Zipse: Let's not write off Maximum Security after one loss

June 18, 2019 12:10pm
Zipse: Let's not write off Maximum Security after one loss
Photo: Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

With the Kentucky Derby and other Triple Crown staples highlighting the calendar, it's no wonder that the 3-year-old males are far and away American horse racing's favorite division. The 2019 edition, however, continues to be memorable for the wrong reasons.

Heralded, highly discussed, and never before headed at the finish line,
Maximum Security made his first start Sunday since the Kentucky Derby at Monmouth Park. The Pegasus Stakes was supposed to be a cake walk for the smashing Florida Derby (G1) winner.

He had crossed the wire a clear cut first of 19 at Churchill Downs, with this prep, falling six weeks after the first Saturday in May, thought to be only a resume builder.

Instead, 
it will go down as one of the most memorable upsets in recent years.

Sent off at odds of 1-20 in a field of six, Maximum Security stumbled leaving the starting gate, quickly found his stride and went on to set the pace. But 
King for a Day pressured throughout, and Maximum Security succumbed to it in the late stages for a stunning result in the Haskell Invitational (G1) prep.

"It sucks getting beat," said Maximum Security trainer Jason Servis, "but that's horse racing."

Whether you felt Maximum Security's disqualification in the Kentucky Derby was justice served, most agreed that the Gary and Mary West homebred had been the best horse in the race.
That, coupled with his undefeated record, made him the most talked about horse of 2019.

It also split race fans on two polar sides of the decision. Some thought the disqualification was the correct call, but many were infuriated that he was taken down in America's most prestigious race. His supporters claimed that he was much the best of the division, and he would prove it as soon as he got back to the track.

West took an aggressive approach to the disqualification with a lawsuit filed against Kentucky racing officials and a $5 million challenge to Derby rivals. Luckily for him, the big money wasn't on the line Sunday as this saga took an unexpected turn.
 


But what does this loss in the Pegasus mean in the bigger picture?

I never jumped on the Maximum Security bandwagon despite his performance in the Kentucky Derby.
 Yes, I do believe that he was the cause of the trouble in the Derby, but at the same time I could not help but be impressed with his performance on that fateful afternoon at Churchill Downs. It was pure grit.

Still, I was not ready to anoint him as the best of this crop -- n
or am I ready to call yesterday's upset proof that he isn't be among the best of the division. Very good horses lose sometimes. It's part of the game, and there were good reasons why he lost yesterday.

The stumble at the start did not help, but more than that, returning from such a tough performance in the Derby, he was bound not to be at his absolute best for what amounts to a prep.

"A lot of people don't believe in the bounce and all," Servis said. "For whatever it's worth, that's out of the way."

Servis added that, 
"I think his next race will be better."

I agree with his trainer's hopeful assessment, and who knows? Maybe his vanquisher, the lightly raced King for a Day, is a really nice horse. Or maybe he is only the aptly named beneficiary on an afternoon when Maximum Security was at less than 100%.

For now, America's glamour division yearns for some horse to step up.

Maximum Security could bounce right back in the Haskell, or Tacitus may prove best after his two tough losses in the Triple Crown series. Don't forget about the Preakness winner War of Will, or the former Derby favorite Omaha Beach, for that matter. He was the horse everyone was talking about a week before diagnosed with a breathing issue and is back with trainer Richard Mandella in California.

Who is the best 3-year-old in the nation? So far that answer has changed from month to month, and even week to week. Today, June 17, it could be argued that it's Mr. Money after back-to-back wins in the Pat Day Mile (G3) and then Saturday's Matt Winn (G3) that could have him challenging in the Haskell.

The summer's 
big races are still to be run, and of course some of these sophomores will go on to face older rivals in the Breeders' Cup. Much is left to be written, so don't be too quick to write off Maximum Security after one loss.

 

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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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