DEL MAR, Calif. — Maximum Security won the $150,000 San Diego Handicap by a nose after a photo finish at Del Mar on Saturday, his first start in five months for new trainer Bob Baffert.
Under new rider Abel Cedillo, Maximum Security caught pacesetter Midcourt at the top of the stretch and outlasted him to the wire.
“That was crazy,” Baffert said. “He won today when he had every reason to get beat. He showed what a great horse he is. He’s such a fighter. I’m glad we got this over with and now he’s in good shape.”
Maximum Security ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.54 and paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10 as the 2-5 favorite in the five-horse field. The victory, worth $90,000, increased his career earnings to $11,891,900.
“When we turned for home I had to get to work,” Cedillo said. “He’s the kind of horse you have to ride all the way. You have to keep working on him. We got it done.”
Baffert said the colt would be pointed toward the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 22.
He was last year’s champion 3-year-old after crossing the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby only to be disqualified for interference.
It was Maximum Security’s first U.S. start of the year after a victory in the $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 29 for trainer Jason Servis. After that race, owners Gary and Mary West and their partners transferred their colt to Baffert when Servis was indicted on charges of administering illegal medications in March.
Maximum Security ran in the colors of partner Coolmore, where he will go to stud in Kentucky next year.
Midcourt returned $3.60 and $2.10. Higher Power paid $2.10 to show. Ax Man, also trained by Baffert, was fourth and Combatant fifth.
The Grade 2 race was postponed a week after Del Mar was forced to cancel racing when 15 jockeys tested positive for COVID-19.