What happens when Maximum Security faces more pace pressure in Saturday’s 2019 Kentucky Derby? How far will he go? And does it help that Omaha Beach, who figured to press or possibly set the pace, scratched?
Trainer Jason Servis doesn’t pretend to know the answers to those questions regarding the unbeaten Florida Derby winner, who has gone from the claiming ranks to Grade 1 fame in a matter of months.
Asked this week on the Churchill Downs backside what makes him confident leading into the weekend, Servis clarified: “I’m not all that confident.”
He cited the number of accomplished trainers also set to saddle horses in a wide-open Derby. This is Servis’ second try after longshot Firenze Fire — who the conditioner knew all along preferred to go one turn — ran 11th.
But the trainer is now more than the brother of John Servis, who once trained Smarty Jones. Thanks to adding clients such as Michael Dubb and Gary and Mary West, who campaign Maximum Security, he is on the best two-year run of his career.
On Saturday, that could mean seeing his horse don roses.
“He doesn’t really know how to just go out there and lope around,” the trainer said. “I’m not expecting that. He’ll try, whether it’s fifth or fourth or third or win — whatever it is.”
Servis views chances for the Gary and Mary West homebred son of New Year’s Day pragmatically.
1. Maximum Security has won over an off track.
2. He won the major prep that has produced more Derby winners than any other.
3. He has run from off the space in sprints and on it when routing.
4. Pedigree-wise, his mare is a half-sibling of Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) winner Flat Out.
“It doesn’t matter what you like or don’t like,” Servis said. “He’s checking a lot of boxes.”
The big question horseplayers will have to consider before post time: Will he take up room on tickets?
• In news of the day, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin didn’t send Haikal to the track Thursday due to a foot abscess. He may scratch.
• Leaving the starting gate next to Maximum Security is Vekoma, who handicapper Reinier Macatangay will be betting in the Kentucky Derby.
• With morning line favorite Omaha Beach out, Mike Shutty, author of our Super Screener handicapping system, runs down five takeaways for bettors.
• That defection put Bodexpress is in, meaning Chris Landeros will ride for the first time in the Kentucky Derby.