As the year 2019 fades into the rearview of history, the American racing industry breathes a sigh of relief and welcomes a new decade full of promise. Hopefully, decadent styles and norms of the past are gone to be forever replaced by a new era of accord. Churchill Downs, Santa Anita, Arlington, and minor stops in between have been tested in a tumultuous time-period of racing that we hope to permanently wipe from our painful memory. In this new year, the extremely fast racehorse Maximum Security quickly helped us forget missteps and misfortunes as he emerged from the steel cage of racing referees’ restraint to claim the title as best 3-year-old of the land.
In his most recent race at Aqueduct, he wired a good field, including Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner, Spun To Run when “he smoked them in the Cigar Mile”. In the Bold Ruler Stakes, he stopped the 7 furlongs timer in 1:20.76 after passing the 6 furlongs marker at a swift 1:08 pace. Both above and below, Maximum Security’s pedigree comes with nagging questions that exasperate breeders everywhere. He is bred and owned by Gary and Mary West Stables, trained by Jason Servis and primarily piloted by Luis Saez. When he was just a weanling his full older brother, Coastal Highway, sold for $125,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
On paper, the ancestry did not appear as fashionable and Coastal Highway would prove to be a runner who preferred to hide patented speed brought forth from a select few of his forefathers. His record showed a borrowed running style befitting his immediate sire lineage with a significant reduction in the racing class. We all recall that neither New Year’s Day nor his sire, Street Cry, could ever be categorized as thrift sprinters. The first dam, Lil Indy, was sired by Anasheed, a son of stamina influencer A P Indy and out of a collection of mares by Nureyev, Hoist The Flag and Herbager. These descendants are soaked heavy with crushing classic power genetically engineered to soar around the 2000 meters range and hopelessly void of early speed. Cresta Lil, the second dam, produced multi-millionaire and champion Flat Out a two-turn specialist who won Belmont’s prestigious Jockey Club Gold Cup twice. The signature race runs at the classic distance of 2000 meters (10 furlongs) is a far cry from sprint. Therefore, it was not a major surprise that Coastal Highway inherited and demonstrated a slow, steady, methodical grind to his pace which is in coherence with his collective ancestors. A major concern was with Coastal Highway’s complete unwillingness to show competitive speed.
So how does Maximum Security, a runner with such stamina laden ancestry, inherit that level of speed? Before we delve deep into the question, let us briefly digress and peruse breeding programs that are popular within our industry. A useful pedigree application developed in Australia with the catchy name of G1-Goldmine is managed by Leo Tsatsaronis. In early 2014, I chatted with Leo at a conference and inquired about his system. A knowledgeable gentleman with a swag of confidence, low-buttoned shirt, and high spiritedness, he’s tightly attached to his theories with strong conviction. As he explained the concept, I grasped the principles and parallels his system advocates were in true concert with general themes and theories of nicking. Although there were deficiencies in sire prediction and race analysis, it was reassuring to know female contribution was considered which paved the path for G1-Goldmine to elevate to a more advanced level. In early November of 2019, I reached out to TrueNicks co-founder to discuss basic issues on breeding. While I have not yet received a response, I’m curiously hopeful and optimistic we will chat someday about their stance on the inclusion of female ancestors in the calculus and conversation of breeding. A rating of C+ was the rank TrueNicks gave the subject mating and we also had to use a microscope to find favorable angles inside the pedigree.
Usually, it’s the first few zygotes (or foals) that obtains the richest bounty of genetic inheritance from coupled parents. Coastal Highway, the first foal of this mating was foaled in 2015 and he missed the mark, the second foal of 2016 came with minimum risk as Maximum Security was right on target. The mating of New Year’s Day to Lil Indy would unite two broodmares, Justwhistledixie and Lil Indy, who both treasured separate speed links of Nearctic and Seattle Slew. Such subtle similarities are barely noticable, yet they strengthen and sensationalize speed sources like those discovered in Dixie Union and Anasheed respectively. Also, Lil Indy’s second dam, Cresta Lil, introduced another trace of Nearctic at her sire-3 position.
Nature weaves it’s tapestry in unpredictable fashion as these reliable, scintillating speed variables threw a plodder in Coastal Highway with their first mating. I must admit this was a pedigree that did not excite from just a surface glance. Maximum Security’s early workouts did not thrill onlookers either with pre-race exercises based on the low-level maiden claiming event he was entered in. For breeders all over, the actions and behavior of an older brother will undoubtedly gauge the expectations of younger siblings. But unlike his older full sibling, Maximum Security inherited superb cruising speed exhibited in all his races.
I was quietly delighted and somewhat confused when informed by a close acquaintance that Maximum Security had just won an Optional Claimer by 18 lengths. My immediate statement was “Remind me who is Maximum Security, which venue can I see him, what stakes is he pointed to?” The phone response was, “He’s by New Year’s Day, the target sire you talked about.” I knew the sire well because of his dam and her connection to the Florida Derby of 2016. Mohaymen, a son of Tapit, was favored and was also out of the mare Justwhistledixie. After the phone call, I opened Lil Indy’s pedigree profile and welcomed a soothing calmness that engulfed my entire being like a shot of morphine. Because embedded deep in my memory was Dixie Union’s direct line breeding to family 4-m plus the powerful Seattle Slew to Nearctic link. Now looking at Lil Indy’s profile I noticed her 2nd dam, Rugosa, also line bred to 4-m and glowing above in the same light as Dixie Union was Anasheed, also with the same powerful Seattle Slew to Nearctic link.
The Seattle Slew to Nearctic match is found in many runners with G1 abbreviations behind their names. For decades breeders have been breeding primarily for speed which results in racehorse bloodlines today that are tilted more speed-oriented than they are of stamina. This observation is pronounced in American and Australian racehorses. The speed of Seattle Slew and Nearctic is visible in Cigar, Tiznow (Nearctic twice), Boston Harbor, Healthy Addiction (Nearctic twice), Hot Dixie Chick (Nearctic twice), Union Rags (Nearctic twice), Over Analyze, Offlee Wild, Honest Lady, Delta Princess, Agnes World (Nearctic twice), El Condor Pasa (Nearctic twice), Flatter, Flat Out (Nearctic twice), Turbulent Descent, Stormy Liberal (Nearctic twice), Golden Ballet, Drosselmeyer (Nearctic twice), Eskendereya (Nearctic twice), and many, many others.
The Seattle Slew to Nearctic link is where we believe Maximum Security inherits his speed. Most good horses usually have one strong match, here we find two separate cases in one pedigree chart. As I reminisce clever conversations from the past, my mind wanders upon the process of G1-Goldmine. I wonder what high proficiencies they would affix to that fabulous Seattle Slew to Nearctic link. In 2019 Maximum Security unofficially won all but one race and is now poised to take on bigger challenges and enhance his largesse and fame.