Florida Derby Won by Unchallenged Maximum Security

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7:14 pm

After Leading Through Moderate Fractions

By Dick Downey
Photo by Leslie Martin

Maximum Security entered the Florida Derby with a history of pounding weak starter allowance competition. He exited the race a grade I winner.

The other 10 horses in the field left the early speed alone, which was in the form of Maximum Security, ridden by Luis Saez. He set moderate early fractions of 24.42, 48.98 and 1:12.90, led at every call, and won the 1 1/8-mile Xpressbet Florida Derby in race horse time of 1:48.86.

Bodexpress, a four race maiden ridden by Nik Juarez, finished second by 3 1/2 lengths at 70-1 odds. He tracked the leader throughout the carousel. Neither of the top two finishers had ever run two turns before.

Meanwhile, Code of Honor and Bourbon War, both experienced at routing, rounded out the superfecta. Confirmed closers, they were compromised by the soft early fractions. Code of Honor settled for third under John Velazquez, beaten 6 3/4 lengths, and Bourbon War was fourth under Irad Ortiz, Jr., another three-quarters of a length back.

The top four were followed across the finish line by Current, Hidden Scroll, Union’s Destiny, Harvey Wallbanger, Everfast, Garter and Tie and Hard Belle.

Kentucky Derby points from the Florida Derby were awarded as follows:
Maximum Security 100 (total of 100)
Bodexpress 40 (total of 40)
Code of Honor 20 (total of 74)
Bourbon War 10 (total of 31)

The winner is trained by Jason Servis and owned by Gary and Mary West. The Wests also own 2-year-old champion Game Winner, who's set to run next Saturday in the Santa Anita Derby for trainer Bob Baffert.

Bodeexpress is set to become a rare maiden starter in the Kentucky Derby. The son of Bodemeister is trained by Gustavo Delgado.

Maximum Security, sent off as the 9-2 fourth betting choice, returned backers $11.60, $7.40 and $5.40. Bodexpress paid $47.40 to place and $16.60 to show. Code of Honor returned $4.20 to show.

The Florida Derby purse is $1 million, of which $582,800 goes to the winner.

To read more about Maximum Security and his unlikely road to the Kentucky Derby, click here

Equibase chart


Trainer Jason Servis (Maximum Security, 1st): “The plan was not to go to the lead. I talked to Luis about it. I didn’t want to overread the race. Luis agreed that there was going to be a couple speed horses that might not be as good as a Derby horse, so we were really thinking that we were going to be laying third. At the end of the day I told Luis, ‘Look, he’s yours. He breaks, and you ride him however you want.’ I worked in the jock’s room for 20 years, and if I heard anythin,g I heard jockeys say, ‘If this guy would have left me alone I could have won this race for him.’ I just wanted to stay out of Luis’ way. It was his decision 100 percent. They went slow early, and the rest is history.

“He wasn’t beating anything, he really wasn’t, but he was three-for-three at the track and I had Luis Saez. I was like, ‘Hello, what’s the downside?’ I’ll leave it to Team West. They’ve got some really good managers and we’ll see what they think they want to do. They’ve got that horse Game Winner, so I don’t know what we’ll decide. I guess I have to cancel my fishing trip in May.”

Jockey Luis Saez (Maximum Security, 1st): “It was beautiful. He broke so perfect and I just took it. He was traveling beautiful, and when he came to the half-mile pole and you feel the pressure, I knew I had a lot of horse and in the stretch he just took off. My plan was if the favorite or somebody else took the lead, I’m going to sit because I don’t want to make the race for somebody else. He took it so easy, so I just went with it.”

Jockey Nik Juarez (Bodexpress, 2nd): “It was a huge effort. I really liked him going into the race, and he impressed me the way he ran last time. He’s a young horse that can take dirt, and when he finishes, he gives it all he has. Today he did the same exact thing, we just didn’t have enough pace – it was just me and Luis. He wasn’t difficult going into the gate last time out as he was today, but you never know with big days like this, with the weather too, and his first time being in front of the crowd, he got a little nervous. You can see he’s a very talented horse despite what kind of energy he puts out first.”

Trainer Shug McGaughey (Code of Honor, 3rd): “I thought we were done in the turn and he kind of kept going. I think he tried to get him going early because he could see what was going on. It just didn't work out. I'm not overly disappointed with the way he ran. We’ll have to see how he comes out of it and go from there.”

Trainer Bill Mott (Hidden Scroll, 6th): “I know the pace wasn’t that fast; we were close enough to the pace.  If he had beat us a head or neck, you say, ‘Well, maybe it would have been nice to take him on earlier.’  He was having a good trip, he was right in behind them. Javier said he rated beautifully, said he’s push-button, but when he really needed him they kind of opened up on him on the turn, and he came up empty. We probably bit off a little more than we could chew at this point.  We’ll back off and kind of start over with him.”