by Gulfstream Park Press Release
March 31, 2019
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Gary and Mary West’s Maximum Security exited his dominating triumph in Saturday’s $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park in good order Sunday morning.
The 3-year-old son of New Year’s Day continued his unlikely ascension from $16,000 claimer to serious Kentucky Derby (G1) candidate in the 68th Florida Derby, in which he won his fourth race in as many career starts, all during the 2018-2019 Championship Meet, with an unpressured front-running victory by 3 ½ lengths under Luis Saez.
Servis watched Maximum Security’s fourth straight victory on a TV in the saddling area.
“I watched on the TV over by the jock’s room because I watched the 11th race on that TV and my horse [Restoring Hope] won. So, I said, ‘Yeah, I’m going back to that TV,” Servis said. “When he broke and Luis decided to go and it looked like he was going to get the lead by himself. I said, ‘That’s good.’ Then, I saw 24 [seconds] and I said, ‘Well, that’s good.’ Then, I saw his ears up and I saw the 48.8 or something, I said, ‘This is good,’ because I know he’s going kick. I said, ‘This is really good.’
“Luis walked the dog. He backed them up. I have to give him credit. I think it had a lot to do with it,” he added. “I’m not downgrading the horse, but Luis did a great job.”
Maximum Security ($11.60) ran 1 1/8-miles in 1:48.86 to prevail over Bodexpress, a Gustavo Delgado-trained maiden who was sent to post at 70-1. Code of Honor, the March 2 Fountain of Youth (G2) winner, finished third, another 3 ¼ length back and three-quarters of a length ahead of Fountain of Youth runner-up Bourbon War. Hidden Scroll, the 9-5 favorite, finished fifth.
Servis plans to continue to campaign his stable at Gulfstream through April while preparing Maximum Security at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training center in Palm Beach County, for a likely run in the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs May 4.
Maximum Security launched his career with a 9 ¾-length romp in a $16,000 maiden claiming race at Gulfstream Dec. 20 before capturing back-to-back starter optional claiming allowance races by a combined 24 ¾ lengths
“Candidly, if you read between the lines, there had to be a reason why I ran him for $16,000. Am I glad I didn’t lose him? Hell, yeah,” Servis said. “Is he training good and sound? Yes. But there was a reason why I ran him for $16,000.”
Servis said he didn’t consider Maximum Security as an “attractive” claim at the time.
“I claim a lot of horses. If I’m claiming and I see a homebred, I figure they got what they were dealt. It wasn’t like he was an $180,000 yearling,” he said. “I was taking a shot. I didn’t think he would be claimed.”
The Florida Derby was a Kentucky Derby qualifying stakes awarding 100 points to Maximum Security, 40 points to Bodexpress, 20 points to Code of Honor and 10 to Bourbon War. The first four finishers rank third, 13th, fourth and 15th, respectively.
Code of Honor, who raced well off the slow pace during the early going of the Florida Derby before closing to finish third, came out of the race fine, said trainer Shug McGaughey.
“I thought he ran fine. That’s not the type of race he needs with one horse on the lead and everybody taking back. We were kind of in between horses. He had half a racetrack on him. I thought it was pretty game what he did considering the circumstances,” McGaughey said.
McGaughey hasn’t firmed up plans for Code of Honor, who is currently stabled at Payson Park.
Trainer Mark Hennig reported Fountain of Youth runner-up Bourbon War was “bright, very happy and sound” Sunday morning following his fourth-place finish in the Florida Derby. The late-running Bourbon War trailed all but two horses through a half-mile while racing wide and passed horses late to wind up beaten 7 ½ lengths, three-quarters of a length behind Code of Honor in third.
“He’s doing great,” Hennig said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt [the pace] had a large impact on us at least not being third, for sure. I’m not saying we were going to win the race or anything, but I’d like to think with a little pace we could have been a little closer. And a little better trip, too, [instead of] having to go around the whole way. If you look at his trip versus Code of Honor’s, I think that made a big difference.”
Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable’s Bourbon War currently stands 15th with 31 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, pending the outcome of April 6 preps in California, Kentucky and New York. Hennig said the Tapit colt will be pointed to the first Saturday in May.
“We’d love to be able to get into the Kentucky Derby on points. If we [have enough] points we’d be confident going forward because he’s a horse you’d like to think leaving here would be good for him to get off a track where it’s hard to close,” Hennig said.
“Right now we don’t know what that status is,” he added. “It doesn’t look great, but we’re just going to stand pat and watch how the races run next weekend in the Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass and Wood and see where the points stand after that. I think it’ll help indicate to us a little more about where we are.”