Dubai: Godolphin homebred Maxfield took a giant step towards qualifying for September’s Grade 1 $1.8million Kentucky Derby in delivering a huge performance to win the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at at Churchill Downs, USA, on Saturday.
Six month after becoming a Grade 1 winner when landing Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity Stakes last year, the son of Street Sense, showed himself to be a genuine Classic contender with his one-length victory over Ny Traffic.
Saturday’s victory made it three-from-three for for the Brendan Walsh trained colt who earned 50 valuable points for the Run for the Roses, an expression synonymous with the Kentucky Derby.
Godolphin founder His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has long coveted winning the elusive American showpiece, one of the world’s most prestigious races.
With two-time Breeders’ Cup winning jockey Jose Ortiz in the saddle, Maxfield raced prominently before he was trapped wide of his nine rivals in the 1,700 metre contest as the field straightened for home.
Ortiz waited patiently before asking his mount for his effort which was spontaneous and saw him stay on well for a comfortable win.
Since 2013, three-year-old horses first became eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby using a points system. Prior to that, priority was given to horses with the most graded stakes earnings.
The 50 points Maxfield earned will more than secure his place in America’s favourite race, which was rescheduled from May 1 to September 4 due to the disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
“We were really anxious to see this one,” said Walsh, who was born in County Cork, Ireland but now resides in Louisville, Kentucky.
“It wasn’t an easy spot either. I think the top four horses are all really nice horses. It’s nice to get this one out of the way. It’s good to see him come back and see he’s as good if not better than when he was a 2-year-old.
“Jose gave him a great ride. He had a different kind of style than he did in the past. He broke really good. He won and we can’t ask for more than that.”
Puerto Rican-jockey Ortiz, who won the 2019 UAE Derby (G1) at Meydan aboard Plu Que Parfait, said: “The start is a key part of the race and, like I told Brendan the last time I worked him out of the gate at Keeneland, be broke better and let me know he matured a lot.
“If he can keep breaking good and be where he was today, he’s going to be a really nice horse. He doesn’t give himself too much to do.”
Godolphin USA President Jimmy Bell told the stable’s website: “It was nice to see that Maxfield was able to maintain the same level of professionalism and consistency that he showed as a two-year-old.
“Maxfield had been off since October but I think that Brendan was quietly very confident that the horse was going to give a good account of himself. He felt that Maxfield was spot on in terms of fitness, while his mental attitude has always set him apart from day one.
“It’s great to see him back at the races and deliver a performance like that. This was a slightly different race compared to his two previous starts, when he walked out of the gates and picked off horses as he pleased. Today, he broke very sharply and was right up in the mix – he was behind a wall of horses and had to wait for his opportunity. When Jose got him to the outside and set Maxfield on his way in the straight, you could see he was moving best of all,” he added.
At Churchill Downs, USA
Matt Winn Handicap (G3) 1,700m
1. Maxfield (Brendan Walsh) Jose Ortiz
2. Ny Traffic (S Joseph Jr) P Lopez
3. Pneumatic (Steve Asmussen) R Santana Jr)
Distance: 1 length, ¾ length