There are few accomplishments in horse racing that are more prestigious than winning the Kentucky Derby. The vast majority of horse owners will never know what it is like to compete in the race. Most of those that do get to run in the race will lose. Maximum Security is the only horse to win and lose the Kentucky Derby on the same day. Here is the story of Maximum Security and his ill-fated Run for the Roses.
A Horse With Great Promise
Maximum Security was bred by Gary and Mary West. That alone could have increased the odds that the horse would be successful. The Wests are among the most successful breeders and owners in horse racing.
The sire of Maximum Security was New Year’s Day, a winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. New Year’s Day was another champion for the Wests, and there was high expectations for Maximum Security when he was foaled at the West farm in Kentucky. The couple chose to keep the horse and add him to their own racing stable.
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There were some physical problems as Maximum Security grew into a two-year-old. He did not make his debut until December of 2018. The race was a gamble. The Wests chose to put the colt in a maiden claiming race, and he won in stellar fashion. On that day anyone could have claimed the horse for $16,000. No one took the chance. Maximum Security was now healthy and primed to make a Triple Crown run.
Jason Servis Leads Maximum Security to Kentucky
The task of training Maximum Security was handed to Jason Servis. While not as well known as many other trainers in thoroughbred horse racing, Servis did bring a high winning percentage to the table.
The real star of the Servis family was Jason’s brother, John. John was already familiar with the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown trail. He had trained Smarty Jones during that horse’s 2004 run which included wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Smarty Jones fell short in the Belmont Stakes and did not complete the sweep of the series.
It is understandable that Gary and Mary West chose Jason Servis to train their colt. He was probably less expensive and also willing to take on a colt that was not fully tested until his three-year-old year.
It was a decision that the Wests would come to regret.
A History-Making Kentucky Derby for Maximum Security
In 2019, Maximum Security marched into the gate on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs. The racing public made him an early favorite in the week leading up to the race, and when the gates opened it sure looked like he would live up to the hype. Maximum Security set the pace of the race, establishing a comfortable lead.
Then, something happened on the far turn coming into the home stretch. It was almost impossible to see on the live broadcast of the race. There was contact between some horses. Nevertheless, Maximum Security drove toward the wire and held off his challengers to win the Kentucky Derby by a short distance.
The words that no owner, trainer, or jockey want to see flashed on the tote board at Churchill Downs. INQUIRY. OBJECTION.
An inquiry is when the race track stewards are looking at a possible rules violation. An objection is when the rider of a horse has claimed foul against another jockey. Maximum Security was now the subject of both.
The minutes passed slowly as fans waited for the race to be made official. The announcement finally came that the stewards had determined that Maximum Security had impeded the momentum of other horses by veering off the rail. Maximum Security was disqualified to 17th place, and the longshot Country House became the first horse on Derby Day to win via disqualification.
The fallout was intense. Lawsuits were filed to no avail. Maximum Security became the first horse to be disqualified in the Kentucky Derby on race day. In 1968 the winner of the race later tested positive for a drug violation and was stripped of the win many weeks later. Maximum Security was the only horse to win and lose the Kentucky Derby on the same day.
The Problems for Maximum Security Continue
There would be no Preakness Stakes or Belmont Stakes for Maximum Security. The horse was moved to Monmouth Park to compete in the Pegasus Stakes and the Haskell Invitational. In the Haskell, trouble reared its head once again as an objection was filed against Maximum Security’s win. This time, the horse prevailed and was declared the winner of the race.
The remainder of the colt’s three-year-old year passed with little fanfare, and in 2020 trainer Jason Servis chose to enter the horse in the inaugural running of the Saudi Cup. Billed as the richest horse race in the world, the purse was an amazing $20 million.
In February 2020, Maximum Security was victorious in the Saudi Cup, making him one of the top earners in horse racing history. It should have been a time of celebration, but by March 2020 the horse’s trainer would be arrested and Maximum Security would be moved to a new barn.
Servis is Indicted and Maximum Security Goes to Baffert
In March 2020, Jason Servis was indicted along with 27 other people for doping violations. He was arrested, and at the time this article was written the case is still working its way through the court system.
The Wests chose to move Maximum Security to the barn of Bob Baffert, a trainer who has won the last two Triple Crown trophies with American Pharoah and Justified. As Maximum Security was settling into his new barn, horse racing was affected by the Covid-19 global pandemic. Even so, Baffert was able to win two major stakes with Maximum Security in 2020.
It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Maximum Security in the wake of the allegations of doping. The horse was specifically mentioned in the charges that were filed against Jason Servis. He will go down in history as one of the most infamous horses of all time.