Wests ‘back into rhythm’ with Maximum Security, Game Winner

July 16, 2019 10:35am

Each year, Ben Glass, the racing manager for owners Gary and Mary West, takes a cross-country trip with a veterinarian and Jeff Kirk, who breaks the Wests’ horses. It offers the opportunity to both see how 2-year-olds are handling life at the racetrack and for trainers to ask any questions of Team West.

This year, Glass’ stops in to see trainers Bob Baffert and Jason Servis also allowed him a timely look at the Wests’ best 3-year-olds.

A visit to the Baffert barn came days before Game Winner got off the mark as a sophomore, with the reigning juvenile champion notching his first victory of the season in Saturday’s Los Alamitos Derby (G3).

“They were really tickled with Game Winner,” Glass said. “They said he came back dancing and was a really happy horse — didn’t get tired. Baffert was happy. Mr. West was happy. That’s all that matters to me.”

Up next this weekend, Servis-trained Maximum Security will make his second start since disqualified from a win in the Kentucky Derby. The homebred returned last month to be second in Monmouth Park’s Pegasus Stakes, a prep for Saturday’s Haskell Invitational (G1).

“Jason didn’t think he needed one,” Glass said. “He thinks jumping at the gate and getting left at the post — that cost him the race."

The son of New Year’s Day established his regular front-running position, but only after some extra work the first time by the wire. King for a Day — another colt coming back in the Haskell — defeated Maximum Security by a length.

“As a matter of fact, Bob Baffert said if that happens 100 times, they usually falter down the lane, and that’s what (Maximum Security) did,” Glass said. “Jason, he thought he was fit.”

Game Winner has already punched his ticket to the Aug. 24 Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. With a nice showing in the Haskell, Maximum Security could give the Wests two shots at the Mid-Summer Derby, just as they had in the Kentucky Derby.

Managing a stable's starting to feel normal again for Glass.

“We’ve been out of rhythm since what, May 4 or 5?” he said.

Roses were quite literally taken from the Wests’ hands after that lengthy stewards review in the Derby. Since then, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission denied an appeal by Maximum Security’s owners, who went on to sue the KHRC aiming to overturn the results.

The lawsuit remains active.

“Mr. West, Mary West, myself, my wife — everybody involved — we took it really, really hard,” Glass said. “I’ll be honest: I was ready to go fishing. I said the hell with it. I’m 70. I never get to go fishing because I’m always looking at races or something. I was very upset.

“But we’re getting back into rhythm.”

Game Winner, despite going half the year without a victory, could still fit into the Eclipse Award race for 3-year-old champion that appears wide open. In 2017, West Coast won the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby (G1) before making a good account of himself in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to earn his title.

Maximum Security, meanwhile, is solidly in the wide-open division battle as well. He entered the Kentucky Derby the unbeaten winner of the Florida Derby (G1), and despite taken down for the win due to interference on the first Saturday in May certainly legitimized himself.

Amid those chases for a championship, the Wests will prepare for their next generation of horses.

“I didn’t know if this one was going to put him out (of racing) or not,” Glass said of Gary West, a businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist who, according to his website, “along with his wife and business partner, Mary West, has pledged his entire fortune to nonprofit efforts to reduce healthcare costs and enable low-income seniors to age successfully.”

In short, West has other things going on should he not want to go racing. But there are plans to attend upcoming yearling sales at Saratoga and Keeneland.

“We all got over it and rethought it,” Glass said of the Kentucky Derby. “There’s still half a season left. We’re ready to roll with the punches, get back in the game and continue with the lawsuit.”

 

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