American trainer Jason Servis is hoping the decision to send Maximum Security on his travels will pay dividends in the inaugural Saudi Cup.
The four-year-old has won six of his eight starts including three at the highest level.
But he is perhaps best known for passing the post first in last year’s Kentucky Derby, only to be demoted – becoming the first horse to be disqualified as the winner of the Churchill Downs showpiece for causing interference.
A dual Grade One winner since, most recently in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct in December, Maximum Security is the 11-4 favourite for Saturday’s $20 million Saudi Cup in Riyadh.
“It’s thrilling to come over,” Servis said.
“The people have been great to put on this show. It’s not about the money, I mean it is, but it’s not.
“He’s been exciting for us, to say the least. From the Derby to becoming three-year-old champion, it’s been some year.”
Connections of Maximum Security elected to allow the star colt to make his reappearance in Saudi Arabia, passing up the opportunity to run in the Pegasus World Cup last month.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to come here. He’s four from four at Gulfstream Park and could have run in the Pegasus World Cup, which is worth $3 million, so it was tough,” Servis said.
“The problem was if we ran hard in the Pegasus, we didn’t know if we could make here off a short rest, so we opted to skip the Pegasus.”
Also forming part of a formidable American challenge in the world’s richest race are the Bob Baffert-trained pair of McKinzie and Mucho Gusto, the former runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the latter winning the Pegasus World Cup.
“They’ve done well,” Baffert said. “No negatives at all they look healthy and happy.
“The track is pretty nice. They’re both getting over it pretty well.
“He worked great before he left. We just let him open up through the lane (Tuesday). Mucho Gusto did the same thing. Just to get their blood flowing.
“Mucho Gusto has really changed a lot. These last three months I’ve seen a big change in him. He’s always shown up. He’s always run hard. He’ll be right there.”