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Maximum Security leads Haskell Invitational field

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OCEANPORT, N.J. — Maximum Security will make his second start since being disqualified in the Kentucky Derby, taking on six rivals in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Saturday.

The Jason Servis-trained colt drew the outside No. 7 post Wednesday for the 1 1/8-mile race. Luis Saez is listed to ride the 8-5 early favorite, who was the first horse to be disqualified for interference in the 145-year history of the Kentucky Derby.

While the Haskell field is small, Maximum Security will face stiff competition and a lot of speed.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has sent two-time Grade 3 stakes winner Mucho Gusto in from the West Coast. Baffert will be seeking his ninth win in this race.

King for a Day, who beat Maximum Security by a length here last month in the Pegasus Stakes, also is entered. Joevia, the third-place finisher in the Belmont Stakes, and Everfast, the Preakness runner-up, were entered, too, along with long shots Bethlehem Road and Spun to Run.

“No pressure,” Servis quipped after the draw.

The 3-year-old division has no clear front-runner.

In most years, the Kentucky Derby winner is at the top of the class. This year is different because of the Derby disqualification.

Long shot Country House was declared the winner of the opening jewel of the Triple Crown and has not raced since. War of Will, whom Maximum Security bothered in the Derby, won the Preakness. Sir Winston captured the Belmont.

If Maximum Security wins Saturday’s race, he will be the only 3-year-old colt with two Grade 1 victories this year, having captured the Florida Derby in March.

“There are a lot of good trainers and a lot of good horses,” Servis said. “Guys keep asking me about speed, speed, speed. We ran against 19 in the Derby. We are not going to be afraid of going against six.”

Gary and Mary West, the owners of Maximum Security, have filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Kentucky against the state Horse Racing Commission and race stewards, seeking to reverse the horse’s disqualification and to restore their share of the purse money. Both sides have asked the court for summary judgments.

Baffert, whose eight Haskell wins are the record for trainers, said Maximum Security is the class of the field. However, Mucho Gusto is coming off two impressive wins in California, including one in the Affirmed on June 16 in which he rated well and closed to win.

Mucho Gusto was made the 2-1 second choice. Regular rider Joe Talamo will break the colt from the No. 5 position.

King for a Day is the 5-2 third choice for trainer Todd Pletcher. John Velazquez will ride this time, replacing Joe Brave, who filled in for him in the Pegasus. The drawback is the colt drew the No. 1 post, which means he will probably have to go right to the lead.

Joevia has the No. 2 post for jockey Jose Lezcano. The Greg Sacco-trained colt is 10-1.

The rest of the field in post-position order with jockey and odds is:

Spun to Run, Paco Lopez, 15; Bethlehem Road, Luis Castro Rodriguez, 20; Mucho Gusto; Everfast, Julien Leparoux, 10; and Maximum Security.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues on NBC Sports with the Haskell Invitational from Monmouth Park on Saturday, July 20. Coverage runs from 5-6 p.m. ET and post time is scheduled for 5:47 p.m.

Higher Power wins $1M Pacific Classic

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DEL MAR, Calif. — With his top two horses elsewhere, John Sadler took a chance with a couple others in his barn.

Higher Power paid off.

The 4-year-old colt took command turning into the stretch and won the $1 million Pacific Classic by 5 1/4 lengths at Del Mar on Saturday, making Sadler the first trainer to win the Grade 1 race in consecutive years with different horses.

“The second time is just as sweet,” Sadler said.

In 2018, Accelerate ended Sadler’s 0-for-11 skid with a record 12 1/2-length victory in the West’s biggest race of the summer. Owner-brothers Kosta and Pete Hronis joined Sadler with consecutive victories.

“Winning it back to back is a tribute to John Sadler,” Kosta Hronis said.

Ridden by Flavien Prat, Higher Power ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.43 at the seaside track north of San Diego. Sent off at 9-1 odds, the colt paid $21.20, $9.40 and $7.40.

“When we entered the backside he really grabbed the bit and I was travelling really well,” Prat said. “Once the leader fell apart he really jumped into the bridle and did everything on his own, so I thought that was the right move.”

Draft Pick returned $17.40 and $10 at 13-1 odds. Mongolian Groom was another neck back in third and paid $7.20 to show at 18-1 odds.

Higher Power earned an automatic berth in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita this fall.

Seeking the Soul, the 2-1 favorite, finished seventh.

“He didn’t try at all,” jockey John Velazquez said. “No effort. I don’t get it.”

Sadler’s top two handicap horses, Gift Box and Catalina Cruiser, weren’t in the picture. Gift Box won’t run again until this fall and Catalina Cruiser is tabbed to run next in a sprint race.

Not seeing a dominant horse in the race, Sadler entered Higher Power. The colt responded with the first stakes win of his career.

“It developed pretty much the way we thought,” he said. “We thought there would be some speed on the inside and the plan was to stalk. It came out the way we thought it would.”

Sadler’s other entry, Campaign, finished fifth.

The victory, worth $600,000, increased Higher Power’s career earnings to $800,648, with five wins in 13 starts.

Sadler didn’t get Higher Power in his barn until spring. The colt was with another trainer for the first six starts of his career and then transferred to a different trainer.

In other stakes:

– Acclimate won the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap by a length under Florent Geroux. The 5-year-old brown gelding earned an automatic berth in the BC Turf.

Trained by Phil D’Amato, Acclimate ran 1 3/8 miles on turf in 2:12.71 and paid $16.60 to win at 7-1 odds.

– Cambier Parc shipped in from New York and won the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks by 1 1/4 lengths for trainer Chad Brown.

Ridden by Velazquez, the 3-year-old filly ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:46.75. She paid $4.40 as the 6-5 favorite.

– Fighting Mad cruised to an eight-length victory in the $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes.

Ridden by Joe Talamo, the 3-year-old filly ran one mile in 1:38.61. Fighting Mad paid $6.60 as the 2-1 favorite trained by Bob Baffert. She’s owned by Gary and Mary West, owners of Maximum Security, disqualified after finishing first in the Kentucky Derby.

– Mr Vargas won the $100,000 Green Flash Handicap by 2 1/4 lengths.

The 5-year-old gelding ran five furlongs on turf in 56.15 seconds under Talamo. Mr Vargas paid $8.40 to win for trainer Brian Koriner.

Horologist upsets Jaywalk in Monmouth Oaks

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OCEANPORT, N.J. — Horologist upset Jaywalk, last year’s juvenile filly champion, in the $162,500 Monmouth Oaks on Saturday.

As expected, 1-5 favorite Jaywalk set the pace until Horologist made a strong run along the rail on the final turn. She slipped by to win by three quarters of a length in the stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Monmouth Park.

Horologist, bred in New Jersey, won for the fifth time in 10 starts for trainer John Mazza. Mazza said he was confident his horse would run a “bang-up race,” but he didn’t know it would be enough to beat a “champion like Jaywalk.”

Angel Suarez was aboard for the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.44.

Jaywalk was coming off a nine-length win in the Delaware Oaks last month. She closed out last season by winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to clinch the Eclipse Award.

Horologist – whose name refers to a maker or dealer of timepieces – paid 12.80, $3.40 and $2.10 as the 5-1 second choice in the five-horse field.

Jaywalk returned $2.10 and $2.10. Sweet Sami D paid $2.10 to show, and was followed by Lady Banba and Stay Smart.