By Nicholas Godfrey
Del Mar: Pacific Classic G1 $500,000, 1m2f, dirt, 3yo+
Maximum Security (Bob Baffert/Abel Cedillo)
USA: Maximum Security made all to win Del Mar’s signature contest, the Pacific Classic, marking the 11th time in 12 starts that this star-crossed colt has got to the wire first.
Moreover, this time there was no arguing about the result as the four-year-old galloped his rivals into submission, despite the continued attentions of a dogged Sharp Samurai up front throughout the $500,000 contest.
Sent off 2-5, Maximum Security scored by three lengths over Sharp Samurai in one of the finest displays of a chequered career. Final time for the 1m2f was 2.01.24s.
Del Mar may be racing without the public but the sense of relief among the victor’s connections wasn’t hard to discern.
As jockey Abel Cedillo described Maximum Security as the best he had ever ridden, trainer Bob Baffert admitted he had been feeling “a lot of pressure”.
“There’s a lot of Ws by his name,” Baffert told the Daily Racing Form. “I didn’t want to the be the guy who slowed him down.
“I’m just so happy for this horse,” he added. “It’s not his fault what he went through. Today he showed that he is a great horse.”
As for Gary West, the emotional owner-breeder was left close to tears given the horse’s chequered history featuring, if anyone needs reminding, a Kentucky Derby DQ and the arrest of his former trainer Jason Servis owing to federal indictments over systemic use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Owing to potential implications of the latter, winning prize-money from Maximum Security’s Saudi Cup victory has yet to be distributed. They probably won’t have to wait so long for their Del Mar dollars.
Shall we talk about it?
Bob Baffert (Maximum Security’s trainer): “We mapped it out that he’s the quickest horse, he’s ready and now you can ride him with a lot more confidence. Once he took the lead I figured he’d be fine. I just didn’t want any quarters in 22. ‘Max’ was relaxing really nice. He was a totally different horse today. He just does things effortlessly; he wasn’t even blowing when he came back. I’m just so happy for this horse – it’s not his fault what he went through. Today he showed that he is a great horse.”
Abel Cedillo (Maximum Security’s jockey): “The race went pretty much how I thought. Bob told me to keep him off the rail, because the speed was inside. If someone wanted to run up inside of us, I would have let them. He just galloped around the track. I was a little surprised that the outside horse was with us early and he stuck around. He ran big, but whenever he would get close, my horse would pull away on his own. He still had a little left at the end. I have to say this is probably the best horse I’ve ever ridden.”
Gary West (Maximum Security’s owner-breeder): “I’ve got tears in my eyes; I’m so happy. He looked so comfortable out there. There were a lot of good horses in that race, especially last year’s winner. Sharp Samurai stuck with us but we were best. I’m really proud of him.”
Saratoga: Fourstardave Hcap G1 $400,000 1m, turf, 3yo+
Halladay (Todd Pletcher/Luis Saez)
Well, this was a rum do and no mistake. Champion trainer Chad Brown, rightly renowned for his turf prowess, went mob-handed into the Fourstardave with four of the nine runners, including the first three in the betting, all of them G1 winners including both a Breeders’ Cup winner (Uni) and a Royal Ascot winner (Without Parole).
Unbelievably, none of them made the superfecta, finishing fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth in a race dominated by the impressive Halladay from the front, who re-rallied to thwart Breeders’ Cup runner-up Got Stormy in a race where nothing got involved from off the pace.
The $400,000 event is a ‘Win And You’re In’ for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Todd Pletcher (Halladay’s trainer): “He’s gotten really good and we’ve seen it in the mornings in his training. He’s been going great and we were confident going in that he was at his very best and we thought we had a bit of a pace advantage, so we wanted to take the race to them. He didn’t break great but once he got his legs underneath him, he settled really well and kicked really strong.”