What we learned: Maximum Security on right path

What we learned: Maximum Security on right path
Photo: Benoit Photo

Heading into the San Diego Handicap (G2), many fans and bettors wanted to know whether Maximum Security could perform the same away from trainer Jason Servis. After transferring to Bob Baffert, he went through a different training routine and not all his recent workouts flattered him. In fact, he appeared to struggle at times against his new stablemates.

After Maximum Security’s hard-fought victory over Midcourt yesterday at Del Mar though, he looks on the right path towards his previous form. He put in an effort that is better than the margin indicates.

Here is a recap of his trip.

Maximum Security broke well under his new rider Abel Cedillo and went to the lead, as he did in the majority of his starts with Servis.

But when Midcourt came up alongside him, Cedillo decided to let Midcourt cross over and secure the lead.

Then, Flavien Prat moved up Higher Power alongside Midcourt and possibly cost Maximum Security a length or two in the process through a hard-to-see incident.

Perhaps Cedillo meant to go for the two-path after letting Midcourt take his position, and Higher Power took that spot before he switched out.

Ax Man settled in an unusual position in fourth, five lengths off the pace. Combatant trailed the field after a poor start. Neither of them factored in.

After leading the field through 23.74 and 46.87 opening fractions, Victor Espinoza continued to let Midcourt run freely and he even opened up on Higher Power. But approaching the turn, Maximum Security recovered from the earlier trouble and began to close in again.

Perhaps by design, Maximum Security found himself in the same position as most of his Baffert-led workouts, which always had a stablemate leading on the turn.

Under heavy urging, Maximum Security drew even with Midcourt. Midcourt did not give up though and fought back under left-handed whips from Espinoza. The two horses put on a great show in the stretch, but Maximum Security eventually squeaked it out to prevail by a nose.

Maximum Security finished the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.54. As of this writing, the TimeformUS Speed Figure is not entered into the system. The Beyer team decided to give him a 101, which falls in line with most of his previous figures.

Handicapping is about more than numbers though.

Maximum Security is “probably” the same as before. He did require a lot of encouragement and use of the whip to pass Midcourt, and that is a concern. But the part where he lost position because of Higher Power makes criticizing the win difficult. Like a professional, Maximum Security regathered himself and fired back until he won.

This start also marked his first race since capturing the Saudi Cup after a grueling stretch run where he put away Mucho Gusto and held off Midnight Bisou.

Watch Maximum Security’s next race for a better answer. Given he will start in a Grade 1 next time (Aug. 22 Pacific Classic), there is no doubt Baffert will crank this horse to his full potential. For now though, Maximum Security receives the thumbs up for overcoming early trouble, outdueling a good horse in Midcourt down the lane and winning without Servis' help.

Is Sistercharlie the same horse after Ballston Spa loss?  

After outdueling Call Me Love in an exciting stretch battle, Starship Jubilee captured the Ballston Spa Stakes (G2) at Saratoga to add to her already remarkable career. As a 7-year-old mare on top of her game, she recorded her 18th win in 36 starts.

In contrast, former Eclipse Award champion Sistercharlie appears to have lost a step after finishing a flat third.

Did the shorter distance of 1 1/16 miles affect Sistercharlie? That excuse is hard to believe considering she won the 2018 Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1) by 2 ¼ lengths.

Furthermore, Sistercharlie won off the bench for trainer Chad Brown in that Jenny Wiley score after a 280-day layoff. She also took her 2019 debut in the Diana Stakes (G1) after a 252-day layoff. Those two races counter the layoff excuse.

Also, Sistercharlie had every chance in the stretch run.

Sistercharlie had a clear path outside of Starship Jubilee if she could get there. But she just ran in place for the entire time. Even switching leads did not make a difference.

In isolation, the Ballston Spa loss is not worrisome. But last October, Sistercharlie appeared a step slower in the Flower Bowl Stakes (G1) when she barely won over Mrs. Sippy. Then she ran third by 2 ½ lengths in the Breeders’ Filly & Mare Turf with no real excuse.

Wherever Sistercharlie goes, she remains a play-against.

Volatile wins paceless Vanderbilt Stakes

In his graded stakes debut, Volatile fulfilled bettors’ expectations in the Vanderbilt Stakes (G1) and won at 2/5 odds. The only real pace adversary in Lexitonian scratched at the gate, leaving a four-horse field and a paceless scenario.

Given Volatile led through 23.46 and 46.67 fractions for the six-furlong race, it is hard to judge Volatile accurately as the slower fractions kept the entire field together.

Because only two lengths separated the entire group, every horse at the top of the stretch still had a chance. But under mild urging, Volatile won by 1 1/4 lengths in a good effort to pick up his first Grade 1. Whitmore ran second by half a length over Mind Control in third with Firenze Fire last.

Volatile earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure. Forget the speed figures though. The pace scenario makes the Vanderbilt difficult to use for handicapping purposes, as most Grade 1 sprints are not run in opening fractions that slow. Throw a moderate or fast pace scenario against Volatile at this same level, and that will give a better read on him.

With that said, Volatile is still an exciting horse to watch moving forward.

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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