PTF here in the italics. Our man Brian Hoffacker is back with the latest in his series of contender profiles/trip notes on the likely runners in this year’s Kentucky Derby. I’ve known Brian from in and around the New York tracks since he was a teenager, and when he speaks, I listen. Why is his analysis blasphemous? I’d say because it’s unholy good. Take it away, Brian!
I’m not into the comic-book movies. Superheroes, who needs ‘em? Sure, I’ve seen Spider-Man. He’s a marginalized outsider who’s transformed, fends off the villain, gets the girl, proves his worth, yada, yada. Real creative. We get it, now get Benedict Cumberbach out of a cape already. But I suppose Rags to Riches is so inspiring we can continue to be entertained by that same story, time and time again.
Dismissed with a second-rate pedigree and a perceived injury, Maximum Security was dumped into a paltry $16k maiden claimer in his debut, but ever since the gates sprung on that day, Maximum Security is undefeated and has proven himself to be this Kentucky Derby’s superhero.
Having clearly gotten over the physical issues that lead top trainer Jason Servis to start him as a cheap claimer (and risk losing him), Maximum Security has morphed into a legitimate Kentucky Derby candidate. Unbeaten in four career starts, all at Gulfstream Park, Maximum Security has proved himself to be a very speedy horse at every chance possible, going wire to wire in three of his four starts (the other of which he rated successfully at 1:5). He will likely be the pacesetter in the Derby. His breakthrough victory came in his third career start at seven furlongs in an optional claimer/starter that produced an 18 length win and a 102 beyer speed fig. Regardless of his imminent Derby performance, this colt has proven himself to be a serious talent.
Maximum Security is by a young sire in New Year’s Day, whose two racing crops (aside from Maximum Security) have yet to hit the $200k threshold. His dam, Lil Indy, is a half to Flat Out (a two time winner of the ten furlong G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup), but her family is more sprinter-centered. This pedigree should allow him to get the demanding distance of the Derby, but it’s a bit lacking in quality. Visually, Maximum Security appears to have a sprinter’s gait, and if he continues to have some lagging physical issues, it would be hard to see him overcome them when stretching out yet again.
Which brings his Florida Derby score into question: it is easily nothing of the effort that one would surmise Maximum Security put forth if they were plainly reading it in the past performances. What looks like a much the best, runaway score, Maximum Security’s blowout effort was heavily aided by a slow pace that lead to a merry-go-round chase which allowed another stretch-out sprinter at 70:1 to run 2nd throughout. The favorite, Hidden Scroll, was given an awful trip and closers, Bourbon War and Code of Honor, were significantly hampered by the dawdling fractions up front. Last year, Promises Fulfilled was able to wire better routers going two turns at Gulfstream Park in the Fountain of Youth, and ended up being the best three year old sprinter in the country. I think the same may be said about Maximum Security this year.
Having to deal with quality competition on the front end for the first time in his career going an elongated distance on a much deeper track than Gulfstream, Jason Servis is going to have to pull some real tricks out of his bag at Churchill. Servis, always a great trainer, but one that has recently been getting more stakes horses, was a magician at Gulfstream this year. Headed into Florida Derby day, he was saddling winners at an impossible 45% for the meet. At Churchill, it’s hard to foresee that he is at the peak of his powers in a different justification. There’s a chance that with his physical issues, Servis may never be able to duplicate Maximum Security’s form outside the state.
With a daunting pace scenario in front of him, going a distance that’s likely much farther than his apex and perhaps going off as a shorter price considering his undefeated status and big grade one win last out, Maximum Security is an easy toss from our tickets. But if his four starts have given us any indication of his personality, Maximum Security will rise again.
Here are our trip notes for Maximum Security:
4th career start: March 30th, Gulfstream, G1 Florida Derby, one mile and an eighth
Maximum Security is #7
Broke well, out to the front, shifted over to the rail into the first turn, kept to task by eventual 2nd place finisher Bodexpress (70:1), got clear far mid-turn, opened up rounding into the stretch, finished solidly retaining his big margin to the wire. This was quite a feat for Maximum Security to pull off, to step up into such staunch company while stretching out to a two-turn route for the first time, but he was able to prove his class here. On a track that is very prone to carry speed, this race comes with a colossal caveat due to the slow pace Maximum Security was able to get away with, which was quite beneficial. This led to yet another stretch-out sprinter holding onto second at a huge price. While Maximum Security should be given credit for running as well as he did, it’s a murky equation with to judge his performance due to the fact that he had the best of it, while the others had the absolute worst.
3rd career start: February 20th, Gulfstream, optional claimer 50k/starter allowance, 7 furlongs
Maximum Security is #1
Broke on top from inside post, pressed mildly by Star Player on backstretch, opened up without a deep breath mid-turn, switched leads a bit late to no consequence into the stretch, finished nicely; huge score. A professional victory for Maximum Security beating vastly inferior foes.
2nd career start: January 24th, Gulfstream, optional claimer 50k/starter allowance, 6 furlongs (muddy track)
Maximum Security is #2
Outbroken by outside rival, regulated to sit inside off of a contested pace up front, switched out mid-turn, easily went by to assume the lead rounding into the stretch, finished nicely, geared down. This is the only race Maximum Security has run from off of the pace, and while he seemingly handled the task with flying colors, his victory here came sprinting as a 1:5 favorite in a five horse field. There’s not much we’d glean from this score.
1st career start: December 20th, Gulfstream, maiden claiming 16k, 6.5 furlongs
Maximum Security is #6
Broke sharp, easily made the front, pressed some by the favorite on the outside, opening up rounding into the stretch, bit green switching leads at the top of the stretch, drew away, under wraps. A big score for Maximum Security here while debuting for a cheap tag due to some physical issues that trainer Jason Servis won’t elaborate on. He did beat Math Wizard in this spot, who recently ran 4th in the Wood Memorial as a huge longshot.