By Nicholas Godfrey
Del Mar: San Diego Hcap G2 $150,000, 1m½f, dirt, 3yo+ (2.30am Sun BST)
USA: As controversial as he is talented, America’s highest-profile racehorse Maximum Security makes his belated debut for the nation’s highest-profile trainer Bob Baffert at Del Mar on Saturday.
The four-year-old’s west coast debut after leaving the Jason Servis barn – his former trainer was indicted for systemic doping offences – comes a week after it was intended owing to the positive COVID-19 tests among Del Mar’s jockey colony that forced last weekend’s postponement.
Now, though, Del Mar is back, and Maximum Security is ready to go in the G2 San Diego Handicap. He has a new jockey in Abel Cedillo, who takes over from Luis Saez, who cannot ride owing to quarantine issues.
“He sort of has the same kind of style,” explained Baffert after naming Cedillo for the ride on the Saudi Cup winner. “He’s a strong rider, he’s aggressive … he’s won some races for me and he can handle pressure. I’m happy that I have him here.”
Disqualified after passing the post first for interference in last year’s Kentucky Derby, Maximum Security’s career is already notorious given the allegations surrounding his former trainer.
Owned in 50% partnership by the Coolmore team and Gary and Mary West, the four-year-old concedes between 5lb and 9lb to five rivals headed by last year’s Pacific Classic winner Higher Power (John Sadler/Flavien Prat) and stablemate Combatant (John Sadler/Drayden Van Dyke), who won the Santa Anita Handicap.
Maximum Security: “When I see him train, he trains like a really top horse. And I’m actually very excited, a little bit nervous about it, I feel a little added pressure. But there’s a lot of pressure when you’re around good horses, and we always have that. 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.” Bob Baffert (trainer)
Sistercharlie returns at Saratoga
Saratoga: Ballston Spa G2 $200,000, 1m½f, turf, 4yo+ f/m (7.18pm BST)
Champion trainer Chad Brown fires one of his more powerful weapons as he bids for a sixth win in the race with former champion turf mare Sistercharlie (John Velazquez) on her debut as a six-year-old. She is having her first start since forfeiting her crown in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
Starship Jubilee (Kevin Attard/Javier Castellano), the reigning Canadian Horse of the Year, figures among her rivals. She is looking to complete a four-timer in 2020 after three wins in Florida over the winter.
Sistercharlie: “She’s been training really well. It’s only a mile and a sixteenth, which is a little shorter than the Diana was last year, but she did it a couple of years ago in the Jenny Wiley. She’s been ready to run for a little while now. It’s great that he [Peter Brant] decided to race her as a six-year-old. To have a star horse like this in training is good for the entire industry, so hopefully she has another great year.” Chad Brown (trainer)
Starship Jubilee: “We sent her to the farm after her race at Tampa and she had a bit of a freshening before we got her back into training. I think she’s ready. It took her a little bit longer to come around, but she is getting a little bit older. Her last few works have been good and I saw enough in her last work that I think she’s ready to ship and compete.” Kevin Attard (trainer)
Vanderbilt: G1 winners face off – plus Volatile
Saratoga: Alfred G Vanderbilt Hcap G1 $250,000, 6f, dirt, 3yo (11.16pm BST)
Three of the five runners here are previous G1 winners, namely veteran 7yo sprint star Whitmore (Ron Moquett/Joel Rosario), Mind Control (Gregg Sacco/John Velazquez) and Firenze Fire (Kelly Breen/Irad Ortiz), while Volatile (Steve Asmussen/Ricardo Santana) steps up in grade. He won his last three by a combined margin of 18½ lengths.
Whitmore: “Options are limited for a sprinter in North America this year due to the COVID-19 and all the changes, so we’re adjusting. We always wanted to compete in this race with him. There’s a ton of quality horses running in it, so it’s going to be a tough but fun race.” Ron Moquett (trainer)
Firenze Fire: “We got Irad back, everything is doing well. I believe the distance will suit him really well. He’s doing as well as he was into his last race.” Kelly Breen (trainer)
Mind Control: “He’s two-for-two there, so he does have an affinity for Saratoga and we’re excited to get him back there and hope he performs well. To go for G1 wins at 2, 3 and 4 would be special for him. It’s very exciting to bring him back, but we expect a very tough race and we’re just hoping Mind Control gives us his top performance.” Gregg Sacco (trainer)