Maximum Security goes from running for minimum to Kentucky Derby

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Maximum Security is at the other end of the fiscal spectrum of horse racing.

Horse owners frequently pay a royal ransom to acquire a horse with potential to win the Kentucky Derby. A million dollars or more is not unheard of.

Anyone with $16,000 could have acquire Maximum Security after his debut late in December. Had someone struck boldly, they would now have the Florida Derby winner and an 8-1 shot to capture the Kentucky Derby. The colt will be the only undefeated horse in Saturday’s Derby.

Potentially losing the horse for that price was a calculated gamble by trainer Jason Servis.

Servis entered Maximum Security in a claiming race, where every horse carries a price tag. In this instance, the unraced Maximum Security was available for $16,000.

The colt had been slow to develop. He hadn’t shown much in his workouts over the summer at Monmouth Park.

Maximum Security picked up the pace in late fall when he shifted from New Jersey to Florida. That was the signal to Servis to start looking for a race. And up popped the spot for maiden claimers.

“I didn’t think I’d lose him,” Servis said. “It was the end of the year and people would assume we were trying to clear out a horse. If he had gotten claimed that day, I would have been upset.”

Fortunately for Servis and owners Mary and Gary West, there were no takers.

Maximum Security battled for the early lead before shaking free, romping to a 9 3/4-length victory.

“I thought he’d win,” Servis said, “but I wasn’t expecting a gallop like that.”

That was the last time Maximum Security carried a claiming tag. He easily won his next two races, setting the stage for the Florida Derby.

As usual, Maximum Security went right to front, set a moderate pace and drew clear to a 3 +-length win.

The former claimer had blossomed into a Grade 1 stakes winner with more than enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

“He’s fresh,” Servis said. “He’s not a horse that’s been behind and finished eighth or sixth or third. I’ve been careful with the spacing of his races. Walking around here, we have to put a chain on him to keep him on the ground.”

This will be the second straight Derby starter for Servis. Firenze Fire finished 11th last year.

With a victory, Servis would carry on a family tradition. His brother John won the race with Smarty Jones in 2004.

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance

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NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.

Judge grants Churchill Downs’ request for summary judgment to dismiss Bob Baffert’s lawsuit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has granted Churchill Downs’ motion for summary judgment that dismisses Bob Baffert’s claim the track breached due process by suspending the Hall of Fame trainer for two years.

Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert in June 2021 after his now-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after crossing the finish line first in the 147th Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s request to lift the discipline was denied in February, keeping him out of the Derby for a second consecutive May.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings ruled in a 12-page opinion issued Wednesday that Churchill Downs’ suspension of Baffert did not devalue his Kentucky trainer’s license. It cited his purse winnings exceeding $1 million at Keeneland in Lexington and stated that his argument “amounts to a false analogy that distorts caselaw.”

Jennings denied CDI’s motion to stay discovery as moot.

The decision comes less than a week after Baffert-trained colt National Treasure won the Preakness in his first Triple Crown race in two years. His record eighth win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown came hours after another of his horses, Havnameltdown, was euthanized following an injury at Pimlico.

Churchill Downs said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s favorable ruling as in Baffert’s other cases.

It added, “While he may choose to file baseless appeals, this completes the seemingly endless, arduous and unnecessary litigation proceedings instigated by Mr. Baffert.”

Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to end on June 2, but the track’s release noted its right to extend it “and will communicate our decision” at its conclusion.