Florida Derby Horses Doing Well Sunday

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Four Top Finishers Eyeing Kentucky Derby

Maximum Security is doing well on Sunday morning after winning the Xpressbet.com Florida Derby, as are horses who finished behind him.

The 3-year-old son of New Year’s Day continued his unusual ascension from a $16,000 claimer to serious Kentucky Derby candidate in the 68th Florida Derby, his fourth win in as many career starts. Trainer Jason Servis watched Maximum Security’s victory on a TV in the saddling area.

“I watched on the TV over by the jock’s room because I watched the 11th race on that TV, and my horsewon. So, I said, ‘Yeah, I’m going back to that TV,” Servis said. “When he broke and Luis decided to go and it looked like he was going to get the lead by himself. I said, ‘That’s good.’ Then, I saw 24 and I said, ‘Well, that’s good.’ Then, I saw his ears up and I saw the 48.8 or something, I said, ‘This is good,’ because I know he’s going kick. I said, ‘This is really good.’

“Luis walked the dog. He backed them up. I have to give him credit. I think it had a lot to do with it,” he added. “I’m not downgrading the horse, but Luis did a great job.”

Maximum Security ran 1 1/8-mile in 1:48.86 to prevail over Bodexpress, a Gustavo Delgado-trained maiden who was sent to post at 70-1. Code of Honor, the March 2 Fountain of Youth winner, finished third, another 3 1/4 length back and three-quarters of a length ahead of Fountain of Youth runner-up Bourbon War. Hidden Scroll, the 9-5 favorite, finished sixth.

Servis said plans to continue to prepare Maximum Security at Palm Meadows for a likely run in the Kentucky Derby.

Maximum Security easily won a $16,000 maiden claiming race at Gulfstream on Dec. 20 before capturing back-to-back starter optional claiming allowance races by a combined 24 3/4 lengths

“Candidly, if you read between the lines, there had to be a reason why I ran him for $16,000. Am I glad I didn’t lose him? Hell, yeah,” Servis said. “Is he training good and sound? Yes. But there was a reason why I ran him for $16,000.”

Servis said he didn’t consider Maximum Security as an attractive claim at the time.

“I claim a lot of horses. If I’m claiming and I see a homebred, I figure they got what they were dealt. It wasn’t like he was an $180,000 yearling,” he said. “I was taking a shot. I didn’t think he would be claimed.”

Per a report by Mike Welsch at DRF, trainer Gustavo Delgado said Bodexpress will have two workouts at Gulfstream Park West before shipping to Churchill Downs the week of the Kentucky Derby.

Code of Honor, who raced well off the slow pace during the early going of the Florida Derby before running on to finish third, came out of the race fine, said trainer Shug McGaughey.

“I thought he ran fine. That’s not the type of race he needs, with one horse on the lead and everybody taking back. We were kind of in between horses. He had half a racetrack on him. I thought it was pretty game what he did considering the circumstances,” McGaughey said.

McGaughey said he hasn’t firmed up plans for Code of Honor, who is currently stabled at Payson Park.

Trainer Mark Hennig reported Fountain of Youth runner-up Bourbon War was “bright, very happy and sound” Sunday morning following his fourth-place finish. The late-running Bourbon War trailed all but two horses through a half-mile while racing wide and passed horses late to wind up beaten 7 1/2 lengths. Hennig mirrored McGaughey's thinking about the slow pace.

“He’s doing great,” Hennig said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt it had a large impact on us at least not being third, for sure. I’m not saying we were going to win the race or anything, but I’d like to think with a little pace we could have been a little closer. And a little better trip, too, having to go around the whole way. If you look at his trip versus Code of Honor’s, I think that made a big difference.”

Now the waiting game for the Kentucky Derby begins.

“We’d love to be able to get into the Kentucky Derby on points. If we have the points, we’d be confident going forward because he’s a horse you’d like to think leaving here would be good for him to get off a track where it’s hard to close,” Hennig said.

“Right now we don’t know what that status is,” he added. “It doesn’t look great, but we’re just going to stand pat and watch how the races run next weekend in the Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass and Wood and see where the points stand after that. I think it’ll help indicate to us a little more about where we are.”

Edited release with additional content by Dick Downey