December 3, 2020

Maximum Security romps in Pacific Classic, Harvest Moon rallies in Torrey Pines

Maximum Security
Jockey Abel Cedillo guides Maximum Security to the winner's circle after their victory in the Pacific Classic © BENOIT PHOTO

When Maximum Security battled to victory in the San Diego H. (G2) at Del Mar last month, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert noted the star colt wasn’t cranked for a peak performance.

Racing fans got a chance to see Maximum Security at maximum power when the champion 3-year-old male of 2019 started as a 2-5 favorite in Saturday’s $500,000 Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar. The result was impressive: Maximum Security left no doubt about the outcome as he dismissed five rivals with complete authority, and secured a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

“He was a totally different horse today,” remarked Baffert, “He wasn’t even blowing when he came back. I’m just so happy for this horse.”

Racing 1 1/4 miles for the first time since his controversial disqualification from victory in the 2019 Kentucky Derby (G1), Maximum Security broke alertly under jockey Abel Cedillo and quickly sprinted to the front. The son of New Year’s Day carved out fractions of :24.26, :48.14, and 1:12.34 while closely pursued by Sharp Samurai, with defending Pacific Classic winner Higher Power lurking right behind in third position.

Sharp Samurai edged closer on the far turn and attempted to mount a challenge, but Maximum Security refused to entertain the notion for long. When Cedillo asked the favorite to accelerate, Maximum Security kicked away with a fresh burst of acceleration, drawing clear down the stretch to prevail by three lengths in 2:01.24.

“He just galloped around the track,” said Cedillo. “I was a little surprised that the outside horse (Sharp Samurai) was with us early and he stuck around. He ran big, but whenever he would get close, my horse would pull away on his own. He still had a little left at the end.”

Although no match for the winner, Sharp Samurai finished second by daylight over Midcourt, who rallied up the inside to edge Higher Power for third place. Mirinaque and Dark Vader trailed throughout.

“We mapped it out that he’s the quickest horse, he’s ready and now you can ride him with a lot more confidence,” said Baffert. “Once he took the lead I figured he’d be fine. I just didn’t want any quarters in :22.”

Maximum Security didn’t post any :22 quarters, but he did unleash a steady drumbeat of the roughly 24-second quarters that stand as the mark of an elite route runner. Maximum Security was a picture of consistency in the Pacific Classic, maintaining a steady rhythm through successive quarters of :23.93, :24.05, :24.39, :24.13, and :24.74—a testament to his speed and stamina.

Owned by the partnership of Gary West, Mary West, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor, and Derrick Smith, Maximum Security has officially won 10 of his 12 starts while earning $12,191,900. With a perfect 3-for-3 record in 2020—including a gutsy triumph in the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup—Maximum Security is staking his claim as a candidate for 2020 Horse of the Year honors.

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Earlier in the afternoon, Harvest Moon made a nice impression of her own in the $100,000 Torrey Pines (G3). Making her stakes debut after recording maiden and allowance wins on the Southern California circuit, Harvest Moon was content to settle in midpack as the undefeated Secret Keeper carved out fast splits of :22.13 and :45.93.

But following 6 furlongs in 1:11.16, Harvest Moon advanced boldly under jockey Flavien Prat. Rallying alongside the pacesetter, Harvest Moon gradually forged clear to score by 1 1/4 lengths, completing the mile in 1:36.87. Paige Anne, Aurelia Garland, Provocation, and Sheza Girly Girl rounded out the order of finish.

“It was perfect. She was nice and relaxed and I knew they were running very fast up front,” said Prat, who was securing his ninth stakes win of the Del Mar meet. “She’s got speed if you want it, though. Last time I hardly asked her to run. Today, she was just waiting on me. She won it very nicely.”

A daughter of Uncle Mo out of the Shamardal mare Qaraaba, Harvest Moon was bred by Alice Bamford, who owns the 3-year-old filly in partnership with Michael B. Tabor. Although Harvest Moon didn’t debut until June, she’s quickly making up for lost time with three wins and earnings of $120,720 from four starts.

“We were delighted. This filly means a lot because I trained the mother, which gives it a little extra sentiment,” said winning trainer Simon Callaghan. “She’s an exciting, big filly that we’ve been super patient with and it’s great that she’s coming in to doing what she’s doing.”

Having conquered graded stakes company at Del Mar, Maximum Security and Harvest Moon appear poised for continued success throughout the fall, setting the stage for appearances in the Nov. 6-7 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland.