After being stuck inside and sustaining a narrow loss in the June 16 Pegasus, Maximum Security will have more options in Saturday’s $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1). The top three-year-old drew the far outside in Monmouth Park’s signature event and faces six challengers including Pegasus winner King for a Day; and multiple graded-stakes victor Mucho Gusto from the barn of eight-time Haskell winner Bob Baffert.
The Haskell serves as a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on November 2.
Debuting in a $16,000 maiden claimer at Gulfstream Park in mid-December, Maximum Security romped by 9 ¾ lengths wire to wire and avoided being claimed. The Gary and Mary West homebred followed with a pair of runaway wins over starter optional claiming foes and then stepped up to stakes company with a smashing 3 1/2-length score in the March 30 Florida Derby (G1).
A front-running son of New Year’s Day, Maximum Security carried his speed 1 1/4 miles in the Kentucky Derby but needlessly drifted out and impeded a rival leaving the far turn. The bay colt finished first by 1 ¾ lengths but was disqualified and placed 17th by stewards, and Servis elected to rest his pupil afterwards instead of pursuing another Triple Crown race.
Maximum Security returned from a six-week layoff in the Pegasus and showed his customary speed after breaking poorly. King for a Day tracked him second throughout and eventually wore down the 1-9 favorite in the latter stages. Maximum Security remains eligible to improve upon setback and regular rider Luis Saez has the call.
Mucho Gusto finished a non-threatening second when trying Grade 1 foes in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) last December and returns to prime time in Haskell following four consecutive Grade 3 attempts this year. An easy winner of the Robert B. Lewis (G3) in early February, the Mucho Macho Man colt earned some time off after a disappointing third as the odds-on favorite in the Sunland Derby (G3) six weeks later.
The chestnut came back to crush overmatched foes in the Laz Barrera (G3) in mid-May and exits a sharp 2 1/4-length triumph over Grade 1-winning stablemate Roadster in the June 16 Affirmed (G3) at Santa Anita. Baffert won three straight Haskells earlier this decade and last captured the 1 1/8-mile race with Triple Crown hero American Pharoah in 2015. Joe Talamo retains the mount on Mucho Gusto.
King for a Day will break from the rail post Saturday for Todd Pletcher and Johnny Velazquez. A maiden winner at Belmont Park last fall, the son of Uncle Mo finished fourth when making his stakes debut in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) a month later but wasn’t seen again under silks until May, returning with a comfortable victory in the restricted Sir Barton on the Preakness undercard.
The Pegasus represented a significant class check and King for a Day passed with flying colors posting a one-length win, registering the top BRIS Speed rating (105) for a three-year-old route stakes race this year.
Rounding out the field are Belmont Stakes third-placer Joevia, who is eligible to add to the early pace; Preakness runner-up Everfast, seventh most recently in the Belmont Stakes; stakes winner Bethlehem Road, last seen finishing fourth in the Ohio Derby (G3); and Spun to Run, who exits an entry-level allowance win at Parx.