Maximum Security toughed it out in Riyadh to win an epic first running of the Saudi Cup, the world’s most valuable race.
In doing so he once and for all erased the pain of losing the Kentucky Derby, having been the first horse ever to be disqualified from first place in the ‘Run for the Roses’ for causing interference.
Twice a winner in Grade One company since that day in May last year, the Jason Servis-trained colt has also subsequently been bought into by Coolmore, while his original owners Gary and Mary West remain involved.
Victory did not look likely for most of the nine-furlong contest at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack, however, as Pegasus World Cup hero Mucho Gusto travelled strongly into the lead and took a few lengths out of the field.
Maximum Security was gamely sticking to the task for Luis Saez, but did not seem to be catching the Bob Baffert-trained Mucho Gusto until he began to wander under Irad Ortiz Jr close home.
Another American runner, the mare Midnight Bisou, was making ground rapidly from the rear, while Saeed bin Suroor’s Benbatl was also in their pitching.
But it was Maximum Security and Saez who stayed on best of all to record a famous win. Midnight Bisou was a gallant second, with Saeed bin Suroor’s Benbatl running a huge race in third.
Saez said: “He came here and showed he is the best. This is amazing, I can’t tell you how it feels. This is unbelievable, this is for Panama and America.
“When we broke (from the stalls) he didn’t grab the bridle like he used to, but that was OK – when we came into the stretch he wanted to win, he wanted to fight.”
He added: “This is the true Kentucky Derby winner. I’m so glad to be on the horse. This is a big deal.”
Servis said: “Really, that horse has got a lot of heart, he is some horse, he is amazing. It’s got to be some vindication.
“I am a bit superstitious and didn’t want to over-talk him, but the last three days, when he breezed the mile and one, he just ran and came off the track and there was just a presence about him and I tried to stay calm, but I was really feeling good the last few days.
“(Drawn) Seven in the Florida Derby, seven in the Kentucky Derby, seven in the Haskell, he drew the seven in the Pennsylvania Derby and that is when he ended up in the clinic, and then when he drew the seven for this race – I was a little apprehensive about sending Garrett (son and work-rider) up to the stage because I was thinking if he draws 13 or 14 he will feel bad.
“When he pulled out the seven I texted Mary West and she is like, ‘you are kidding, right?’. It’s a good story. I have a great team with Coolmore and the Wests and they have great managers. We will have a conference call and take it from there.”
MV Magnier, representing Coolmore, said: “All I can is that we are very lucky people that Gary and Mary West let us into the horse and all I can say, it is an absolute credit to the two gentlemen on my left, the job they have done with this horse, it’s quite incredible.
“There were a couple of flutters all right, but Jason was very confident beforehand. The best man was riding. He gave him a fantastic ride.”
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith was proud of Midnight Bisou in defeat, saying: “She ran so well and I am so proud of her. She ran awesome. I did everything but we didn’t come first, but she won, do you know what I am saying? Amazing weekend.”
Bin Suroor was equally delighted with Benbatl, who only recently made his debut on dirt.
He said: “I’m proud of him. Maximum Security is a very good horse. Now we’ll take him back to Dubai and make a decision on the next race. Maybe he’d be better over 2000m (10 furlongs), so we will think about the big race (Dubai World Cup).”
RaceBets make Maximum Security the 2-1 favourite for the Dubai World Cup on March 28, with Benbatl the 5-1 second-favourite, alongside Midnight Bisou.