Five Key Takeaways from Florida Derby Day

The Sport
Maximum Security, with Luis Saez in the irons, won the March 30 Florida Derby by 3 ½ lengths. (Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park)

Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways from the Florida Derby and other stakes races Saturday at Gulfstream Park:

Luis Saez celebrates with Maximum Security. (Lauren King/Coglianese Photos)

RAPID RISE: Maximum Security, undefeated through four starts, needed a little more than three months to go from a colt made available for a mere $16,000 in his Dec. 20 debut in a claiming race at Gulfstream Park to a commanding winner of a Grade 1 contest, the $1 million Florida Derby. The meteoric rise of the son of New Year’s Day, a homebred for monied owners Gary and Mary West, begged one question of trainer Jason Servis. Why was Maximum Security ever priced at $16,000? Servis suggested there were some physical issues. “He had some stuff I’d rather not get into, but yeah, he had a few things,” the trainer said. He remembers nonetheless that he felt a sense of relief when his enormous gamble paid off with a runaway victory and he retained the horse. “I think I called the office right away, “Were there any claims?’ They said ‘No’ and I was like ‘Whew.’”

PACE MAKES RACE: With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps it should not have been surprising when Maximum Security opened up on 10 rivals turning for home in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby. He made an easy lead for jockey Luis Saez and took control through an opening quarter of a mile in 24.42 seconds. He was as relaxed as could be as the opening half-mile went in a leisurely 48.98 seconds en route to a final time of 1:48.86. Servis was ecstatic as he watched that unfold. “I thought Luis did a great job of getting him out there and backing it up,” he said. Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, whose Fountain of Youth Stakes winner Code of Honor settled for third, was dismayed by a lack of pace that made it nearly impossible for his horse to close. “If he comes back all right, I don’t see any reason to give up,” McGaughey said. “It was just a very, very oddly run race.”

TIME TO REGROUP: Hidden Scroll appears to have vast potential. For now, it is unrealized. He was a beaten favorite when he ran fourth in the Fountain of Youth Stakes and produced another disappointing result for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott when he finished sixth as the 9-5 top choice in the Florida Derby. “We probably bit off more than we could chew at this point,” Mott said. “We’ll back off and kind of start over with him.” Javier Castellano, who rode Hidden Scroll in the Florida Derby, indicated his horse lacked punch. “We start developing these horses and start pointing them to the Kentucky Derby and I think it caught up with him at the wrong time,” he said.

Champagne Anyone (Eclipse Sportswire)

POP THE CHAMPAGNE: Champagne Anyone, third in the Grade 3 Forward Gal Stakes and third in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes, finally broke through at Gulfstream Park when she scored by half a length in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks for her first stakes triumph. The addition of blinkers appeared to make all the difference for trainer Ian Wilkes and jockey Chris Landeros. “She’s a filly that doesn’t like Chris to ask her to be in the race, ask her to travel,” Wilkes said. “I had to do something different. That’s why I put the blinkers on and she traveled really well with the blinkers.” Wilkes could not help but add, “It’s like any good woman. You’ve got to ask them, not tell them.”

ONE TO WATCH: Trainer Chad Brown believes he has much to work with after Dunbar Road, a $350,000 yearling purchase for Peter Brant, was beaten by half a length in the Gulfstream Park Oaks in only her second career start. The attractive daughter of Quality Road lost valuable ground when she traveled wide around the final turn for jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. “She’s a little green on the turns still, but she finished the race off well,” Brown said. “She just came up a little short.” The second-place effort was worth 40 qualifying points for the May 3 Longines Kentucky Oaks. “I’m inclined to take a shot in the Oaks,” Brown said. “I think she’ll like the mile and an eighth.”

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