2019 Florida Derby Recap
Everyone knew who the best horses in the 2019 Florida Derby were on Saturday, March 30. And then they didn’t.
At first glance, the most anticipated Kentucky Derby prep of the season was a major letdown, as three major contenders had poor trips and were made to look very ordinary by winner Maximum Security, a former $16,000 maiden claimer.
Maximum Security was our Predictem.com wild card pick in the race, but we were expecting big performances from Bourbon War, Code of Honor and Hidden Scroll. But not only did Maximum Security make those horses look like they were running in quicksand, his jockey Luis Saez made three of the best riders in North America look like amateurs.
Saez fooled them all from the break, with the exception of longshot maiden Bodexpress and jockey Nik Juarez, who actually figured out that if the pace got any slower, the horses would be eating grass in the infield.
Saez sent Maximum Security to the lead immediately from post seven and took the rail away from a bewildered Hidden Scroll in post one. He then proceeded to set a trotting-horse pace from the inside under mild pressure from Bodexpress, crawling through fractions of 24.42 seconds and 48.98 (which is 10-15 lengths slower than these horses work in the morning) before stealing away from Bodexpress on the final turn after six furlongs in 1:12.90.
Favorite Hidden Scroll was checked and steadied continually by Javier Castellano while trapped inside behind the winner to the final turn. Code of Honor was never closer than three lengths at any point while stalking outside under John Velazquez. And Bourbon War never got closer than 4 ½-lengths while racing inside to the final turn and then moving outside to make his belated late run.
Maximum Security opened a clear lead midway through the final turn, increased his margin to three lengths in the early stretch after a mile in 1:36.34, and had little trouble expanding that margin to 3 ½-lengths at the wire over 71-1 longshot Bodexpress. Code of Honor, who had moved inside in mid-turn, was all over the place in the stretch trying to rally into the slow pace but could do no better than third, 3 ¼-lengths behind Bodexpress.
Bourbon War, who had steadied mildly inside early behind Everfast, moved off the rail on the final turn and came with a negated late run to finish fourth, three-quarters of a length behind Code of Honor. Current, rated back and inside early, passed tired horses to finish fifth, 3 ¾-lengths behind Bourbon War and a neck in front of poor Hidden Scroll, who had a nightmare trip.
Rated instead of sending from post one after breaking with the leaders, Hidden Scroll tried to move to the outside to press on the first turn, but Bodexpress and then Union’s Destiny were there, so he ended up pinned inside horses and behind the winner. Four times he tried to make a move inside, and every time he was shut down and steadied. By the time Castellano got clear running room midway through the final turn, not only did he not have much horse left, but Hidden Scroll was mentally deflated and faded to finish sixth after making a half-hearted run to mid-stretch.
Seventh-place finisher Union’s Destiny was hard rated outside Hidden Scroll to the final turn, and he too threw in the towel after making a brief attempt to gain into the slow pace on the final turn. Harvey Wallbanger had no hope after being near the back of the pack to the final turn, and he advanced wide to finish eighth.
Everfast waited mildly early behind Hidden Scroll and then rated kindly to the final turn, but when the running started, he couldn’t keep up and finished ninth. Garter and Tie rated wide behind Union’s Destiny and made a move to mid-turn before fading to finish tenth. Hard Belle was in tight between horses early, stalked between horses and faded on the final turn.
Trained by Jason Servis, who won at a 45% clip at the Gulfstream Park meeting and compiled a record of 35-13-9, Maximum Security returned $11.60 $7.40 $5.40 across the board to anyone who played him as our Predictem.com wild card pick. Now we have to decide whether he’s for real after a race that was a debacle for every horse except the top two finishers.
Maximum Security received a 101 Beyer Speed Figure after completing the 1 1/8-miles of the Florida Derby in 1:48.86, and figures tend to be inflated when accomplished by a slow-pace front runner, but this horse also has some pedigree to work with.
The bay 3-year-old colt is by 2013 Breeders Cup Juvenile-G1 winner New Year’s Day out of the winning mare Lil Indy by Anasheed, who is a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Flatter. Some might remember that Flatter won the Jockey Club Gold Cup-G1 going 1 ¼-miles at Belmont Park in both 2011 and 2012, making his Forego impression in the latter to win by a head.
Maximum Security is now undefeated in four-lifetime starts, which he has won by a combined margin of 38 lengths. The Florida Derby was his first start beyond seven furlongs, and he looked good late. He’s got some pedigree to work with, and he proved he could come from off the pace in his second-lifetime start. For that reason and others, he now gains a spot on our Top 10 Kentucky Derby Contenders list.
Maximum Security will probably have to come from off the pace in the Kentucky Derby, but we think he can, and he has a nice turn of foot, which will help him make his own trip. It’s highly unlikely they’ll let him get away with slow fractions up front again.
If they do, they’ll have to hook him up to a sulky to beat him.