ARCADIA, Calif. — Unbeaten in two starts for Bob Baffert, Gary and Mary West’s homebred Maximum Security, roundly regarded as the best in training today, heads a field of field of five three year olds and up going a mile and one eighth in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita.
A two-time stakes winner at Del Mar this past summer, Maximum Security comes off a huge three length win in the Grade I Pacific Classic on Aug. 22 and will once again be a prohibitive favorite in what will be his 13th career start.
Baffert’s Improbable, a Grade I winner of the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 1, earned a career-best Beyer Speed figure of 106 and will be bidding for his third consecutive win.
The John Shirreffs-trained Midcourt, who was beaten a nose by Maximum Security two starts back in the San Diego Handicap, was a well beaten third behind “Max” in the Pacific Classic and will be facing him for the third consecutive time on Saturday.
The Awesome Again, named for the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner that was bred in Ontario, Canada by Frank Stronach and owned by his Stronach Stables, is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race qualifier, with the winner earning a fees-paid berth into the Grade I, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 7.
Owner: Gary & Mary West, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor & Derrick Smith
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Immensely talented but star-crossed, this 4-year-old colt by New Year’s Day appears to be thriving in Baffert’s care. Ridden in his two Del Mar starts by Abel Cedillo, he’ll be reunited with eastern-based Luis Saez, who has finished first on him in six out of seven starts, most recently in Saudi Arabia, where he took the $20 million Saudi Cup by three quarters of a length. Although the Saudi Cup results remain official, Maximum Security’s purse earnings remain on-hold as an investigation into his original trainer Jason Servis continues. Adding to his hard-luck resume is the fact he became the only Kentucky Derby winner to ever be disqualified for a racing infraction in the 2019 Derby, a race he won by 1 ¾ lengths with Saez aboard. An official winner of 10 out of his 12 starts, Maximum Security has banked $12.1 million and will be making his first-ever start at Santa Anita.
Owner: WinStar Farm, LLC, China Horse Club Intl., Ltd and SF Racing, LLC
Trainer: Bob Baffert
The 4-1 post time favorite in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, he finished fifth, beaten 3 ¼ lengths by Maximum Security. A winner two starts back of the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup, run at Santa Anita on June 6, he’ll be reunited with Drayden Van Dyke, who did not ride him at Saratoga. Van Dyke has won aboard Improbable in five out their seven pairings, including his Gold Cup win. A winner of six out of his 13 starts, Improbable, a 4-year-old colt by City Zip, has earnings of $1.5 million.
Owner: C R K Stable, LLC
Trainer: John Shirreffs
Although narrowly beaten two starts back in the San Diego Handicap, this 5-year-old gelding by Midnight Lute was no match for Maximum Security in the Pacific Classic when third. A shining testament to Shirreffs’ horsemanship, Midcourt has been able to overcome his idiosyncrasies, including bad manners in post parade. If his mind is right, he rates an upset chance over a track on which he is 8-3-1-2.
The Grade I Awesome Again Stakes post positions
with jockeys and weight
Race 10 of 11. Approximate post time 5 p.m. PT
1. Take the One O One—Jose Valdivia, Jr.—122
2. Improbable—Drayden Van Dyke—126
3. Sleepy Eyes Todd—Umberto Rispoli—124
4. Midcourt—Victor Espinoza—124
5. Maximum Security—Luis Saez—126
Mongolian Groom wins the 2019 Awesome Again Stakes
First post time for an 11-race card on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. With no public admittance, fans are encouraged to follow Santa Anita’s live video stream at santaanita.com.
Photo: Maximum Security with trainer Bob Baffert. Credit: Benoit