RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – New year, new silks, same results for the American sensation Maximum Security on Saturday as he reached global acclaim in the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup, the world’s richest horse race, at King Abdulaziz Racetrack.

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Sent from the barriers as the 6/5 stateside favorite under Luis Saez, Maximum Security raced well within himself early, running six lanes off of the rail while just outside of early leader Mucho Gusto. Under Irad Ortiz, Jr., the recent Pegasus World Cup (G1) winner raced in the middle of the lane while North America and Capezzano tracked from his inside.

Drifting out slightly as Ortiz, Jr., attempted to intimidate Maximum Security, Mucho Gusto hit the top of the stretch with a slightly growing lead and was put to a drive. Saez kept Maximum Security to task and tried pulling alongside Mucho Gusto’s outside, but continued left-handed reminders from Ortiz, Jr., pushed the pair out even farther.

With less than a furlong remaining, Saez steered Maximum Security sharply to the inside in an effort to get around Mucho Gusto. The move caught Ortiz, Jr., by surprise, and though he quickly switched to his right hand in an attempt to herd Maximum Security yet again, the move proved too late.

Taking the lead in the shadow of the wire, Maximum Security had enough heart left to hold off the mare Midnight Bisou, blitzing sharply along the rail under Mike Smith, for the victory. American shippers clinched the top two spots while completing the 1 1/8-mile event over the fast main track in a final time of 1:50.59. 

Credit: Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Doug DeFelice

“You know, I was a little upset with Irad Ortiz, who kept me carrying me out down the backside and who carried me out in the turn, and when Max dropped inside, he came down on me, but that is a story for another day,” said winning trainer Jason Servis. “Really, that horse has got a lot of heart. He is some horse. He is amazing. It’s got to be some vindication.”

The Dubai-based Benbatl grinded his way up late to head Mucho Gusto for third under Oisin Murphy, wearing the Godolphin silks. Juddmonte Farms homebred Tacitus was fifth ahead of the two Japanese-based runners Gold Dream and Chrysoberyl, while the local hopeful Mjjack was eighth. 

Completing the order of finish came Magic WandGronkowskiMcKinzieGreat Scot, North America, and Capezzano.

For Saez, Maximum Security’s win was more than enough redemption for the colt’s Kentucky Derby (G1) effort last May, when Maximum Security infamously crossed the wire the winner but was disqualified for the first time in that race’s storied history.  The 4-year-old son of New Year’s Day now carries a record of 10-8-1-0, with his only defeat on the track coming in the Pegasus Stakes, his first start after the Kentucky Derby.

“This is the true Kentucky Derby winner,” Saez said. “I’m so glad to be on the horse. This is a big deal. I would like to thank God, the owners for letting me ride the horse, and I would like to thank my brother. I know you are watching me. I love you.”

Maximum Security was running under twin ownership and in new silks for the first time after Coolmore purchased a half-interest and his stallion rights from owner/breeders Gary and Mary West. The $10 million winner’s share of the purse increased Maximum Security’s lifetime earnings mark to $11,801,900, placing him seventh all-time among thoroughbreds. 

Credit: Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Doug DeFelice

“All I can say is that we are very lucky people that Gary and Mary West let us into the horse,” said Coolmore’s M. V. Magnier. “It is an absolute credit to the two gentlemen on my left (Jason Servis and his son, Garrett), the job they have done with this horse; it’s quite incredible. There were a couple of flutters, all right, but Jason was very confident beforehand. The best man was riding. He gave him a fantastic ride.”

Maximum Security returned $4.40 to win, $3.40 to place, and $2.80 to show. Midnight Bisou brought back $8 to place and $4 to show, while Benbatl paid $9 to show.