Gold 'Watch' - By Evan Hammonds

Maximum Security’s nose score in the July 25 San Diego Handicap (G2) at Del Mar was a “comeback” win of sorts. The star-crossed 4-year-old’s victory in Southern California was his first for new trainer Bob Baffert,  replacing Jason Servis, who has been charged with administering performance-enhancing drugs in a sweeping doping scandal that broke soon after Maximum Security had won the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup in late February.

The colt, who races for breeders Gary and Mary West and the Coolmore triumvirate of Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, is also the first 3-year-old to have been disqualified from first place for race interference in last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). He was placed 17th after impeding with several horses as he bobbed and wove his way around Churchill Downs’ turn for home.

“Comeback” or no, we do know one thing: Maximum Security is game and is a winner, having won nine of 10 starts (barring the Derby) since beginning his career as a $16,000 maiden claimer.

Another winner is Steve Haskin, whose catchy prose has graced the pages of BloodHorse and since 1998. Haskin, who has been honored with just about every award available to a Turf writer during his illustrious career, has his final column appearing this week on our website. It’s been a magical 22-year ride.

It was deep in December 1989 when we first met Haskin. The longtime Daily Racing Form staffer was toiling as the librarian in the Hights-town, N.J., office while also writing as a correspondent for the late Thoroughbred Times. We worked together for nearly nine years at DRF, and while he had a limited role as a writer for most of his career there, he was instrumental in developing the now long-running “Derby Watch” column.

In different stages we transitioned from DRF to BloodHorse in 1998, and Haskin’s deep list of contacts, sharp analysis, and descriptive manner were crafted into the “Derby Dozen” that first appeared on these pages in 1999. In that initial run Haskin might not have had Charismatic on top or even among his top 12 that year (few selected the 30-1 outsider; Haskin’s pick was Stephen Got Even and runner-up Menifee), but that was one of the few times he didn’t tab the winner, whether it was a price horse or one of the favorites. Prior to this year’s delayed Derby, Haskin’s top pick was Tiz the Law, winner of the June 20 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1), and he remains the leader of the division.

While the Derby Dozen was anxiously awaited each February, Haskin’s popular “Hangin’ With Haskin” column/blog on the website as well as timely profiles, features, and historical pieces gracing the print edition gave readers deep insight throughout the year. He has a unique way to capture the spirit of the Thoroughbred as well as get to the essence of the personal bond that can develop between horse and human.

Haskin’s run at BloodHorse lasted 17 years as he gracefully retired as our national correspondent following American Pharoah’s sweep of the 2015 Triple Crown. By the end of 2015, Haskin had reached the pinnacle of his craft, having been elected to the Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Most might not remember his brief exit because it lasted all of about two weeks before he agreed to return in a part-time role, sticking to the Derby Dozen and his blog.

We’ve all been able to enjoy his colorful commentary, behind-the-scene views of America’s best horses, trainers, and riders, and deep historical knowledge that dates back to the late 1960s when he was enthralled by Dr. Fager, Damascus, and Buckpasser.

He’s done little else since, other than be a loving husband to his wife, Joan, and doting father to daughter Mandy and grandchild Theo. Haskin has few hobbies other than racing. As the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel once said: “He don’t know nothin’ else.”

While we’re sure we haven’t read the last from Haskin, his contributions of chronicling the sport for BloodHorse and other publications have been immense. The bonus of his sharing his insight for the last five years has offered a thick layer of icing to the cake.

The rescheduled Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby without Haskin’s final take on the contenders for the Run for the Roses on a BloodHorse platform is just another of the way-too-many “firsts” for a bizarre 2020.

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