Pegasus Stakes kicks off summer campaign for Maximum Security

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June 14th, 2019

With the disappointment of his Kentucky Derby (G1) disqualification still looming large, Maximum Security will aim to start the summer of his 3-year-old campaign on a bright note when he contests the June 16 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Gary and Mary West’s star colt is one of six runners entered in the 1 1/16-mile event, which serves as a local springboard to the July 20 Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth. The son of New Year’s Day has drawn post 2 in a small but capable field that includes the recent Sir Barton Stakes winner King for a Day.

Maximum Security’s participation in the Pegasus is a little surprising, given the obstacles he’s faced since the Derby, where he crossed the wire first, but was disqualified to 17th for causing interference on the far turn. He came out of the Derby with cuts and scrapes and skipped the Preakness (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1). Then he failed to train to the complete satisfaction of trainer Jason Servis, and per the Daily Racing Form, Maximum Security’s participation in the Pegasus was only confirmed after bloodwork came back satisfactorily.

Despite these challenges Maximum Security looms as a standout on paper in the Pegasus. His Derby disqualification aside, the fact remains no horse has ever beaten Maximum Security across the finish line, a streak of five races that includes an easy triumph in the Florida Derby (G1).

Assuming Maximum Security returns a winner in the Pegasus, he’ll be in a strong position to seize leadership of the wide-open 3-year-old division during the second half of the year. With many of his key rivals for the title (War of Will, Sir Winston and Tacitus) targeting the July 27 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at Saratoga, the Haskell could be a relatively easy opportunity for Maximum Security to secure a second grade 1 win and add a major feather to his cap.

Beyond the Haskell trainer Jason Servis has mentioned the Aug. 24 Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga as a probable target. The 1 1/4-mile “Mid-Summer Derby” annually serves as a summer meeting ground for the best 3-year-olds in the nation. A Haskell/Travers sweep is rare—the last horse to win both was Point Given in 2001—so if Maximum Security can complete the double, he would be virtually assured of securing the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male.

Other events on the distant horizon for Maximum Security could include the Sept. 21 Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx, where Servis has compiled a 36 percent win rate since 2015, and ultimately the November 2 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita Park, where he could face older horses for the first time. Another option, should Maximum Security struggle during the summer, would be to cut back in distance for the November 2 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). A victory there, even against easier competition, could still propel Maximum Security to championship honors if the division remains unsettled through the summer and fall.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First let’s see how Maximum Security fares in the Pegasus Stakes. If he romps to victory, he’ll be well on his way to earning the title.