By Nicholas Godfrey
Del Mar: San Diego Hcap G2 $150,000, 1m½f, dirt, 3yo+
Maximum Security (Bob Baffert/Abel Cedillo)
Saudi Cup winner Maximum Security made hard work of his return to action after a five-month layoff as he just overcame the stubborn Midcourt to win by a nose.
Making his debut for Bob Baffert, who said he was “nowhere near ready”, the four-year-old was sent off as a 2-5 favourite and broke on top but soon ceded control to Del Mar specialist Midcourt and Higher Power before being ridden to make up ground entering the stretch.
Midcourt, who was receiving 5lb, would not give way and the photo was too close to call before the gutsy Maximum Security was named the winner in a slowish time of 1m44.54s.
Maximum Security, who carried the colours of Michael Tabor, was having his first start for Baffert since leaving the controversial Jason Servis, one of the trainers at the centre of FBI charges in the doping storm that has rocked US racing. He will now be pointed towards Del Mar’s signature race, the G1 Pacific Classic, on August 22.
Winning jockey Abel Cedillo completed a treble on the 11-race card, also winning the G2 San Clemente with Laura’s Light for trainer Peter Miller.
Shall we talk about it?
Bob Baffert: “I knew I didn’t have him really drummed up for this race, we were going to use this to get ready for the next one. But we’re learning about the horse and he won today when he had every reason to get beat. He showed what a great horse he is today. He’s such a fighter. The track is so deep today – it’s two seconds off. I was counting on his class. He was nowhere near his best. I didn’t even put a gate work into him. I’m glad we got this over with and now he’s in good shape.
Abel Cedillo: “He broke really well and we were in front. Then that horse outside me [Midcourt] rushed up and I didn’t want to have to deal with him, so I just let him go. Then on the backstretch that other horse [Higher Power] came up inside me, but I felt OK. When we turned for home I had to get to work. I knew I was going to do that. He’s the kind of horse you have to ride all the way. You have to keep working on him.”
Saratoga: Starship stuns Sistercharlie
Saratoga: Ballston Spa G2 $200,000, 1m½f, turf, 4yo+ f/m
Starship Jubilee (Kevin Attard/Javier Castellano)
Some people refer to Saratoga as the ‘Graveyard of Champions’; others insist it is the ‘Graveyard of Favorites’.
Both applied to seven-time G1 winner Sistercharlie on her 6yo debut, and guess what? The 2-5 favourite, Eclipse Award winner in 2018 when she won at the Breeders’ Cup, could finish only a dull third behind Starship Jubilee, the reigning Canadian Horse of the Year.
The 7yo was completing a four-time for 2020, having won three races in Florida during the winter months. Sistercharlie was a length and a half back in third.
Javier Castellano: “She’s such a great horse; to beat Sistercharlie, she’s one of the best fillies in the country. I like the way she did it. We had to take on a number one horse in the country like Sistercharlie. I think it was the right time today and the right place to beat her, not to take anything from my horse. I’m very satisfied with the way she did it today.”
Kevin Attard: “I kept saying to the TV, ‘give me a little more, mama,’ and she did. She pinned her ears back and kept that horse at bay. She’s just a special horse. She’s seven and a lot of horses as they get older lose a step or two, but arguably this horse has gotten better as she’s gotten older. She has the will and desire to win and I’ll probably never come across another horse as good as her.”
Volatile vaults into G1 land with Vanderbilt victory
Saratoga: Alfred G Vanderbilt Hcap G1 $250,000, 6f, dirt, 3yo
Volatile (Steve Asmussen/Ricardo Santana)
It was a testament to the potential flashed by Volatile in lesser company that on his graded-stakes debut he was made 2-5 favourite against a trio of G1 scorers. The market was right: the four-year-old, who had won his two previous starts by a combined 15½ lengths, made all to win by a length and a quarter from veteran sprint star Whitmore.
Steve Asmussen: “We saw the first two races from him this year and they were absolutely brilliant. I feel very good about getting those races into him before he met accomplished horses like this. But from an ability or a speed level, he has it all. We obviously feel the Breeders’ Cup is where we want to be with him at the of the year and how we get there from here is going to be the plan.”