Arlington Million scouting report: Maverick Wave
Maverick Wave has obvious points of comparison with 2010 Arlington Million (G1) upsetter Debussy: both had won the Huxley (G3) at Chester for the same trainer/jockey tandem of John Gosden and William Buick. You can push the parallel further, since Princess Haya also owned both Debussy and Maverick Wave until the latter was folded into the Godolphin squad.
But before hailing Maverick Wave as the next Debussy, we should point out the very real differences between the pair. In fact, their profiles are otherwise a study in contrasts.
Debussy was a seasoned competitor in Group races, who had even tried the Epsom Derby (G1) and participated in marquee events at Royal Ascot. He appeared well exposed at this level, which is why I dismissed him as not good enough. But he was no newcomer to these wars. Moreover, Debussy raced twice between his Huxley heroics and Arlington.
Maverick Wave, on the other hand, is a newcomer to these ranks who’s been freshened since the May 7 Huxley. By Elusive Quality and out of Honeymoon (G2) winner Misty Ocean, he plied his trade in handicaps and really developed on the all-weather over the winter.
A tough, front-running type, Maverick Wave made his stakes debut in the February 21 Winter Derby Trial over Lingfield’s Polytrack. In this class test, he was the stable’s second string to Cloudscape. Another notable rival was Grandeur, who’s lost a step by this point in his career but still a decent yardstick.
Maverick Wave tired to fifth while being in a squeeze play late, but he was already beaten at the time:
Dropped back into a handicap, Maverick Wave defied top weight of 136 pounds in a 10-length romp at Chelmsford City. That stamped him as more than your garden variety handicapper, and deserving of another try in better company.
The Huxley was a sensible spot: not only could he use his early speed to whip around the Chester bullring, but he could also exploit his race fitness against his leading opponents, Sir Michael Stoute’s well-regarded Cannock Chase and the progressive Air Pilot.
Cannock Chase was making his second start back off a lengthy layoff, and he nearly got the job done when passing Maverick Wave in the stretch. But the soft ground sapped him, allowing the plucky Maverick Wave to come again and reclaim the advantage. Air Pilot was a belated third, and his trainer, Ralph Beckett, believed that he didn’t handle the tight-turning track.
Maverick Wave has enjoyed a vacation since the Huxley. Considering that he’d been on the go since last summer, he had surely earned it.
The unresolved question coming out of the Huxley is, how much did Maverick Wave capitalize on the weaknesses of his opponents? Can the result be taken at face value, which would be quite a feather in his cap? Or should it be treated with caution, as a result not likely to be repeated in different circumstances?
Nevertheless, Maverick Wave remains an unexposed customer with upside. Normally his early speed would make him dangerous here, but the presence of the Ramsey rabbit (Shining Copper) is a complicating factor. Although Maverick Wave has won from off the pace early in his career, he’s vaulted to prominence as a pacesetter of late.
Buick, who pegged him as one of his 10 to follow in 2014, summed him up well after the Huxley:
"We have found the key to him, letting him go off in front. There should be more to come from this horse. It is hard to say how far he will go but he could go a lot further when things are in his favor."
Photo courtesy of Four Footed Fotos.