Maximum Security Odds to Win the 2019 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
Bob Baffert is going to be the biggest story of this year's Kentucky Derby, as he regularly is. That's what happens when you win the Triple Crown. Twice. And while Maximum Security is not trained by Baffert, he still has an interesting connection to the white-haired master trainer. This colt is sired by New Year's Day. Baffert trained that colt in 2013, winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and finishing second to Shared Belief in Champion Two-Year-Old voting. He would have been a strong Derby contender, but the Juvenile proved to be his last race. Having New Year's Day and Shared Belief missing the 2014 Derby due to injury stands as one of the most frustrating times in my long fandom of this sport. It appears that Maximum Security will make the race his father never did. Can he take care of unfinished family business?
Last race: Maximum Security made his stakes debut last time out in the Florida Derby. It was a high-stakes race for the horse - he had to finish first or second in the 11-horse field or he wouldn't have enough points to make the Kentucky Derby field. He was the fourth choice in the field at just short of 5/1. It was, to say the least, an odd race. He took the lead early on, with longshot Bodexpress right behind him. The top horses in the field needed a solid early pace so they could close ground late, but for some reason this horse was allowed to basically lope on the lead. They ran the first half mile in 48.98 seconds, which is almost glacial at this level of racing. The top two horses didn't have to work early, so they had plenty left down the stretch, and they pulled away for the top two places - with Maximum Security well ahead at the wire. The horse did a very nice job of taking advantage of the gift he was given him in the race, but it's tough to get too excited about what a horse showed in what was essentially a perfect trip.
Prior experience: The colt made his debut five days before Christmas, running 6.5 furlongs in a maiden claiming race. You could have bought this horse on that day for just $16,000. He led the whole way and pulled away by almost 10 lengths at the wire. It was an impressive start to a career, albeit against a weak field. A month later he was back on the track for an allowance race. This was the only time in his career that he wasn't on the lead at the start, but the track was muddy, which could have been a factor in that - and he was still in touch with the lead, and comfortably ahead by the top of the stretch. He won by more than six lengths. On Feb. 20, he was again in a Gulfstream allowance, this time at seven furlongs. And what an effort it was. He took the lead early and never looked back. He was ahead by an incredible 11 lengths entering the stretch and added seven more lengths to his lead by the wire. He was a very heavy favorite in that race, and he paid off. There was no doubt that he was ready for a stakes test. Notably, the first half mile in all of those races was at least 2.3 seconds faster than in the Florida Derby, so he doesn't need a lethargic pace to shine. We should also note that he has never raced outside of Gulfstream Park. We know he clearly loves that track, but what about Churchill?
Trainer: Jason Servis is the brother of John, who was not at all well known when he won the 2004 Derby and Preakness with Smarty Jones. Jason made his Derby debut just last year with long shot Firenze Fire, finishing 11th. Servis won a career-best five graded stakes last year, so he isn't a top tier contender - guys like Baffert can win that many in a week. He was second in two Breeders' Cup races last year, though, and he already has three graded stakes wins with three different horses this year, so he is really finding his stride.
Jockey: Luis Saez was aboard for the first time in Florida Derby, but the ride went very well, and he will probably be given the opportunity in the Derby. Saez broke through in 2013, riding three-year-old champion Will Take Charge, among others. He has not won a Breeders' Cup or Triple Crown race, but he finished second in the Preakness last year aboard Bravazo. Saez ranked eighth in the nation in earnings last year and sits fifth right now. He's a capable rider who obviously has a good handle on this horse.
Breeding: New Year's Day was a celebrated horse in his short career, but progress as a sire has been slow. He's standing for a stud fee of just $5,000, which is a sign that he is not capturing the imagination of breeders. This colt could change that in a hurry with a win. New Year's Day is a son of Street Cry, who sired 2007 Derby winner Street Sense, 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, and current Australian wonder horse Winx. Maximum Security's damsire is Anasheed, a son of the great stamina provider A.P. Indy, who wound up in Russia after an undistinguished breeding career. There is stamina here for sure, but we will see much more glamorous pedigrees in the starting gate of this race.
Odds: The final Kentucky Derby futures pool wound up with Maximum Security as the co-second choice at 7/1, behind only Roadster at 6/1. He currently sits as the co-third choice at BetOnline at +1000, though it seems unlikely that Roadster will stay at that price.
Can Maximum Security Win the 2019 Kentucky Derby?: Being a speed horse in the Derby is a scary thing to be. Things can get crazy up front, and fractions are often suicidal. This horse will want the lead, and that could be a problem. And it's concerning that his only stakes race featured such a bizarre pace scenario. I would call myself cautiously pessimistic - especially at this price - but I am not willing to toss him out entirely.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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