Max­i­mum Se­cu­rity locks down Florida Derby

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS - By Gene Ker­sh­ner Gene Ker­sh­ner, a Buf­falo-based turf writer, is a mem­ber of the Na­tional Turf Writ­ers and Broad­cast­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, and tweets @EquiS­pace.

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.

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