May 18, 2021

Maximum Security draws outside in seven-horse Haskell

King for a Day and jockey Joe Bravo run down disqualified Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Maximum Security under Luis Saez to upset the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park on Sunday, June 16, 2019 (c) Equi-Photo/Bill Denver

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.