by Brian Bohl
Gary and Mary West’s two-time Grade 1-winner Maximum Security made a successful return off a three-month break, leading gate-to-wire in his New York debut to post a 1 ¾-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Bold Ruler for 3-year-olds on Saturday at Belmont Park.
In his first start since winning the Grade 1 Haskell on July 20 at Monmouth Park, Maximum Security broke alertly under jockey Luis Saez from the inside post and dueled True Timber at the front, leading the six-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 22.90 seconds and the half in 45.22 on the fast main track.
The Jason Servis trainee maintained the advantage out of the turn, and the 3-5 favorite gained separation from the field and thundered to the wire to complete the seven-furlong sprint in 1:20.76.
Maximum Security, the 121-pound highweight, has crossed the wire first in seven of his eight career starts, with wins in the Haskell and the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 30 at Gulfstream Park. He finished first in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 4 but was disqualified and placed 17th for interference in the stretch.
“He’s so special. He’s the Derby winner and he’s born to run. Of course, he’s the best horse I’ve ever rode,” said Saez, who has been aboard for all five of Maximum Security’s stakes races. “He proved today he is a champion.
“He was feeling so good today and he was ready to run,” he added. “I was very comfortable. He put me there [on the lead] by himself and I was trying to slow the pace but there was pressure. I’m on the horse to beat so I knew it was going to happen, but he just kicked on. Everybody was right there [at the turn], but he came to the stretch and he did it all by himself.”
The New Year’s Day colt returned $3.20 on a $2 win bet and improved to 6-1-0 in his career, increasing his bankroll to $1.38 million.
Maximum Security was rerouted to the 44th running of the Bold Ruler after skipping the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby in September at Parx due todeveloping a severe case of colic.
“He’s special. He really is a special horse,” Servis said. “He definitely wasn’t 100 percent [today]. Physically, he’s been great, but he had come out of the hospital and hadn’t run in three months.
“When he ran like that, I’m thinking that he’s a really special horse. The rail has been terrible all day. Nothing on the rail has been doing anything. Everything was coming around, enough so that Gary called me right away and I said, ‘I see it.’ We actually were thinking about taking him back, but I left it up to Luis [Saez] and he said, ‘Boss, if he breaks we’ll go and get out and if he doesn’t, I’ll just sit on him.’”
Maximum Security could now target either the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on November 29 at Churchill Downs or the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile on December 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack, according to his connections.
“I’ve got to talk to the Wests, but probably the Clark or Cigar Mile,” Servis said. “I have a barn here so it’s convenient. A mile and a mile and an eighth are both good for him. This horse can run.”
Charles Fipke’s Tale of Silence rallied from fifth to finish second, 2 ½ lengths ahead of True Timber, for his best finish since running second in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile on March 30 for trainer Barclay Tagg, who said the Cigar Mile is also on his radar.
“That’s the way he likes to run. He likes to be right on the rail,” Tagg said. “I thought there was plenty of speed in here and that worked out. I wanted to use this as a prep for the Cigar Mile and we can move forward from here.”
Prince Lucky, Diamond King and Killybegs Captain completed the order of finish. Wonderful Light and Knicks Go scratched.
The Belmont fall meet will conclude Sunday with a nine-race card that features the $100,000 Chelsey Flower, the $100,000 Pumpkin Pie and the $125,000 Zagora. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern. There will be mandatory payouts for the Early Pick and Late Pick 5 wagers as well as the Empire 6, which has a jackpot of $279,432 entering Sunday’s card.