Maximum Security Seeks Haskell Redemption
By Emily Shields
First over the line in the Kentucky Derby (G1) but disqualified and placed 17th, local hero Maximum Security will be seeking redemption – and his first official win since March – in the $1 million TVG.com Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.
The three-year-old son of New Year’s Day has been stabled at Monmouth since the Derby decision, but may be vulnerable in Saturday’s race, which drew a field of seven. The Jason Servis-trainee, who is owned by Gary and Mary West, was heavily favored in the $150,000 Pegasus on this strip June 16, but stumbled at the start and folded after leading throughout, finishing second behind Haskell rival King for a Day.
Red Oak Stable’s King for a Day, who is trained by Todd Pletcher, is a rapidly improving son of Uncle Mo. After breaking his maiden last year at two, he made his 2019 debut on May 18 in the Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico, cruising to a 2 ½ length win. He was 5-1 in the Pegasus when he rolled past Maximum Security in the stretch, defeating him by a length. King for a Day’s jockey John Velazquez has already won the Haskell twice, but this will be the colt’s first try around the Haskell’s 1 1/8 mile distance.
Both runners will have to hold off Mucho Gusto, who is Bob Baffert’s entrant this year. Baffert has won the Haskell a record eight times already; he most recently scored with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015. Mucho Gusto skipped the Triple Crown this year despite being a Derby prep winner and grade 1 placed at two, but has won two Santa Anita grade 3 events since, including the Affirmed over highly touted and Santa Anita Derby-winning stablemate Roadster. He has had two bullet workouts at Santa Anita over six furlongs since his last win. Regular Joe Talamo will be in to ride.
Two other Triple Crown also-rans in the Haskell are Joevia and Everfast. Like Maximum Security, Joevia is a local standout who won the Long Branch Stakes here in May, then surprised many by finishing third in the Belmont Stakes (G1) at 21-1. Gregory Sacco trains, Jose Lezcano will be up. Calumet Farm’s Everfast was second in the Preakness (G1) at 29-1 for Dale Romans. He gets a new rider in Julien Leparoux for this.
Although Maximum Security, who will be ridden by regular partner Luis Saez, is not an official Kentucky Derby winner, horses that do well in the Triple Crown often do well in the Haskell. Recent Preakness winners Exaggerator, Lookin At Lucky, and Rachel Alexandra then took the Haskell, and Kentucky Derby and Preakness heroes Big Brown and War Emblem did, too. The Haskell can also produce a star for the second half of the year: 2014 winner Bayern went on to take the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
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On Saturday, the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap will top a great card at Belmont Park with five graded stakes and once again bring several of the nation’s best horses together for a one-mile showdown.
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Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series Features Metropolitan Handicap from Belmont Park This Saturday Live at 5 PM on NBC
Led by Code of Honor, McKinzie and Vekoma, an outstanding field of eight horses will compete for a free berth into the $2 million Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) on Saturday, July 4 in the 1-mile, $500,000 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap.