Trainer Brendan Walsh had planned on bringing Grade 1 winner Maxfield back to the races much earlier this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic provided him with the “luxury” of waiting to unveil the Godolphin-owned colt in Saturday’s Matt Winn Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs.
The Street Sense colt broke his maiden on debut at Churchill Downs last September, then followed that up with a victory in Keeneland’s Futurity (G1) in October.
Pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita last November, Maxfield was sidelined when an ankle chip that required surgery was found. He was shut down for the rest of his 2-year-old season, with plans to return on the 2020 Kentucky Derby trail.
In a socially distanced meeting with the media this week, Walsh was asked by reporters about the opportunity to get his stable star restarted on an extended road to the Derby leading up to the rescheduled classic on Sept. 5.
“It’s fantastic,” Walsh said. “It’s been a long way from his slight injury last fall. Then we had the whole COVID-19 thing. At least we were able to get him ready. He should be good to go now.”
“...I wouldn’t say we would not have made the Derby if it was in May. We might have had to do it in an unorthodox way. But we would have tried to get him in off one prep.”
Maxfield registered five works at the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, with his last breeze there on March 14, just as the pandemic was putting racing on pause around much of the country.
“We would have probably had him ready in and around the first of April had none of this stuff happened," Walsh said. "I had him working in Florida and had some nice works into him with April in mind.
Maxfield has since worked six times at Keeneland, with his last drill a half-mile breeze last Saturday in 47.20 seconds.
Walsh said it was jockey Jose Ortiz, Maxfield's rider in both of his 2-year-old starts -- and also getting the call on Saturday -- who convinced the trainer to give the colt a shot at a Grade 1 win early in his career.
“I remember Jose getting off him when he won his maiden and he said to me, ‘Could you run him back in the Futurity at Keeneland’? To be very honest, I had never really thought about it,” Walsh said.
Seven-plus months later, Maxfield still has made only those two starts. He'll exit a 231-day layoff in the Matt Winn as its 5-2 morning line favorite in post 10 of 12.
“He’s got serious natural talent and has a great mind as well,” Walsh said. “He does everything you can ask of a horse. The majority of the horses that you think are nice horses, to an awful lot of them, at some point something will happen and they won’t be able to handle it mentally.
“You ask any trainer about the good horses they have had, the majority of them have had very good minds.”
Walsh added that the bone chip from last year "was very straightforward and it hasn’t given him any problem at all since."
The Matt Winn, with its 50-20-10-5 points allocation on the reconfigured Derby prep schedule, is slated for Race 10 on Saturday at Churchill with post time 5:44 p.m. ET.
|Rank||Silks||Horse / Sire||Rating||Trainer / Jockey||Last Start||Status|
B. Hernandez, Jr.
R. Santana, Jr.
|U. St. Lewis|
|S. Joseph, Jr.|