On Track With Johnny D: Max Is Back and Late Pick 4 Analysis

Calling Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security’s career ‘interesting’ is like saying Babe Ruth hit some home runs. Both would be accurate but grossly inadequate descriptions.

Maximum Security and Ruth actually have something in common. Both came from humble beginnings—Ruth was raised in an orphanage/reform school and Maximum Security’s parents were once discounted. Max’s sire New Year’s Day wasn’t a first season hit at stud (no graded stakes winner), so owners Gary and Mary West unloaded him to Brazilian interests for a virtual ham sandwich. A few months later, after Maximum Security won the Gr. 1 Florida Derby, the Brazilians then flipped New Year’s Day to Japanese interests for a cool $5 million and a tidy positive ROI.

Maximum Security’s 13-year-old dam Lil Indy sold for $2,200 as a yearling and for only $11,000 in 2018. Like with New Year’s Day, Lil Indy’s popularity soared on the wings of Maximum Security’s successes. In November 2019, she sold for $1.85 million!

Maximum Security began his career as a December 2-year-old at Gulfstream Park for a $16,000 tag. He was third choice in the race and won by nearly 10 lengths under apprentice Romero Maragh. Two $50k/optional claiming races and nearly 25 lengths in winning margins later he won the Gr. 1 Florida Derby by 3 ½ lengths. Second choice in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, he finished first but was disqualified to 17th for interference. It was the first disqualification from the win position based on an on-track infraction in Derby history. That’s saying something, too, since the Derby is our nation’s oldest continually presented sports event.

In mid-June, ‘Max returned to the races at Monmouth Park for the $150k Pegasus—a scheduled scrimmage for the Gr. 1 Haskell. He was heavily favored at just a nickel to a buck but, shockingly, finished second, one length behind King for a Day. The Pegasus (and a still disputed Derby disqualification) are the only two losses on a 10-race resume.

‘Max next won the Haskell on July 20, before vacationing until October 26, when he went wire-to-wire to win the Bold Ruler at Belmont going 7 furlongs. December 7, at Aqueduct, he likewise dominated in the Cigar Mile for a 3 ½ length win.

The season ended with Eclipse honors as the nation’s top 3-year-old male.

In his first and only 2020 start, Maximum Security took his show on the road to Saudi Arabia, February 29, for the inaugural running of the $20 million Gr. 1 Saudi Cup. ‘Max managed a desperate ¾-length decision over the determined Eclipse Award-winning mare Midnight Bisou.

Nine days later, Max’s trainer Jason Servis was part of a group of thoroughbred and harness racing individuals indicted on a variety of federal criminal charges related to equine performance enhancing drugs. Horses under Servis’ care, obviously, immediately were assigned to other trainers and Maximum Security landed in California under Bob Baffert’s shedrow.

Saturday, at Del Mar in the San Diego Handicap, Maximum Security will make his first start for the Hall of Fame trainer. Off the barn switch and a nearly 5-month layoff, he’ll still be a short price to win. But is he a good bet and a free bingo space in the Pick 4, Pick 5, Pick 6? Conventional wisdom says no! Now’s the ideal time to take a shot against such an animal. Catch him when he could be ‘short,’ while needing a race or still adjusting to a new trainer’s program.

Normally, we’d agree. However, in this case, with this specific horse and this particular trainer…go ahead and single the 4-year-old in whatever sequence you like.

Maximum Security is a very good horse, maybe even great. In the hands of Bob Baffert, he’s liable to be even better than before. He’s got the kind of running style and high cruising speed that some of Baffert’s best possessed. As for wondering if ‘Max might be a ‘short’ horse? Forget it. Baffert doesn’t run ‘short’ horses. He may not have ‘Max cranked to 100% but, after a series of works where the last six have been exactly seven days apart and all at least 5 furlongs—three at six panels and one at seven-eighths of a mile—don’t expect ‘Max to run out of air. If PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs) really were used on Maximum Security, the results won’t compare to what he delivers after some of Baffert’s PET (Performance Enhancing Training).

