March 4, 2024

Maximum Security meets War of Will, Improbable in Pennsylvania Derby

Maximum Secutiry wins Haskell Invitational
Maximum Security and jockey Luis Saez capture the Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park on July 20, 2019 (c) Equi-Photo/Ryan Denver

A rematch racing fans have been hoping to see since May looks ready to materialize when Maximum Security and War of Will square off in Saturday’s $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx.

It marks the first meeting between the two since the Kentucky Derby (G1), when an initiation of contact by Maximum Security into War of Will ultimately resulted in the colt’s controversial disqualification from first in the Run for the Roses, the first such demotion for an on-the-track offense in the race’s history.

Previously the victor of the Florida Derby (G1), Maximum Security skipped the remainder of the Triple Crown and focused on the major summer features at his home base of Monmouth Park. After an upset second in the Pegasus (G3), Maximum Security gamely captured the Haskell Invitational (G1) in oppressive heat, securing an automatic bid to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

In Maximum Security’s absence, War of Will rode a favorable inside bias to victory in the Preakness (G1) at Pimlico. However, the Mark Casse trainee failed to stay the 1 1/2 miles of the Belmont S. (G1), finishing ninth, and again lacked stamina in the Jim Dandy (G2) when fading to fifth after setting the pace. Skipping the Travers (G1), War of Will enters Saturday’s nine-furlong feature relatively fresh.

Improbable, the beaten favorite in both the Derby and Preakness, earned his first stakes win of the year in the $100,000 Shared Belief at Del Mar going a mile on August 25. Trained by Bob Baffert, who’s won the last two runnings of the Pennsylvania Derby with McKinzie and West Coast, Improbable has yet to win beyond 1 1/16 miles and his reported long-term target this fall is the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).

Mr. Money enters the Pennsylvania Derby as the hottest three-year-old in the land, albeit against relatively softer company. However, the Goldencents colt has earned the chance to take a shot at the big boys with facile victories in the Pat Day Mile (G3), Matt Winn (G3), Indiana Derby (G3), and West Virginia Derby (G3) since May.

Also of note in the field of seven is Spun to Run, a distant third in the Haskell but game winner of the Smarty Jones (G3) over the Parx strip on Labor Day.