Maximum Security-War of Will Rematch in G1 PA Derby
-By Keith Jones
The long awaited rematch between Maximum Security and War of Will serves as the backdrop for Saturday’s running of the $1 million G1 Pennsylvania Derby. The two principle players in the notorious bumping incident that resulted in the first winner of the Kentucky Derby to ever be disqualified will face each other for the first time since that historic afternoon in Louisville, hoping to settle a score that has festered now for over four months. The two head a field of seven three year-olds that includes the red hot Mr. Money, hoping to spoil the party for either of the two high profile colts. Meanwhile, Three Chimney Farm’s Guarana will look to keep her perfect record in tack against ten rivals, seeking her third straight Grade 1 win, as the headliner in the $1 million G1 Cotillion Stakes.
For a horse that is now a multiple Grade 1 winner, it seems almost inconceivable that he could have been offered for just $16,000 in his career debut, but that is indeed how it all started for Gary and Mary West’s Maximum Security. Making his career debut in a maiden claimer last December at Gulfstream, the New Year’s Day colt roared away to win by nearly 10 lengths and has never looked back. He twice dominated optional claiming foes before his first big test in the G1 Florida Derby on March 30th. Leading every step, he came home a three and a half length winner and went to Churchill Downs as a major player in the Kentucky Derby. Following the now famous incident at the top of the stretch, for 22 tense minutes, he stood as the Kentucky Derby winner. The joy in the Maximum Security camp would be dashed, however, as the Churchill stewards decided to disqualify him for interference and place him 17th. He now comes into the race Saturday off his second Grace 1 win on the year, winning the Haskell at Monmouth Park on July 20th.
Gary Barber’s War of Will was, of course, the colt most directly affected by the actions of Maximum Security in the Derby, and for the first time in four months, their paths will again “collide.” War of Will came into the Derby with a terrific spring resume, having captured both the G3 LeComte and the G2 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds before problems at the start resulted in a sub-par performance in the Louisiana Derby. He came back from the Derby with a perfect trip victory under Tyler Gaffalione in the Preakness, making the War Front colt a classic winner for trainer Mark Casse. While the mile and a half Belmont was probably beyond his scope, he also did not run well in his subsequent race, the G2 Jim Dandy on July 27th at Saratoga, running a well beaten fifth behind Tax and Tacitus. Working bullets at Saratoga, he hopes to recapture his spring form Saturday afternoon.
The late blooming colt that may stand in their way is Mr. Money. Out of the Bret Calhoun barn and sporting the colors of Allied Racing Stable, the Goldencents colt comes into the race off four consecutive graded wins, all by daylight. His streak started on Derby Day, winning the G3 Pat Day Mile on the undercard by better than five lengths. He’s followed that with wins in the G3 Matt Winn (by 6 ½), the G3 Indiana Derby (by 2 ½) and the G3 West Virginia Derby (by 6). As a two year-old his connections thought enough of him to send him to the G1 Breeders Cup Juvenile directly off his maiden win, where he performed more than admirably, running a very respectable fourth at 41-1.
The Cotillion is led by the undefeated filly, Guarana. Trained by Chad Brown, the Ghostzapper filly burst on to the scene with an eye catching performance in her career debut, winning a special weight at Keeneland by fourteen and three-quarter lengths. Moving immediately to Grade 1 company, she came right back to win the Acorn at Belmont, this time flashing home six lengths in front. She then made it three for three, holding off Point of Honor, winning by a length in the G1 Coaching Club American Oaks.
A number of accomplished fillies will be looking to hand Guarana her first defeat including last year’s two year-old filly champion and this year’s Kentucky Oaks winner. Trainer John Servis will send out Jaywalk. The Cross Traffic filly finished her 2018 season with wins in the G1 Frizette and the G1 Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies, victories that propelled her to an Eclipse Award. A bit out of sorts after moving to Florida at the start of the year, she flashed her brilliance again after coming back north and winning the G3 Delaware Oaks. She’ll be coming from her own stall at her home track for a trainer that knows how to win big races.
Serengeti Empress wowed everyone last year with a double digit victory in the Ellis Park Debutante and then went to Churchill and won the G2 Pocahontas by an astounding 19 ¾ lengths. Her only subpar effort this year was when she bled in the G2 Fair Grounds Oaks. She’s won the G2 Rachel Alexandra and the G1 Kentucky Oaks and has run second in the G1 Acorn and G1 Test. Her defeat in the Acorn came at the hands of Guarana, but that was a one turn mile and she was hounded through blazing fractions yet still manage to stay on to be a clear second. Trainer Tom Amoss hopes the Alternation filly can land her second Grade 1 win of the year.
A terrific undercard is topped by the $300,000 Gallant Bob Stakes, a six furlong sprint for three year-olds. Having been upgraded last fall, it will be run as a Grade 2 race for the first time.
Four other stakes will be contested on the giant Saturday program. State-breds square off in the $100,000 Alphabet Soup on the turf at one mile and one-sixteenth and the $100,000 Plum Pretty Stakes for fillies and mares on the main track at that same distance.
The $150,000 Turf Amazon pits lady sprinters on the grass at five furlongs. Rounding it out is the $150,000 Parx Dirt Mile.
For the first time, the Cotillion and Pennsylvania Derby will be broadcast to a national audience, the races covered by NBC from 5:00 to 6:00PM.
The card on Saturday will have 13 races with a post time of 12:25PM. Gates will open to the public at 11AM. Cotillion post time is scheduled for 5:12PM. PA Derby post time is set for 5:50PM.