Remember how unusual Jason Servis’ training regime was? Long breezes with short works tacked on at the end. Well, Baffert’s got his own unusual methods. He gets the best horses from the best clients and then works them vigorously, asking them for speed and stamina as they gallop out at nearly full speed for another quarter or half mile. No, Maximum Security will not be ‘short’ Saturday.

Is he fast enough? He’s got a resume that says he is. He’s got 7 consecutive races with triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures, including one over 110. Two of his opponents have three triple digit BSF ratings on dirt, none over 110. ‘Max’s gone postward 10 times and come back first on 9 occasions. In fact, in those 10 races, at all points of call, he’s had a horse in front of him merely 7 times. That’s pretty good.

Yours truly has been scouring past performances since lines devoutly since the early 70’s and Saturday’s San Diego Handicap version includes something I’ve never seen before: Maximum Security has earned over $10 million dollars more than any of his foes and he’s at least two years younger than all but one!

Saturday, Maximum Security’s simultaneously got nothing and everything to prove.

Below is one man’s opinion of Del Mar’s Saturday Late Pick 4 with selected comments.

8th Race—Claiming $50k—7 Furlongs—3-year-olds
This is a real mishmash of runners with no clear-cut advantage. 10 runners gather off most recent races at 6 different tracks, at 6 different distances over both turf and dirt surfaces. We suggest players use as many of these as is affordable. Below are a few highlights.

2. Itsthattime goes for a tag for the first time since he was second by a head for $40k at Santa Anita in Feb. It’s notable that trainer Jeff Bonde recruits Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith to ride a horse that finished nearly 27 lengths back in his last race—a crushing Los Alamitos allowance test won by the highly-regarded Cezanne. Bonde/Smith scored at 20% last year.

3. Hidden Promise is a new face locally. He was second by a head last out against older in a $30k non-winners of two at Churchill Downs. Trainer Sadler asks top jock Flavian Prat to ride. They hit at 36%.

4. Octopus recently won going 5 1/12 at Del Mar and was claimed for $20k. He was claimed for $32k the time before that while winning a Del Mar maiden race in November. Up the ladder he goes.

6. Promise Nothing moves back to dirt where he’s won 2 of 8 starts. Last out was not too bad, on turf at 5 furlongs.

8. Final Final raced for his lowest claiming price last out going five furlongs on turf at Del Mar. He’s won just once in 10 tries.

9. Drippin Sauce arrives off a win at Pleasanton for 27% trainer Jonathan Wong. He’s 1 for 2 at Del Mar. Normally, Pleasanton runners don’t float our Del Mar boat but at least this guy’s in decent form for a winning outfit.

10. Zimba Warrior is the only runner in the field offered for the lowest claiming price of his career. That sometimes is notable in a wide-open field like this. Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux, whose been plying his trade in Northern California, rides for bother Keith. Two relatively recent rallying runner-up efforts against optional claiming/allowance foes (Golden Gate and Santa Anita) fit here. Once he was tried in four consecutive stakes races—three of them Gr. 3 events. A token turf try last out seemed designed to make sure he didn’t like that surface before a significant drop in claiming price.

9th Race–San Clemente—Gr. 2—$150k–For Fillies, 3-years-old—One Mile Turf
This race is a Del Mar staple matching 3-year-old fillies on turf. Just like with males, Del Mar traditionally has been more of soph turf haven than a place for dirt performers. This is a challenging race with a few worth a serious look.

1. She’s So Special hails from the winning Peter Miller stable, has won 3 of last 4 and 4 of last 6. She’s been favored in 7 of total 9 starts. She’ll get deserved play again in here. She’s got the rail and Prat calling the saddle shots. All good stuff. Downside shows 3 two turn races and a 0-for-3 mark in them.

3. Lara’s Light also represents the hot Miller outfit. She’s got 4 wins in 6 tries, is a multiple Gr. 3 stakes winner and has the best Beyer Speed Figure in the field. She’s got a forward running style that will find her on or near the early pace. She will carry co-high weight of 123 pounds—spotting 3 to 5 pounds to most foes.

