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Maximum Security wires field to win Florida Derby

The latest winner on the Road to the Kentucky Derby was a first-time stakes starter. Maximum Security went to the front and never looked back, taking the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) by 3 12 lengths over 71-1 longshot Bodexpress. The victory over 10 rivals was worth 100 qualifying points for Maximum Security, and secured a spot in the starting gate for the May 4 Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs.

Maximum Security is owned by Gary and Mary West, who also own Kentucky Derby contender and champion two-year-old Game Winner. Trainer Jason Servis gave jockey Luis Saez the green light to ride front-running Maximum Security as needed near on the lead. Saez, who has been in a tight battle for the riding title at Gulfstream Park with Irad Ortiz Jr., got Maximum Security comfortable on the front end at a moderate pace and "in the stretch he just took off," said Saez.

"The plan was not to go to the lead. I talked to Luis about it. I didn’t want to over-read 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," Servis said. "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 anything 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."

Maximum Security completed the 1 18 mile test over a fast track in 1:48.86 after leading through moderate fractions of :24.42, :48.98 and 1:12.90.

The top four finishers earned Derby points (100-50-20-10) with the order of finish Maximum Security, Bodexpress, Code of Honor and Bourbon War. Race favorite Hidden Scroll finished sixth.

Maximum Security became the 13th Florida Derby winner in the last 14 to win after running their previous race at Gulfstream. He also became the 11th winner in the last 14 Florida Derby’s to have won their previous race.

Maximum Security is now four-for-four after winning the Florida Derby and returned $11.60, $7.20 and $5.40 across the board. Bodexpress paid $47.40 and $16.60 while Code of Honor ($4.20) was another 3 14 lengths back in third. The $1 exacta returned $257.10 and the 50-cent trifecta paid $552.85.

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

Servis plans to continue to campaign his stable at Gulfstream through April while preparing Maximum Security at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training center in Palm Beach County, for a likely run in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4.

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