Kentucky Derby Spots Scored by Maximum Security, Plus Que Parfait, as Favorites Falter in Prep Races

Posted on: April 2, 2019, 06:50h. 

Last updated on: April 2, 2019, 06:53h.

March ended up not being a good month to be a betting favorite on the Kentucky Derby trail. Nine Derby preps — counting each division of the Rebel separately — were run in the US last month. In those races, only one race-time favorite ended up winning.

Jockey Luis Saez rode Maximum Security (right) to a win in Saturday’s Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. Jason Servis, the colt’s trainer, praised Saez for handling the horse perfectly as he led from the start and won going away. (Image: Matthew Stockman/Getty)

Unfortunately for Somelikeithotbrown, his win in Turfway’s Jeff Ruby Steaks only netted him 20 qualifying points and puts him 21st in the current standings for a race where 20 horses will run.

Maximum Excitement

Saturday at Gulfstream Park, that trend continued, as Maximum Security won going wire-to-wire in the Florida Derby. While unbeaten in his three previous races, the Jason Servis-trained colt never went longer seven furlongs before entering the 1-1/8-mile prep race.

Yet, jockey Luis Saez kept the colt in a lower gear until the final turn, and none of the Kentucky Derby contenders could fire up as Maximum Security pulled away for a three-and-a-half length win.

“Luis walked the dog,” Servis told gathered media post-race. “He backed them up. I have to give him credit. I think it had a lot to do with it. I’m not downgrading the horse, but Luis did a great job.”

Now, with 100 qualifying points, Maximum Security earned a spot in next month’s Kentucky Derby. Code of Honor finished third, with his 20 points bumping him to 74 points. That all but secures a spot for the Shug McGaughey-trained colt as well.

Bourbon War, a co-favorite with Hidden Scroll, finished fourth to get 10 points. Trained by Mark Hennig, the colt now has 31 points, putting him 15th in the standings. But with four 100-40-20-10 Derby preps remaining, Bourbon War may still find himself on the outside looking in.

Betting Heats Up

On Friday at William Hill, you could get Maximum Security at 35-1 in the Derby Futures pool. After his win on Saturday, he became the co-favorite in the betting on Sunday, tied at 4-1 with Game Winner. At, he went from 100-1 on Thursday to 10-1 on Monday.

USRacing features Game Winner at 3-1.

Code of Honor remained at 8-1 at William Hill, and he dropped slightly from 15-1 to 14-1 at USRacing. Bourbon War, meanwhile, went from 12-1 to 18-1 at William Hill and stayed at 25-1 on USRacing.

On Sunday, Hennig said Bourbon War won’t run in another prep.

We’d love to be able to get into the Kentucky Derby on points,” Hennig said. “If we [have enough] points we’d be confident going forward because he’s a horse you’d like to think leaving here would be good for him to get off a track where it’s hard to close.”

UAE Winner Still Considered Long Shot

Another 100-point prep race ran on Saturday, and Plus Que Parfait (pronounced “ploos-kuh-parFAY,” which translates from French to “More Than Perfect”) went halfway around the world to get his spot in the Run for the Roses. Trainer Brendan Walsh moved him to Dubai after he failed to get any qualifying points in two stakes races at Fair Grounds Race Course.

The colt won the UAE Derby thanks to an expert ride by jockey Jose Ortiz.

“He was running well and around the turn I was trying to find spaces,” Ortiz said. “I was happy that I saved the whole ground in the race. And when I was able to find a way through, he responded really well.”

While Plus Que Parfait now has more qualifying points than any other Kentucky Derby contender, bettors remain skeptical. He dropped from 100-1 to 40-1 at William Hill, but at USRacing, he remained at 125-1.