DEL MAR, Calif. - Nothing comes easy for Maximum Security, so why should the Grade 1 Pacific Classic be any different?
Someday it might be fitting to describe Maximum Security as "great," as trainer Bob Baffert has hinted. But not until the $500,000 Pacific Classic on Saturday at Del Mar, and only if Maximum Security defeats Higher Power and Midcourt at a mile and a quarter.
It is never that simple for Maximum Security.
In fact, his career is one twist after another – maiden-claiming winner, disqualified from victory in the Kentucky Derby, winner of a $20 million race in Saudi Arabia, after which his former trainer was indicted for administering illegal medication to his horses.
The weirdness continued last month when Maximum Security made his first start in five months, first at Del Mar, and first since moving to Baffert from Jason Servis. Odds-on in the Grade 2 San Diego, Maximum Security was fully extended to win in slow time. It was not his best race. Baffert disputes the notion it was not impressive.
"I think it was pretty impressive," Baffert said. "It was a weird race. He got blocked in, then he got stopped, and at the top of the stretch he was completely empty. And he still willed himself to win. He showed right there how tough he is. He's got a will. Only the great ones do that."
Baffert is right that Maximum Security and new rider Abel Cedillo did not have an easy trip. He broke on top and set the pace, got hooked, shuffled to third, then re-rallied outside and won by a nose.
The race was only slightly faster on raw figures than a second-level allowance earlier on the card won by Dark Vader, but the effort was as tenacious as always. Maximum Security has faced 75 rivals and finished in front of 74; he crossed the wire first 10 of 11 starts. He is built like a Quarter Horse, yet carried his speed a mile and a quarter in the 2019 Derby.
If he improves second start back and stays the trip, Maximum Security can win again. His rivals are the two-three San Diego finishers Midcourt and Higher Power, Dark Vader, Argentina import Mirinaque, and Sharp Samurai. Sharp Samurai had been under consideration for another race, but trainer Mark Glatt said Thursday he will run in the Pacific Classic.
The six-runner Pacific Classic is race 10 on a card with five stakes, including the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap, race 7, featuring United. The Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks, race 9, includes Laura's Light and imports Miss Extra and Neige Blanche.