OCEANPORT, NJ – Maximum Security was much the best, surviving both a scheduling change and an inquiry to win Saturday’s $1 million TVG.com Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park. With his win here today, the three-year-old son of New Year’s Day eclipsed the million-dollar mark, bringing his earnings to $1,259,600 and picking up his fifth win in seven career starts.
The Haskell is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Maximum Security receiving an automatic berth in the Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, November 2.
Post-time favorite, Maximum Security, broke well from the seventh post and went straight to the front to join King for a Day and Bethlehem Road on the lead. As they came out of the first turn, Bethlehem Road had a slight lead over King for a Day with Maximum Security patiently sitting just off the leaders. Back about another length sat Mucho Gusto followed by Spun to Run while Everfast brought up the rear. Into the backstretch, Bethlehem Road quickly faded, giving way to both Maximum Security and Mucho Gusto who moved up to join King for a Day. They drew even with the leader and sat three-wide as they made their way into the final turn, all while coming off of speedy fractions of :22.92 and :46.71.
As they sped around the turn, Mucho Gusto and Maximum Security blew right by King for a Day and dueled it out to the toward the top of the stretch. As they moved into the final furlong, the two horses battled it out stride for stride with neither horse giving an inch to the other. Maximum Security dug in late and had just enough to get up for first, finishing a head in front of Mucho Gusto. Spun to Run finished third with Everfast in fourth followed by King for a Day and Bethlehem Road.
“I knew there was going to be a lot of speed in the race,” said winning jockey Luis Saez. “I’m not going to go to the lead and let everybody press me, and I had the best post, I think. I just came out of the break from the gate and waited to see how fast they were going. When I saw that everybody wanted to take the lead I just stayed right there. And when he came to the half mile he put me inside in a pretty nice spot, he was traveling good. When I saw Mucho Gusto he came outside me, he came close to me and tried to beat me. I just let my horse run and he kept battling with him.”
Shortly after the finish, an inquiry was posted; all too familiar occurrence for the connections of Maximum Security who saw their horse disqualified from first in the Kentucky Derby. The inquiry, however, was dismissed and the order of finish was made official.
“In my mind my horse did nothing wrong. I saw other horses going backwards at that time so I had no concerns whatsoever that he would be taken down,” said Gary West.
When asked about the race and subsequent inquiry, Bob Baffert, who trains the second-place finisher Mucho Gusto, seemed to agree with the stewards’ decision.
“That was exciting. I’m glad they didn’t disqualify him (Maximum Security). That would have been awful,” said Baffert, who was denied a ninth Haskell victory.
“My horse has always been in top form. Of them all, he’s now the only one to with two Grade 1 wins. He has to be at the top of the class,” said Gary West, who bred and owns Maximum Security with his wife, Mary. “Am I prejudiced. Of course I am.”
“Right now the Travers is the plan for this horse and Game Winner. We’re going to take all the steps and see how it goes,” said West. “But Jason is the boss and he’ll do whatever is right for the horse.”
Maximum Security returned $3.60 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.20 to show. Mucho Gusto brought back $3.40 to place and $2.80 to show, while Spun to Run paid $5.60 to show.