the Pacific Classic (GI) was inaugurated but has since served as the main local prep for the now summer spotlight race, which will be run for a $500,000 purse on August 22.
Hall of Famer Native Diver won the San Diego three times from 1964 to 1966 and laid the groundwork for other remarkable runners like Bates Motel, the champion older horse of 1983, Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Skywalker, millionaire Skimming in 2000 and 2001 (en route to his back-to-back wins in the Pacific Classic), Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo in 2006, Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed, champion Accelerate and Catalina Cruiser over the past two years.
Post time for the San Diego, which is Saturday’s 10th race, is 6:30 p.m. PT.