Maximum Security locks down Florida Derby
It was a walk in the park for Maximum Security that earned him an all-expense paid trip to Louisville.
The undefeated son of former Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day went right to the lead from post No. 7 and never looked back at balmy Gulfstream Park to win the 68th edition of the $1 million Grade 1 Florida Derby.
With the lack of early pace, he cruised through easy fractions for three-quarters of a mile heading around the far turn and put 71-1 long shot Bodexpress away as they turned into the stretch. It was the 3-yearold’s first race around two turns for trainer Jason Servis and jockey Luis Saez earned his first win in Gulfstream’s biggest race.
The 3ø-length gate-to-wire victory earned him 100 Kentucky Derby points and a trip to Churchill Downs on May 4 in the Kentucky Derby. Bodexpress scooped up 40 points for the placing which should earn him a spot in America’s most famous horse race while he’s still a maiden looking for his first win.
He completed the 9-furlong race in 1:48.86 and paid $11.60 for the win, $7.40 to place and $5.40 to show. Bodexpress paid $47.40 for his second-place finish and $16.60 to show. Fountain of Youth winner Code of Honor (74 points) stamped his ticket to Louisville with 20 points and paid $4.20 to show.
Post Time selection Bourbon War had no pace to run into and finished fourth collecting 10 points, giving him 31 and putting him squarely on the Derby bubble for trainer Mark Hennig.
Hidden Scroll, the 9-5 post time favorite, finished sixth, damaging his Kentucky Derby hopes.
Maximum Security flashed some hints of brilliance in winning his last race by over 18 lengths at Gulfstream. Shockingly his debut win was in a $16,000 maiden claiming race where his owners could have lost him for that sum last December.
He’ll roll into the Derby with just four career races as a lightly raced
colt who put away some decent colts, albeit due to the fact that no one challenged him during the early portions of the race. He’s owned by Gary and Mary West, who also own last year’s 2-year-old champion Game Winner, so they will have two colts running for the roses in May.
Servis didn’t see the harm in giving the Florida Derby a shot and luckily the West’s racing managers agreed. “He wasn’t beating anything, he really wasn’t, but he was threefor-three at the track and I had Luis Saez,” said Servis.
“I just wanted to stay out of Luis’ way,” said Servis. “It was his decision 100 percent. They went slow early, and the rest is history. I guess I have to cancel my fishing trip in May,” said Servis.
With five weeks until Kentucky Derby 145, the prep races have mainly been won by long shots and unless Game Winner or Improbable step up next weekend at Santa Anita, the odds board may be wide open on Derby day.
UAE Derby: Earlier in the day, American shippers had a terrific Dubai World Cup night capped off by a win by Plus Que Parfait ($19.60) in the $2.5 million Grade 2 UAE Derby. Jose Ortiz won his second race on the World Cup undercard aboard the son of Point of Entry, garnering 100 Derby qualifying points and a spot in the gate in Louisville on May 4.
Dubai winners have not had great success in the past, but this is one of the first times an American-based horse has won the UAE Derby. After having two disappointing finishes on the Derby trail at the Fair Grounds for trainer Brendan Walsh, a trip to the United Arab Emirates was just the right medicine.
“It was in our plans for quite a while since the owners (Imperial Racing) are from over here,” said Walsh. “Look, the horse just had a bad day the last time he ran and we decided not to hold that against him and we’d keep going, and here we are,” said the trainer.
Ortiz had to weave inside and out of horses in the stretch and had to hold off a late closing Gray Magician ($8), who completed a 1-2 United States exacta. “The horse helped me a lot, he put me in a good spot, and we got lucky once we passed the quarter pole I could dive in and he responded really well,” Ortiz told TVG after the race.
Gray Magician, with Joel Rosario aboard, also punched his ticket with 40 points for owner Gary Barber and Eclipse Thoroughbreds. His only previous race on the Derby trail was a fourth place finish in the Grade 3 Sham at Santa Anita, but the Graydar colt is now Derby bound.
The $12 million Grade 1 Dubai World Cup was won by 2018 winner Thunder Snow, who nosed out 40-1 Gronkowski at the wire in one of the richest races of the year.
Thunder Snow completed the 1 ¼-trek in 2.03.58 paying $10.20 to win, $6 to place and $3.80 to show. Gronkowski paid a whopping $32.60 for second and $17 for third. The ever present Gunnevera closed late from last to finish third to pay $4.40.
Todd Pletcher won his first ever Dubai World Cup night race when Coal Front ($7.80) won the $1.5 million Godolphin Mile with Ortiz aboard.
Next steps: The Road to the Kentucky Derby makes three big stops next weekend, which should bring this year’s Derby picture even more into focus. After next weekend’s races we’ll be a month away from the 145th Run for the Roses.
Next Saturday’s 170-point races will be held at Keeneland (Blue Grass), Aqueduct (Wood Memorial) and Santa Anita (Santa Anita Derby). The top two finishers of those 1 1/8-mile races will likely earn the final spots in the 20-horse Run for the Roses on the First Saturday in May.
Saturday’s results didn’t do much to clarify who the Derby favorite will be, but next weekend’s races should provide more of a clue if one of the Santa Anita horses will step forward to claim that role.