The road that leads to the Kentucky Derby can be a treacherous one. This year’s winding path has been especially challenging. For one impressive colt, the merge into the fast lane towards immortality is now right in front of him.
Maxfield is a very impressive three-year old that is yet to toe the track in 2020. This strapping son of Street Sense has only two career starts, yet he is one of the highly regarded contenders for Kentucky Derby 146. Ranked in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association three-year old poll, his two trips to the winner’s circle as a two year old were jaw droppers. The romp in the Claiborne Futurity at Keeneland last October immediately spiked some Derby fever amongst his backers.
Running well off the early pace, Maxfield made a sweeping move at the top of the stretch and powered past the front runners. Much like his pappy before him, who had a penchant for late power, this Brendan Walsh trained behemoth flew through the final furlong. Coming home clear a good 5 ½ lengths, many of the onlookers immediately thought blanket of roses.
“The way he did it in the Claiborne was no doubt exceptional,” says Walsh. “With just one previous start, to be able to take dirt to the face like he did and come home like that says a lot about his talent level. We thought he was ready to run but didn’t really expect it to be that good. He exceeded our expectations, but at the same time gave us a glimpse of how good he can be.”
A physical hiccup kept him from running in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup and he has not made it to the starting gates since. The delayed running of the Kentucky Derby has given his calculating conditioner the opportunity to add things up without any real rush.
“When they announced the new date we decided to take our foot off the gas and give him plenty of time to get right physically,” says Walsh. “I think we could have been ready for early May if we needed to be, but we didn’t have to.”
The patience in his handling has allowed this imposing two-year old to become even more of a physical presence at three. Owned by Godolphin, Maxfield is absolutely an eye-catcher.
“He’s always been a very impressive colt physically,” says Walsh. “Believe it or not, he is even better looking now. When you see him you will realize he was just a frame of a horse at two. Now that he has turned three, he is very imposing.”
Maxfield is slated to make his long-awaited 2020 debut in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 23. Now a points qualifying race for the Kentucky Derby, this mile and a sixteenth circle beneath the twin spires is where Walsh is looking to start their run at some roses.
Recent works say that Maxfield is certainly on his game right now. Working from the gate at Keeneland on May 10, Walsh saw his charge cover five furlongs in 59.2, which was the fastest of 34 workouts at the distance.
“The work from the gate was very nice,” says Walsh. “(Jockey) Jose Ortiz worked him and was very happy with how he covered ground. As nice as he looks right now, this horse still has a lot to prove. The Matt Winn is a great place to get started because we don’t have to ship anywhere to run. We would like to run him a couple of times before the Derby.”
A veteran of the game, Walsh is cautiously optimistic with his prized colt. With better than three and a half months to go it is understood anything can happen.
“We are just trying to do what the whole world is trying to do and that is stay healthy,” says Walsh. “Probably the best thing is we think he still has plenty of room for improvement. I hope our plan works out and we can make it to the starting gates for the Kentucky Derby. We are certainly giving it our best guess.”
The Matt Winn is part of a stakes blockbuster day at Churchill that will also feature the Blame (1 mile for older horses), Shawnee (fillies and mares at 1 1/16 mile), War Chant (3 year-olds 1 mile on the turf), and Tepin (3 year-old fillies 1 mile on turf).