Trainer Jason Servis is keeping his fingers crossed the “tough” decision to send American star Maximum Security on his travels will pay dividends in the inaugural Saudi Cup this weekend.
The four-year-old has won six of his eight starts to date, a tally which includes three wins at the highest level.
However, Maximum Security is perhaps best known for passing the post in front in last year’s Kentucky Derby, only to be demoted – becoming the first horse ever to be disqualified from first place in the Churchill Downs showpiece for causing interference.
A dual Grade One winner since, most recently in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct in December, the son of New Year’s Day is the 11-4 favourite for Saturday’s $20million feature in Riyadh – and Servis is anticipating a bold show.
He said: “It’s thrilling to come over – the people have been great to put on this show. It’s not about the money, I mean it is, but it’s not.
“He’s been exciting for us, to say the least. From the Derby to becoming three-year-old champion, it’s been some year.
“I really thinking it was going to quieten down at the end of 2019, but here we are.”
Connections of Maximum Security elected to allow the star colt to make his reappearance in Saudi Arabia, passing up the opportunity to run in the Pegasus World Cup last month.
Servis added: “It wasn’t an easy decision to come here. He’s four from four at Gulfstream Park and could have run in the Pegasus World Cup, which is worth $3million, so it was tough.
“The problem was if we ran hard in the Pegasus, we didn’t know if we could make here off a short rest, so we opted to skip the Pegasus.”
Reflecting on Maximum Security’s Kentucky Derby disqualification, Servis is philosophical.
He said: “People say to me the Kentucky Derby was terrible, and it was, but I don’t dwell on it. We all know there is more important things in life – I have my health and my family and life goes on.
“I get up in the morning and get up on my stable pony. I watch the sun rise and watch the horses train – I’m living the dream.”
Also forming part of a formidable American challenge on the world’s most valuable race are the Bob Baffert-trained pair of McKinzie and Mucho Gusto, the former finishing runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the latter having won the Pegasus World Cup.
“They shipped well,” Baffert said. “They’ve done well. No negatives at all they look healthy and happy.
“McKinzie looked pretty sharp (on Wednesday morning). We stood him the gate. The track’s (surface) is pretty nice. They’re both getting over it pretty well.
“He worked great before he left. We just let him open up through the lane (on Tuesday) – Mucho Gusto did the same thing. Just to get their blood flowing.
“Mucho Gusto has really changed a lot. These last three months I’ve seen a big change in him. He’s filled out. He’s just changed for the better. He’s always shown up. He’s always run hard. He’ll be right there.”