News and STORIES

Maximum Security Returns in San Diego Handicap

Author: Clint Goodman
Published: Wednesday July 22, 2020
Champion 3-year-old Maximum Security is set to return in the $150,000 San Diego Handicap (G2) Saturday at Del Mar. The return comes after the track suspended racing for a week due to a spike in COVID-19 cases among jockeys. 

Skilled Opponents

Maximum Security will go up against some impressive runners, including Higher Power, Combatant, and Midcourt, among a field of six. The field could be even smaller by the time the race rolls around since Sharp Samurai might opt for the July 26 Eddie Read Stakes (G2T) at Del Mar on turf, the surface where he has taken all of his stakes victories.

The last time Maximum Security raced was back in the winter, and he will be making his first start for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Following previous trainer Jason Servis' indictment on doping-related charges, Baffert took over in the spring. 

Before the barn change, Maximum Security won the Feb. 29 Saudi Cup, but the $20 million race is under investigation by The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia due to the indictment. 

3-Year-Old Season

The son of New Year's Day won the Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park during his 3-year-old season. He also took the Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park, the Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) at Belmont Park, and the Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct Racetrack.

His other big performance took place when he finished first in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) at Churchill Downs before being placed in 17th by stewards due to interference. 

The colt is owned by his breeders, Gary and Mary West, as well as Coolmore Stud-affiliated Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith. In mid-December, Coolmore purchased 50% of the colt. 

"I don't like the circumstances (of) the way I got the horse, but he couldn't be training any better, and I really expect the big effort from him," Baffert said during a National Thoroughbred Racing Association media conference call.

Bob Baffert

Bob Baffert is excited about the 4-year-old colt's potential this season after adapting to his training style, including speedier workouts rather than the slow and controlled breezes from Servis. Maximum Security breezed a bullet six-furlongs in 1:11 3/5 on July 18, passing up workmate Leading Score, a twice stakes-placed horse.

"I'm excited, a little bit nervous about it," Baffert said of Maximum Security. "I feel a little added pressure. But there's a lot of pressure when you're around good horses, and we always have that."

Maximum Security was ridden by New-York based jockey Luis Saez over his last seven races, but Abel Cedillo will join him for the upcoming race. 

"He's a strong rider; he's aggressive, and he won on Fighting Mad for Gary and Mary West," Baffert said, referring to the May 31 Santa Maria Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park. "He rode her and won the stake for me, and he's won some races for me, and he seems like he can handle pressure when you ride a top horse like that."

Jockey Changes

The change came after Saez tested positive for COVID-19, which would have prevented him from riding. Numerous tracks, including Del Mar, have also barred out-of-town jockeys from coming into the tracks as a way to combat the pandemic. Saez is set to return to racing on July 24 at Saratoga Race Course following his quarantine.

Cedillo was one of the 15 riders that ended up testing positive for COVID-19 at Del Mar. Most of the jockeys that became infected with the virus were asymptomatic, and they are required to undergo a 10-day quarantine and be cleared before returning to racing.