Kentucky Derby Contender Profile: Maxfield

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

November 19th, 2019

Maxfield wasn’t supposed to win his debut September 14 at Churchill Downs.

Trainer Brendan Walsh knew he had a talented colt, but Walsh was viewing the race as a starting pointa chance for Maxfield to gain experience.

Then Maxfield wrote his own script and overcame a slow start to win the one-mile race with a powerful late rally. Three weeks later the Godolphin homebred followed up with a spectacular triumph in the $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, a victory so stunning it brought to mind memories of Arazi’s fabled score in the 1991 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).

“He’s a very special horse. I’ve been around a lot of good horses, and good horses breathe different air. I think this horse is right there,” Walsh said.

Maxfield won the Breeders’ Futurity in the manner of a serious Kentucky Derby (G1) contender. The colt broke slowly and settled near the back of the pack early on, nearly 10 lengths behind modest opening fractions of :24.01 and :47.78.

But around the far turn, Maxfield unleashed a tremendous burst of acceleration. Running as though he’d jumped into the race at the half-mile pole, Maxfield sprinted past rivals on the far outside and roared to the lead at the top of the stretch.

Such an early and wide rally would exhaust most horses, but Maxfield sustained his run down the homestretch and powered clear to win by 5 1/2 lengths over the well-regarded betting favorite Gouverneur Morris. The victory secured Maxfield 10 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Although Maxfield missed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) because of a hoof bruise, and subsequently underwent ankle surgery to remove a bone chip, he remains a key contender for the 2020 Triple Crown. As a son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, out of a mare by 2006 Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Bernardini, Maxfield is bred top and bottom to relish classic distances. As spectacular as he was in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Futurity, he could be even more effective negotiating 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May.

Godolphin has started 11 horses in the Kentucky Derby since 1999, and none have finished better than fourth. But with Maxfield the global racing operation might have its best chance yet to win the roses.