Maximum Security Nips Midcourt in San Diego Thriller

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Maximum Security, outside, edged Midcourt by a nose to win the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap July 25 at Del Mar. (BENOIT photo)

Whether he is conditioned by tarnished trainer Jason Servis or by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Maximum Security just keeps winning.

Racing July 25 in the $150,000, Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar, his first start for Baffert, who began training him this spring after Servis was indicted on doping-related charges, last year's champion 3-year-old male prevailed by a nose over Midcourt. The victory was his ninth in 11 starts, a record that includes victories at 3 in the Xpressbet Florida Derby, TVG.com Haskell Invitational Stakes, and Cigar Mile Handicap.

He also won the Feb. 29 Saudi Cup in his previous start, though the $20 million purse is on hold pending an investigation by The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia after the indictment of Servis.

He had to work for every dollar of the $90,000 first-place check in the San Diego. Though he held the lead entering the first of two turns in the 1 1/16-mile race, that advantage was short-lived when Midcourt, under an aggressive ride from Victor Espinoza, urged him forward.

Seeking to avoid a speed duel, Abel Cedillo on Maximum Security eased his mount back, only to find Flavien Prat on Higher Power hustling to secure position. Suddenly, Maximum Security was in third early on the backstretch.

Taken to the outside at that point, as Midcourt set the tempo with splits of :23.74, :46.87, and 1:11.40, Maximum Security came under a ride from Cedillo, but the colt responded, gradually passing Higher Power and cutting into Midcourt's lead. He collared the front-runner in midstretch and maintained a slight edge to the finish line as Midcourt refused to give way.

The 4-year-old son of New Year's Day completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.54, paying $2.80 as the favorite.

The victory was one of three on the day for Cedillo, who also won the fourth race with Secret Keeper and the co-featured San Clemente Stakes on Laura's Light.

Higher Power ran third, 6 1/4 lengths behind the top pair, and was followed by Ax Man and Combatant in the field of five. The latter hopped in the air at the start and never threatened following his tardy break.

Thrilling finish in San Diego. (BENOIT photo)

Maximum Security is owned by his breeders, Gary and Mary West, along with Coolmore Stud-affiliated Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith. Coolmore purchased 50% of the colt in mid-December.

Under the race's handicap weight assignments, Maximum Security carried 127 pounds, spotting his rivals five to nine pounds. He was one of three Grade 1 winners that raced in the San Diego along with Higher Power and Combatant.

The San Diego is regularly used as the prep for Del Mar's TVG Pacific Classic Stakes, a $500,000 race this year on Aug. 22.

Saturday's victory was the second in the San Diego for Baffert following Fed Biz in 2014. He has won the Pacific Classic five times, most recently in 2017 with Collected.

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