#6 Cheermeister is a new face in from Gulfstream Park where she was a multiple Gr. 3 stakes winner. She’s got speed and probably will be in the vanguard along with #1 She’s So Special and #3 Lara’s Light. She hardly ever takes money—her lowest odds in 7 lifetime races is 5.60 to 1—but has been first or second 5 times in 6 turf races.

#8 Mind Out has improving Beyer Speed Figures but sometimes hesitates at the start of races. She will have pace to close on but she’ll need to improve to catch all of these.

#9 Warren’s Showtime has won 5 of 10 races overall and 4 of 6 on turf. She’s a Cal-bred who’s 2 for 3 in open stakes races. She’s an honest overachiever that ought to have enough pace in here to set up her late run.

10th Race—San Diego Handicap—Gr. 2–$150k—3-year-olds and up—One Mile and One Sixteenth

1. Higher Power won the Gr. 1 Pacific Classic here last year from Draft Pick and Mongolian Groom. That mile and one-quarter victory was the best of his career and led to show finishes in the Gr. 1 Awesome Again and in the Gr. 1 BC Classic. He was runner-up to Improbable last out in the Gr. 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita. This 5-year-old probably prefers a bit more distance to his races and needs to get this one under his belt before defending his Pacific Classic Crown.

2. Ax Man hails from the Bob Baffert barn and has been best in three optional claiming races to account for his last 3 wins. He’s talented but has not shown enough ability to match these foes. The 5-year-old has worked forwardly for this race, but he’d need to run the race of his career to win.

3. Sharp Samurai has posted 7 of 8 lifetime victories in turf. This race is on dirt.

4. Combatant is one of 2 runners in here from the John Sadler stable–#1 Higher Power is the other. He won the Gr. 1 Santa Anita Handicap in March and then fared poorly in the Gr. 2 Oaklawn Handicap. This will be his first start at Del Mar. He comes from off the pace and has trained steadily in regrouping for the summer season. He would need to run a lifetime best effort to win.

5. Maximum Security (See Above)

6. Midcourt has had his moments. He got good from June ’19 through November while winning 4 in a row, including the Gr. 3 Native Diver. He also won the Gr. 2 San Pasqual in wire-to-wire fashion and was a close third in the Gr. 1 Santa Anita Handicap behind #4 Combatant. He likes Del Mar and is 2 for 2 over the surface. He’s got a versatile style, so he can lay off the early pace or take the lead. From this post he’s most likely to attempt to take back a bit and settle into the first turn.

11th Race—Allowance Optional Claiming—Cal-bred F&M–3&up—One Mile Turf

1. Oh Pretty Woman was even-money favorite last out at this level and disappointed. The rail’s a great place to be for a rebound.

2. Nice Ice starts for a tag lower than what she’s ever seen. The 5-year-old mare is only 2 for 17, but her Beyer Speed Figures give her a shot.

3. Peace Pipe is interesting because she changed trainers last out and responded with a nifty wire-to-wire maiden victory. If he’s got a bit more improvement in her she might ride the rail again all the way home.

5. Goodtingscominpink usually gives a decent account of herself—she’s been in the money in 7 of 8 starts, including a close third in open company last out. Kent Desormeaux, one of trainer Vlad Cerin’s favorites takes over from Ruben Fuentes signaling liveness.

8. Sassyserb is another runner in here going second off a trainer change. A close third last time out at this level, jockey Prat takes over for trainer Richard Baltas. They hit at around 27%. She’s 6 for 6 in-the-money on turf and has 2 seconds in as many Del Mar turf tries.

12. Warrior’s Moon is just 1 for 9 but she’s been matched against stakes foes on 3 occasions. She was a well-beaten third at this level last out in May.

$.50 Late Pick 4 (Total $24)
Race 8– #2, #3, #4, #6, #9, #10
Race 9– #1, #3, #8, #9
Race 10–#5
Race 11–#3, #8

Take care of each other. Race On!

On Track With Johnny D: Max Is Back and Late Pick 4 Analysis

On Track with Johnny D |