On March 2, 2020, Maximum Security sat on top of the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll with 42 of the 43 No. 1 votes. The Saudi Cup winner was well ahead of Midnight Bisou, who finished a very game second place against her male counterparts in that big race in the Middle East.
There was no need for argument or disagreement, Maximum Security was the best Thoroughbred in training at the time. A week later, everything changed when Jason Servis was indicted for allegations of widespread use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs on horses, including Maximum Security.
The voters in the poll didn’t know which way to turn; many, including myself, dropped him completely from the top 10. While others left him at No. 1, waiting for proof of wrongdoing by Servis. Over time, Maximum Security lost most of his support, and as of this week’s Top 10 poll, he has only three No. 1 votes and sits at No. 10, down from No. 9 last week.
Four months after the Servis scandal, Maximum Security will make his first start for his new trainer, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, in the San Diego Handicap (G2) at Del Mar on Saturday. He was assigned highweight of 127 pounds, which is a lot these days, in a field of seven.
Remember that Maximum Security is sitting on a four-race win streak going back to his victory in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 20, 2019 and has a career record 10: 8-1-0 with earnings of $11,801,900. Don’t forget that the one off-the-board finish was his disqualification in the Kentucky Derby of 2019.
Maximum Security will face a high-quality field in the San Diego Handicap that includes the winners of the most recent Grade 1 Pacific Classic and Santa Anita Handicap along with the Grade 2 San Pasqual and the City of Hope Mile.
A victory on Saturday will force voters in the Top 10 poll to make decisions about the horse that has been at the center of one controversy after another during his career.
One of the extreme views will be to put the Baffert runner back at No. 1, taking the victory as an affirmation of his talent and that he, in fact, does not need PEDs to beat the top horses. Or some will continue to leave him out of the Top 10, thinking that the Saudi Cup should still be ignored, so he only has a Grade 2 win in 2020.
A compromise view might be to rank the son of New Year’s Day in the middle of the Top 10, awaiting a campaign that might put him in Grade 1 competition in races such as the Woodward and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
To win, Maximum Security will have to buck the losing trend of former Servis runners when they debuted for their new trainers. Should Maximum Security fall short in the San Diego, he would probably even lose those last three holdout No. 1 votes.
Consensus Top 10
Matt Shifman's Top 10
1. Midnight Bisou (22)
1. Tiz the Law
2. Tom’s d’Etat (9)
3. Vekoma (2)
3. Tom’s d’Etat
4. Monomoy Girl (1)
4. Midnight Bisou
5. Zulu Alpha
5. Honor A. P.
6. Mucho Gusto
6. By My Standards
7. By My Standards
7. Monomoy Girl
8. Tiz the Law (2)
9. Code of Honor (1)
9. Code of Honor
10. Maximum Security (3)
10. Mucho Gusto