Maximum Security, boldly turning back Mucho Gusto in the stretch, is once again at the top of the three-year-old class with a stirring win in Haskell Stakes.

Maximum Security and Luis Saez
Here comes the boss: Maximum Security and Luis Saez throw shade on a mostly obscured Mucho Gusto to regain leadership in three-year-old division. (Image: AP)

The first under-the-wire-horse in the Kentucky Derby — only to be disqualified for interference — disposing of just five others Saturday in the dusk in the $1 million, 1 1/8 mile Haskell Invitational Stakes at a sweltering Monmouth Park.

Overcoming about three extra hours in post time delays, an unending battle with brutal heat, a stout rival near the finish and a stewards inquiry, Maximum Security fans are hoping he’s now on the road to Saratoga for the $1.25 million Travers Stakes on Aug 24.

The three-year-old division’s best — still in training — will all be there to greet him in a highly anticipated renewal of the “Midsummer Derby,” in Upstate New York.

It was a waiting game again for trainer Jason Servis and owners Gary and Mary West, in addition to all the bettors, for the race to become official because of an inquiry, involving the eventual winner and King For A Day. The delay only a few minutes, was far shorter than the rider-induced claim of foul and subsequent inquiry demoting the horse from first to 17th in the May 4 Kentucky Derby.

This time stewards ruling Maximum Security — $3.60-$2.60-$2.20 — and rider Luis Saez did not unduly squeeze back King For A Day. This, despite that the horse, under jockey John Velazquez, pulling up sharply along the rail entering the final turn. Overall, the West colt’s record is now five wins from seven starts for earnings of over $1.2 million.

Long, Long Day at the Races for Fans

The Haskell and the accompanying stakes races marks the highlight of the summer meeting at Monmouth Park on the New Jersey shore in Oceanport. This year excessive heat forcing a nearly three-hour delay in post time. Thousands of hearty fans remaining at the track after numerous races were canceled because of the conditions and Haskell post time shifting from 5:37 pm ET to just after 8 pm ET.

With the scratch of Joevia, projecting as part of the forward vanguard in the race, some of the early speed was gone. Maximum Security thus executed a perfect stalking trip with King For A Day to his inside and Bethlehem Road to his outside.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s Mucho Gusto moving towards the leaders heading into the stretch, forcing Maximum Security to show he’s more than up to the challenge. Mucho Gusto and rider Joe Talamo pulling on even terms with the eventual winner in the final sixteenth of a mile, then Maximum Security fending off the West Coast intruder.

For a full chart of the race including final time and race fractions, click here.

Active Division Leaders Throw Down at Saratoga

Although Country House, the official Kentucky Derby winner thanks to the disqualification and Belmont Stakes winner Sir Winston are both currently sidelined, probably until late in the year, the Travers Stakes has race fans and bettors in a “can’t wait” mode.

Some of the starters that might face Maximum Security include:

  • War of Will — Preakness winner and probable for the Jim Dandy (July 27), Saratoga’s prep race for the Travers
  • Game Winner — The two-year-old champion fresh of a tune-up in the Los Alamitos Derby
  • Code of Honor — the recent Dwyer winner at Belmont and officially second in the Kentucky Derby may skip the Jim Dandy and train right up the Travers
  • Mr. Money — The winner of three straight stakes including last week’s Indiana Derby
  • Global Campaign — The Peter Pan winner over Sir Winston continues to battle foot problems but a solid work Saturday means he’ll test the competition in the Jim Dandy and could show up in the Travers.
  • Tacitus — Third in the Kentucky Derby, then runner-up in the Belmont, perhaps thanks to a wide trip, he could be on the verge of a major win — perhaps the Jim Dandy, the Travers or both.