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San Diego Preview: Maximum Security Making Baffert Barn Debut
Maximum Security training before the Saudi Cup (Credit: Douglas de Felice / Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia)

San Diego Preview: Maximum Security Making Baffert Barn Debut

DEL MAR, CA – The embattled colt Maximum Security is scheduled to make his debut for new trainer Hall of Fame Bob Baffert against five rivals in Saturday’s $150,000 San Diego Handicap (G2) at Del Mar.

The San Diego is a 1 1/16-mile dirt route for older horses that serves as the local prep for the $500,000 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (G1). This year’s running of the San Diego is slated as the penultimate event on an 11-race Saturday card and has a local post time of 6:30 PM Pacific.

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Maximum Security makes his first start since former trainer Jason Servis was arrested in early March for charges related to manufacturing, procuring, distributing, and administering illegal substances to racehorses.

The arrest occurred a little over one week after Maximum Security won $20 million Saudi Cup, the world’s richest race, in Saudi Arabia, and though Maximum Security was never specifically named as a Servis charge who received the alleged doping enhancement, the court of public opinion has long ruled that such was the case.

Baffert gave the 4-year-old New Year’s Day offspring time to recover from any potential enhancements that may have lingered before putting him back on the worktab. He fired back-to-back sharp moves over the local strip and will have Abel Cedillo aboard.

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Here is a look at the full field for Saturday’s San Diego:

1. Higher Power 7/2 – An upset winner of last year’s Pacific Classic, he finished third in the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), both times after having trouble exiting the gate. He was a complete no-show in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) while running sans Lasix, but he ran a much-improved second in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) in his most recent effort.

2. Ax Man 8/1 – Though he’s spent most of his career sprinting, he has 4 wins and 2 third from 6 starts going two turns. Last time out, he was buried along the rail in the stretch but still earned a hard-fought victory while going this distance over the Santa Anita Park main track against optional claiming rivals.

3. Sharp Samurai 12/1 – A four-time graded stakes winner on turf, he makes his first dirt start since March 2017, the last of 3 main track attempts that he made. He finished in a dead heat for third while making his 2020 debut in June’s American Stakes (G3) and trainer Mark Glatt has a sharp 28% win rate with horses making similar surface changes. However, Glatt has indicated that he will likely scratch in favor of the Eddie Read Stakes (G2), a 1 1/8-mile turf route scheduled for Sunday.

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4. Combatant 6/1 – After he spent three seasons racing on dirt and turf across the country, Hronis Racing purchased him for $220k last fall and relocated to John Sadler’s southern California base. Though Sadler’s assistant Juan Leyva is temporarily handling saddling duties, Sadler and Hronis Racing have won the last three editions of this race.

5. Maximum Security 1/1 – He was at the center of not one, but two of horse racing’s biggest stories over the past 14 months, which began when he was the first Kentucky Derby (G1) winner to ever be disqualified and recurred with Servis’ federal indictment. The big question is how he will run in his first start for Baffert, who has a 32% strike rate with horses returning from layoffs of 61-180 days in the past two years.

6. Midcourt 4/1 – He has put together a record of 9-5-1-2 since moving to the John Shirreffs barn, including a pair of local scores topped by the Native Diver Stakes (G3) last November. He tried running without blinkers last time out in the Hollywood Gold Cup, to disastrous results, but he adds them back on for this start.

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