In a move designed to deliver him a Grade 1 victory, Maxfield will pass up the Breeders’ Cup Classic, trading that loaded Grade 1 field for the easier pickings of the Grade 1 Clark Handicap. That race is on Black Friday at Churchill Downs.
The Daily Racing Form first reported the news on Wednesday, citing trainer Brendan Walsh’s desire to get the Street Sense progeny a Grade 1 score late in his 4-year-old season.
“He had such a good record at Churchill. We’re going to skip California with him altogether,” Walsh told the DRF. “It’s very important for him to win a Grade 1 this year. This probably gives him his best chance to get a Grade 1 at this stage of his career.”
Any race at Churchill Downs gives Maxfield his best chance at victory. Four of Maxfield’s seven career victories came under the Twin Spires, where he’s unbeaten, including his last victory at the Grade 2 Stephen Foster in late June.
Maxfield may have lost a step somewhere
Since then, Maxfield has a pair of seconds in Grade 1s. The first came to Knicks Go in a loaded Whitney Stakes field. Art Collector provided the second runner-up in the Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park. Once Knicks Go got an uncontested lead, nobody was reeling him in. Maxfield finished 4 ¼ lengths back.
In the Woodward, Maxfield ran a career-best 118 Equibase Speed Figure, but finished a length behind Art Collector as the 9/10 favorite.
One other variable plays into this; Maxfield’s lone finish out of the exacta came in a California race at the same 10-furlong distance. That was March’s Santa Anita Handicap, where Maxfield finished third to Idol and Express Train. In his defense, he did run on three weeks rest after shipping across the country.
It’s been a while since he tasted Grade 1 success
Those three races represent the only times in 10 races that Maxfield didn’t find the winner’s circle. He does have one Grade 1 victory — his Breeders’ Futurity score as a 2-year-old.
In the Clark, Maxfield not only gets a softer field in friendly confines, but he gets a more comfortable 1 1/8 miles. While Maxfield owns five victories at 1 1/16 miles, he is 1-for-2 at nine furlongs, winning the Stephen Foster and finishing second in the Woodward.