Stars of Yesterday: Looking Back at Best Arkansas Derby Winners
Tom Pedulla presents five takeaways from an active weekend of racing, which featured the triumphant return of Maximum Security from an extended layoff in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar and other key developments:
HE’S BAAACK: Maximum Security’s natural ability has been questioned following the indictment of trainer Jason Servis for using performance-enhancing drugs on him and other horses in his barn. There can be no doubt about Maximum Security’s grit after his grinding nose victory against Midcourt in the $150,000 San Diego Handicap on Saturday. It was his first start since he won the Saudi Cup on Feb. 29 and his first for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. “I knew I didn’t have him really drummed up for this race,” Baffert said. “We were going to use this to get ready for the next one. But we’re learning about the horse. He won (Saturday) when he had every reason to get beat.” Up next: The $500,000 TVG Pacific Classic on Aug. 22 at Del Mar.
SHE’S BAAACK: Enable rebounded strongly from a season-opening defeat in the Eclipse Stakes to become the only three-time winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes Saturday at Ascot. Trainer John Gosden was particularly heartened by the great mare’s powerful finish for jockey Frankie Dettori. “I think the time for the past two furlongs was very encouraging and she showed that her class was there,” Gosden said. “I was clear that she wasn’t wound up for the Eclipse.” Enable is targeting a third victory in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe later this season.
TEAM EFFORT: Trainer Kevin Attard needed a helping hand when he decided to run Starship Jubilee, Canada’s Horse of the Year, in the $200,000 Ballston Spa Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course. Due to various restrictions aimed at curbing COVID-19, he decided against leaving Canada for the United States and was equally reluctant to send an assistant. Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey stepped in to saddle the prized 7-year-old mare and she went on to edge Call Me Love by a neck with Sistercharlie, making her season debut, another length and a quarter back in third. “Shug and his crew did an incredible job of helping me out,” Attard said. “Considering the situation with COVID this year, it was hard not to be able to send somebody with your own horse. But I was in great hands and that made the whole experience easier to handle.”
TOTAL PACKAGE: Volatile stamped himself as a contender for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 7 at Keeneland Race Course when he remained perfect through three starts this season with a length-and-a-quarter victory against Whitmore in the $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on Saturday at Saratoga. His previous two victories, in an Oaklawn Park allowance and in the Aristides Stakes at Churchill Downs, had come by a combined 15 ½ lengths. “I feel very good about getting those two races into him before he met accomplished horses like this,” said Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen of the 4-year-old son of Violence. “But from the ability and speed level, he has it all.”
PRIMED FOR WHITNEY: Trainer Al Stall, Jr., eagerly awaits the $750,000 Whitney Stakes this coming Saturday at Saratoga after Tom’s d’Etat, working in company, drilled four furlongs in 48.22 seconds on Friday on Saratoga’s fast main track. The spirited 7-year-old will be aiming for his fifth consecutive victory, all of them in stakes races. He has captured three of four starts at Saratoga. “We thought he was worth it all along,” Stall said. “I don’t know that any of us thought he would be where he is right now at age 7, but we’ll take what comes our way.”