Maximum Security could face maximum sizzle in Haskell


OCEANPORT, N.J. — Maximum Security is going to have to share top billing in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park with an unexpected foe – broiling heat.

The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning for the Monmouth County through Sunday night, adding a seventh rival for the only horse to cross the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby and then be disqualified.

The forecast calls for temperatures to hit 95 degrees with heat index values reaching as much as 106.

“Our priority will be the safety of the horses, jockeys and our fans,” said Dennis Drazin, the chairman and chief executive of Darby Development LLC, operators of track on the New Jersey shore. “We will be in contact with the state veterinarians, and if we feel it’s unsafe for horses there are things we can do.”

The track has set up misting fans in the paddock and saddling areas for the 14-race card. It will employ shorter post parades before the start of races to limit track time for the horses. Drazin also said there is the possibility the Haskell might be delayed if it is too hot, possibly pushing it back an hour or so to 7 p.m. EDT.

With racing under pressure because of many horse deaths horses in California, several tracks Friday canceled their Saturday cards, including Saratoga Race Course and Finger Lakes in New York and Laurel Park in Maryland.

The Haskell Invitational is the signature event of the Monmouth Park meet, and this year’s race could establish Maximum Security as the leader in the 3-year-old thoroughbred season that has produced one surprise after another. Each Triple Crown race had a different winner.

If Maximum Security wins Saturday, he will be the only 3-year-old colt with two Grade 1 victories this year, having captured the Florida Derby in March. It would have been three had he not been disqualified in the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Jason Servis is feeling more confident heading into this 1 1/8 mile race than he did last month when the colt finished second to trainer Todd Pletcher’s King for a Day in the Pegasus at Monmouth.

Servis said horses tend to have rollercoaster cycles and the Pegasus wasn’t surprising, especially after the colt stumbled at the start.

Maximum Security, with jockey Luis Saez, drew the outside No. 7 post and is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in a field filled with speed.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, eyeing a record ninth Haskell win, is running Mucho Gusto. The 2-1 second choice is coming off two impressive wins in California, including one in the Affirmed on June 16. Regular rider Joe Talamo will break the colt from the No. 5 position.

King for a Day is the 5-2 third choice. Jockey John Velazquez will replace Joe Bravo, who filled in for him in the Pegasus. The colt drew the No. 1 post, which means he probably will have to go right to the lead.

After King for a Day, the rest of the field, in post-position order with jockey and odds, is: Joevia, Jose Lezcano, 10-1; Spun to Run, Paco Lopez, 15-1; Bethlehem Road, Luis Castro Rodriguez, 20-1; Mucho Gusto, Talamo, 2-1; Everfast, Julien Leparoux, 10-1; and Maximum Security, Saez, 8-5.

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.

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.