Kentucky Derby 2019 Daily: Time not telling for Maximum Security

April 18, 2019 10:42am

Welcome to Horse Racing Nation’s Kentucky Derby Daily, which will each day leading up to the May 4 race at Churchill Downs detail all the news and notes related to contenders in one convenient space.

The work tab reads four furlongs in 54.85 seconds for Maximum Security’s first breeze over the weekend toward the 2019 Kentucky Derby. But that doesn’t much tell the story of how trainer Jason Servis is preparing the Florida Derby (G1) winner for the first Saturday in May.

Servis wishes the recorded time would more accurately reflect “how I’ve been doing it for years” when his upper-tier runners drill at Florida’s Palm Meadows Downs.

“The younger horses need the gate work, the half miles,” Servis said. But Maximum Security, who recently improved his record to 4-for-4, rather targeted twice the printed distance — a full mile  in two minutes in change. And he hit it right on, Servis said.

“I think they’re a lot easy to maintain — those slow, open miles,” the trainer added.


Similar tactics paid off for Doug O'Neill, by the way, while training Nyquist up to his 2016 win. But it's in contrast to how many contenders will prepare for the Kentucky Derby with snappy bullet drills indications they’re ready to run. Servis, rather, “tries to keep them fresh” between starts.

A son of New Year’s Day, Maximum Security is the Gary and Mary West homebred who debuted in the claiming ranks, won by 18 1/4 lengths third out, then took the Florida Derby running through comfortable fractions on the front end.

Servis thinks Maximum Security would “cover up nice,” behind the early leader at Churchill Downs. But he recognizes as well that the only time Maximum Security didn’t set the pace, he was going seven furlongs.

“I’m going to leave a lot to Luis (Saez),” Servis said of the Derby pace. “I want to say he showed he doesn’t have to be on the lead, but that was also a 7/8 race and they went quicker earlier. But they don’t go that slow in the Derby, either.”

Servis plans to pick up Maximum Security’s work rate by a couple seconds next time. Then the colt's scheduled to ship the Tuesday of Derby week on a plane with, among others, the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) winner Vekoma.

By the way, Servis won’t be missing a fishing trip as he alluded to in his post-Florida Derby interview.

“I was just trying to break the ice a little bit,” he said, laughing.

Still, “I’m not that all pumped up,” Servis said of returning to the Derby. “It’s a 20-horse field. You can draw the one post and be looking at the rail. Who knows?"

Servis-trained Firenze Fire ran 11th last year. The other time he was on hand with a horse, his brother, John, won the 2004 running with Smarty Jones.

John Servis will be back under the Twin Spires as well with Jaywalk in the Kentucky Oaks.


“I’ve got pictures of me as a jockey winning races at Waterford Park, which is now Mountaineer, in 1975,” Jason Servis said. “He’s the groom.”

The Servis family’s training tree is growing with Tyler Servis, John’s son, beginning to saddle his own runners. Jason has won this year with about one-third of his starters, and Tyler joked after beginning 1-for-1 that, “If I stop now, it might be the only time I have a better percentage than my Uncle Jason.”

Derby links

 Mark Midland, co-founder of Horse Racing Nation, listed early Kentucky Derby morning line odds to simulate what we might see after the post position draw.

 Wagering on the Kentucky Derby will open in Japan assuming Master Fencer enters, but don’t expect that money to sway the odds in our pool.

 Hear from both sides of the biggest personnel decision related to this Derby: Mike Smith’s decision to stay on Omaha Beach.

In case you missed it…

Tuesday’s Derby Daily report detailed work and shipping plans known so far about all 20 in the prospective field before the official training window begins this weekend at Churchill Downs.


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Horse Racing Nation's Kentucky Derby daily blog counts down to the May 4, 2019, race at Churchill Downs with a once-a-day update on all things Derby. Get the latest news and chatter, workout reports and a look at fields for upcoming preps all in once place.

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