Submitted by Noel Michaels on Monday, June 10, 2019 at 4:36 PM
The Triple Crown season is over and a clear and dominant leader has been established in the 3-year-old division. That part is not strange, the strange thing about this year is that the divisional leader is neither the Derby winner or the Preakness winner, nor is it the Belmont winner. The best 3-year-old is horseracing’s uncrowned champion, Maximum Security.
With no clear dominant horse emerging throughout the 2019 Kentucky Derby prep season, and the three Triple Crown events each being won by three different horses, the spring’s biggest winner was a horse that “officially” won none of the Triple Crown races yet nevertheless emerged the best, Maximum Security.
Whatever your opinion is about the controversial Kentucky Derby disqualification fiasco, the actual results on the racetrack paint a crystal clear picture of who the best 3-year-old has been so far. While the other horses in the division take turns beating up on each other, alternating good and/or promising efforts with disappointing ones, Maximum Security has gone undefeated on the racetrack, unofficially racking up a perfect record of five victories in five races in his career (4-for-4 this year), including back-to-back wins in the Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1). His performances on the racetrack leave little doubt who the best horse is in this 3-year-old crop.
It is difficult or impossible to make a legitimate case that holds water for any other horse atop the sophomore division.
Official Kentucky Derby winner Country House ran a nice race in the Derby, but let’s face it, he lost! He wasn’t bothered by the trouble in the race and he was never going to win the race either way. He got beat and then got lucky to inherit the victory. There’s no championship material in that camp currently.
Sir Winston won the Belmont Stakes, but has lost many more races than he’s won and failed to even qualify to run in the Kentucky Derby despite trying multiple times to earn enough points but failing with off-the-board finishes in the Withers (4th), Tampa Bay Derby (5th), and Blue Grass (7th) before losing the Peter Pan. His Belmont Stakes is not yet enough to stamp him a championship contender.
Preakness winner War of Will has racked up some good wins this year and has the strongest championship case of any of the Triple Crown race-winning horses at this stage of the game. In addition to the Preakness, he won the Lecomte (G3) and Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds and was bothered (but wasn’t going to win) in the Derby. He lost big in the Louisiana Derby and Belmont. He will need to beat Maximum Security on the racetrack if he wants a legitimate claim to the 3-year-old crown.
The other horse that could contend for divisional honors right now would be Tacitus, based on his wins in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Wood Memorial (G2), plus his in-the-money finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont. However, he lacks a Grade 1 win and has lost his head-to-head meetings against Maximum Security and Country House, and then lost his rematch vs. Sir Winston.
Maximum Security has shown superior talent and ability over this 3-year-old rivals through the first part of the season, and his connections will be racing him with a chip on their shoulders the rest of the way. After all, instead of talking about this year’s undefeated Kentucky Derby winner, we instead are talking about “who is the leader of the 3-year-old division.”
Maximum Security’s route to retribution is expected to start with heavily-favored runs in in Monmouth’s Pegasus and then the Haskell Invitational (G1). Scared so-called rivals of his like War of Will, Tacitus, Country House, and Sir Winston will all duck him by pointing to Saratoga’s Jim Dandy (G2).
Neither War of Will, Tacitus, Country House, Sir Winston or anybody else will have any legitimate claim to the 3-year-old title until they actually defeat Maximum Security on the racetrack. They will hope that day comes in the Travers (G1) at the end of August at Saratoga. Based on what we’ve seen on the racetrack to date. however, that possibility seems highly unlikely.
By Noel Michaels