By Emily Shields
There are three stakes races Saturday at Del Mar after last weekend’s races were canceled due to a surge of positive COVID-19 cases amongst the jockeys. The $150,000 San Diego Handicap (G2) over 1 1/16 miles tops the Saturday action and sees the return of champion Maximum Security.
Unraced since taking the Saudi Cup in February and making his first start for trainer Bob Baffert, Maximum Security is out to prove himself. The quick son of New Year’s Day has won eight of his ten starts, which would be nine if his victory in the 2019 Kentucky Derby (G1) still stood. Disqualified for interference and placed 17th, Maximum Security has since gone on to win the TVG.com Haskell Invitational, the Bold Ruler Handicap, and the Cigar Mile (G1) as well as the Saudi Cup. Last year he also won the Florida Derby (G1).
He was removed from the care of trainer Jason Servis earlier this year, and was given time off before returning to the track under Baffert’s tutelage. Maximum Security will be making his first start in California and will have to prove himself in a new barn and over a new course. Abel Cedillo will have the mount on the Eclipse Award winner.
Facing him are five rivals, including 2019 TVG Pacific Classic (G1) winner Higher Power. The John Sadler trainee will be making his prep for that race here, and Sadler has experience in this spot after winning the 2017 San Diego with Accelerate and the 2018 and 2019 editions with Catalina Cruiser. Higher Power, who will be ridden by Flavien Prat, is coming off a second place effort in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita June 6. He was third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
Baffert’s second entrant is Ax Man, a gelded son of Misremembered. Ax Man will be ridden by Mike Smith, and makes his first start at Del Mar after winning by a nose over this distance at Santa Anita June 20. He has won two of his last three starts and six of 13 overall.
Sharp Samurai is entered here after a grand career on the grass. The son of First Samurai is a three-time Grade 2 winner on the turf for trainer Mark Glatt, and is closing in on $1 million in earnings with eight wins in 19 starts.
Midcourt rounds out the best contenders. Blinkers go on the son of Midnight Lute, who is out of the graded winning mare Mayo on the Side. Midcourt was a 5 ¾-length winner here in Grade 3 company in November, and added a Grade 2 at Santa Anita since then. He was third, beaten less than a length, in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1), but ran very disappointingly in the Gold Cup to be fifth. He is unbeaten on this course and will have Victor Espinoza aboard.
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