Contact: Alicia Hughes, NTRA Communications, (859) 422-2663, firstname.lastname@example.org
No matter where Maximum Security went in 2019, the noise would often follow.
In the aftermath of his rain-drenched run in the Kentucky Derby, the cacophony of chatter reached deafening levels after stewards put him in the history books as the first horse to be disqualified from first in the classic due to an in-race infraction. When he rattled off three straight graded stakes triumphs to close out his sophomore campaign, the cries of what might have been during the Triple Crown season became even more pronounced.
For all the declarations Maximum Security inspired over the past year, it was the statements he made on his own behalf that proved most indisputable. Whatever roller-coaster of emotions trailed in his wake, the Jason Servis-trained colt was nothing but steadfast in his ability to have his talent win out, a feat that has made him a finalist for 2019 Horse of the Year honors at the 49th annual Eclipse Awards on January 23.
Maximum Security’s ascent up the 3-year-old male ranks last year was one that began in improbable fashion and had to overcome many a star-crossed moment along the way. In what would go down as arguably the best claiming race in modern times, Maximum Security was entered for a $16,000 tag when he won his career debut at Gulfstream Park in December 2018 – defeating a field that included fellow future Grade 1 winner Math Wizard. Fortunately for owners Gary and Mary West, no one decided to enter a slip for their bay homebred. Three starts into his 3-year-old season, Maximum Security had traded his humble beginnings for a more enviable status – that of leading Kentucky Derby contender.
In his first try against graded company following a pair of blowout victories in starter optional allowance races, Maximum Security led every point of call to take the Grade 1 Florida Derby by 3 ½ lengths on March 30. He went to post in the Kentucky Derby as the second betting choice and hit the wire 1 ¾ lengths in front, but after 22 minutes of deliberation by the stewards, he was demoted to 17th and his roses were handed off to initial runner-up Country House due to interference.
His first outing following that controversy also ended in disappointment as a stumble at the start of the June 16 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park contributed to Maximum Security’s second-place run behind aptly-named King for a Day. He made amends for that outing with a 1 ¼-length win in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational Stakes on July 20, overcoming oppressive heat which prompted Monmouth Park officials to cancel the majority of its card, but had to miss a planned run in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby due to a bout with colic.
Though a potential run in the Breeders’ Cup also ended up being tabled, Maximum Security still proved his prowess could translate when taken beyond the confines of his sophomore ranks. His first victory against elders came when he captured the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap in gate-to-wire fashion on October 26. He duplicated that form just over a month later when annexing the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap, defeating Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile victor Spun to Run in the process.
“I’ve got to hold back tears. He’s special, that horse,” Servis said after the Cigar Mile. “It’s just a shame because he was the best horse in the Derby. He gets away, opens up three and they have to work to get to him. He very well could have gone undefeated. He’s truly special. If you watch the Bold Ruler, he switches leads and you almost can’t see it.”
Bred in Kentucky out of the Anasheed mare Lil Indy, Maximum Security has won seven of nine career starts with $1,801,900 in earnings.