Maximum Security Finishes Fast in Florida Derby

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March 31st, 2019

The name of the game in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park was “catch me if you can,” and when the dust settled, you could practically hear the front-running Maximum Security taunting his rivals as he pulled away down the homestretch to score a convincing victory in the 1 1/8-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race.

Granted, the pace setup for Maximum Security was picture-perfect. With Luis Saez in the saddle, the son of New Year’s Day managed to secure the lead without any difficulty, carving out slow fractions of :24.42, :48.98, and 1:12.90 while receiving only token pressure from the 71-1 shot Bodexpress. The slow fractions were detrimental not only to the well-regarded late runners Code of Honor and Bourbon War, but also to the speedy favorite Hidden Scroll, whose attempts to rate off the lead backfired as he fought his rider while buried in traffic on the inside.

But make no mistake, Maximum Security capitalized on his fortuitous setup with a strong performance in the final three furlongs. When given his cue by Saez, Maximum Security accelerated the fourth quarter-mile in a terrific :23.44 (the fastest quarter-mile fraction in the race), and he followed up with a final furlong in :12.52 to pull away and win by 3 ½ lengths in 1:48.86. Bodexpress, likewise benefiting from the slow early pace, pulled clear of the late-charging third-place finisher Code of Honor by a similar margin. Bourbon War and Hidden Scroll finished fourth and sixth, respectively.
“It was beautiful. He broke so perfect and I just took it. He was traveling beautiful, and when he came to the half-mile pole and you feel the pressure I knew I had a lot of horse and in the stretch he just took off,” Saez told Gulfstream Park. “My plan was if [Hidden Scroll] or somebody else took the lead I’m going to sit because I don’t want to make the race for somebody else. He took it so easy, so I just went with it.”

Trained by Jason Servis, Maximum Security is now undefeated in four starts, all at Gulfstream Park. His fast finish in the Florida Derby produced a 101 Beyer and earned the colt 100 Kentucky Derby qualification points, assuring him a spot in the starting gate should owners Gary and Mary West choose to accept it.

“They’ve got some really good managers and we’ll see what they think they want to do. They’ve got that horse Game Winner [champion two-year-old of 2018], so I don’t know what we’ll decide,” Servis explained. “I guess I have to cancel my fishing trip in May.”

Trainer Shug McGaughey, who saddled Code of Honor, expressed interest in continuing forward with his Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) winner, who has likewise earned sufficient points to enter the Kentucky Derby.

“I thought we were done in the turn and he kind of kept going. I think [jockey John Velazquez] tried to get [Code of Honor] going early because he could see what was going on. It just didn't work out. I'm not overly disappointed with the way he ran,” said McGaughey. “We'll see how he comes out of it and go from there.”

One thing is certain—after winning four races by a combined margin of 38 lengths, Maximum Security has emerged as a horse to reckon with. So far, no one has figured out how to catch him.