Secretariat, Dr. Fager, Affirmed, Hoist the Flag, Cougar II,
and now Maximum Security. This is quite an elite group, and to be included
would link you with four Hall of Famers and five champions. But, alas, in this
context it is a list trainers and owners would prefer not to be on.
You see, all these horses were disqualified from first in
major stakes; some warranted, some questionable, and some extremely
controversial. Certainly Maximum Security falls into the last category as he
became the first ever horse to be disqualified by the stewards in the Kentucky
Derby. There is no disqualification more gut-wrenching and no distinction more
But if there is anything resembling a silver lining to this
cloud it is that Maximum Security has become something of a cult figure who
will be remembered longer and revered more than many of the Kentucky Derby
winners. By winning the Haskell Invitational and defeating older horses in the
Bold Ruler Stakes and Cigar Mile, Max, as his friends call him, is on the verge
of becoming the 3-year-old champion.
But one cannot think of the Eclipse Awards and not wonder
how Max would have fared in the voting for Horse of the Year had he not been
disqualified in the Derby. The truth is, you cannot speculate on that based on
Max's victories and overall record. Many people may not be fully aware of the
effect that disqualification might have had on history.
They think, "OK, he won the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby,
Haskell, Bold Ruler and Cigar Mile. That is a heck of a year and certainly
worthy of serious Horse of the Year consideration." But that thinking does not
take into consideration the chain of events that might have ensued.
Had Maximum Security not been disqualified in the Derby, you have to believe he would have run in the Preakness. Would he have beaten War of
Will at Pimlico? Most people would probably say yes. Had he won the Derby and
Preakness he no doubt would have run in the Belmont Stakes. Do you think he
would have beaten Sir Winston? Again, I believe most people would probably say
yes. So, assuming he would have beaten War of Will and Sir Winston we would
have another undefeated Triple Crown winner.
Had he run in all three Triple Crown races, Jason Servis
most likely would not have had to give him a prep in the Pegasus Stakes and
would have brought him back in the Haskell, just like American Pharoah. So now
we're talking about an undefeated winner of the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby,
Preakness, Belmont, and Haskell who rose from the depths of a $16,000 claiming
race and whose sire and dam were unwanted, as he was, and virtually given away.
Now the story of Maximum Security is becoming legendary and
he is racing's newest hero; a horse who runs his eyeballs out from start to
finish and defies anyone to outrun him, early or late. People are now starting
to compare him to Seattle Slew...a $17,500 yearling compared to a $16,000
Now let us assume that Max comes out of the Haskell in good
shape and runs in the Travers. What a race that would have been between him and
Code of Honor. I wont even speculate who would have won that. Had history not
been altered and he did skip the Travers for whatever reason that forced him to
miss the race, then we're talking about an undefeated winner of the Florida
Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell, Bold Ruler, and Cigar Mile.
In the last, he gave actual weight to older horses for the second straight
race. That resume not only makes him a lock for Horse of the Year honors, it
propels him into superstardom.
No one is saying that is what would have happened, but you
have to admit it certainly is in the realm of possibility. Some might say
probability. That means that the disqualification could very well have cost
Maximum Security a lot more than just the Derby victory. It could have cost him
his own chapter in the history books, right there with the all-time great
But instead, Max, as mentioned earlier, has become sort of a
cult hero to those who admire his talent, his sheer brilliance, his
Cinderella-like back story, and sympathize with him for his dubious place in
the annals of the Kentucky Derby. Few would argue that he was the best horse in
the Derby and he has gone on to prove it, while Country House, who was awarded
the Derby, has pretty much disappeared from the racing scene.
So, in addition to compiling such a magnificent record and
going from claimer to racing's 14th Triple Crown winner, Max has
captured the hearts of the country. People start calling him the Jersey Jet,
Max-a-Million and whatever other names they can come up with.
Then we come to his 4-year-old campaign. Yes. I said
4-year-old campaign. Remember, it was Affirmed's and Seattle Slew's 4-year-old
campaigns that truly stamped them as all-time greats, as neither one did much
after their Triple Crown sweeps. Knowing Gary West and considering Max's
pedigree, we likely would have actually had a Triple Crown winner race at 4.
That would have endeared him to the public even more.
This, of course, is what might have been had he not been
disqualified. But as remarkable as it would have been and what it would have
meant to the racing industry, it could very easily have happened just that way.