Maximum Security: What Might Have Been

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 ignominious.

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 claimer.

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 3-year-olds.

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.

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