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As of 2 pm ET, the current temperature in Oceanport, N.J. was 96 with a heat index of 110.

The six-race stakes card will now start at 6 pm ET.

For the first time in his young career, Maximum Security is coming off a race where he did not finish first. Still, the Jason Servis-trained colt highlights a field of seven for Saturday’s Grade I TVG.com Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

Maximum Security, seen here with jockey Luis Saez in last month’s Pegasus Stakes, seeks his first win since March in Saturday’s Grade I Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. (Image: Monmouth Park)
With Luis Saez in the saddle, oddsmakers list Maximum Security as the 8-5 morning line favorite for the 1-1/8-mile race featuring a $1 million purse. He last raced a month ago, losing by a length to King for a Day in Monmouth’s Pegasus Stakes.

As he had in his previous four of his five previous races, Maximum Security took the lead early and looked to go wire-to-wire. However, a slight stumble out of the gate may have caused him to lose a step late as King for a Day stalked and took the lead in the stretch.

Servis had the colt work out of the track’s starting gate in a training session last weekend.

TVG.com Haskell Invitational
1-1/8 miles, Monmouth Park
Post Time: Saturday 5:47 pm ET

Entry, Jockey, Trainer, Odds (in post position order)

  1. King for a Day, John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 5-2
  2. Joevia, Jose Lezcano, Greg Sacco, 10-1
  3. Spun to Run, Paco Lopez, Juan Carlos Guerrero, 15-1
  4. Bethlehem Road, Luis R. Castro, Dee Curry, 20-1
  5. Mucho Gusto, Joseph Talamo, Bob Baffert 2-1
  6. Everfast, Julien Leparoux, Dale Romans, 10-1
  7. Maximum Security, Luis Saez, Jason Servis, 8-5

Second Half Underway
The Haskell traditionally kicks off the second half of the stakes racing calendar. Both it and next month’s Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in New York serve as key prep races for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which takes place in November at Santa Anita. Saturday’s winner gets an automatic berth into the 1-1/4-mile Classic.

Thanks to injuries and some controversy, it’s been a wide open campaign for this year’s 3-year-olds. Maximum Security supplied the controversy when it appeared he won the Kentucky Derby in May in wire-to-wire fashion. However, in a Derby first, stewards ruled he interfered with other horses in the final turn and disqualified him to 17th. After the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission declined to hear an appeal, owners Gary and Mary West filed a lawsuit seeking that’s ongoing to overturn the decision.

After the Derby, Servis and the owners pulled him from the remaining Triple Crown races and focused on the Haskell.

“This race is really important in the campaign for the 3-year-old champion,” Servis said. “The Haskell could be critical.”

Top Contenders
Maximum Security, whose last win came in the Florida Derby on March 30, will seek his fifth career win from the outside gate.

King for a Day, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, will break from the inside gate. Oddsmakers made him the third choice at 5-2. He’s won his last two starts and finished in the money in four of his five career races. However, in his only graded stakes race, last November’s Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs, he finished fourth.

Pletcher said the Haskell is a step up from the Pegasus.

(B)ut he’s an enthusiastically training colt, he’s had three solid works and I couldn’t be more delighted with the way he’s coming into the race,” he said.

The second choice, at 2-1, is Bob Baffert’s Mucho Gusto. He’s finished in the money in all seven starts and has won his last two races, a pair of Grade III stakes at Santa Anita. In last month’s Affirmed Stakes, jockey Joseph Talamo took him wide in the final turn to rally and win by 2-1/2 lengths.

Mucho Gusto will break from the fifth gate.

“Maximum Security is definitely the best horse in the race, but I like where we drew,” Baffert said. “From there Joe can play the break and keep him in the clear. My horse has speed.”

Other Entries
The field includes a couple of other Triple Crown starters. Joevia, a Greg Sacco-trained colt who finished third in last month’s Belmont Stakes, starts from the second gate with morning line odds of 10-1. Also at 10-1 is Everfast, a Dale Romans-trained horse who has finished in the money just four times in 12 races. The shorter distance should serve him well. While he finished seventh in last month’s 1-1/2-mile Belmont, he was second three weeks before in the 1-3/16-mile Preakness Stakes.

The other starters are Spun to Run, trained by Juan Carlos Guerrero, and Bethlehem Road, trained by Dee Curry. The 15-1 Spun to Run makes his stakes debut and hasn’t raced in nearly four months. At 20-1, Bethlehem Road won his first three races, but in his last race – the Grade III Ohio Derby – finished a distant fourth after getting bumped late.

PETA Puts Heat on Monmouth
Like most of the country, Monmouth Park in Oceanside, N.J. is under an excessive heat warning through the weekend. The post time forecast features a temperature of 95 degree – the expected high for the day and a heat index of 108.

Similar forecasts have prompted Saratoga to cancel its Saturday card. In Kentucky, Ellis Park canceled races for Friday and Saturday. On Friday, Ellis Park officials announced the state approved a plan for the Henderson track to run a make-up card on July 29. Ellis also could receive permission for additional days as well, track officials said.

Based on those and postponements elsewhere, PETA issued a statement Friday morning calling on Monmouth to call off racing Saturday. Forcing horses to endure the heat would be “extremely foolish and reckless,” Kathy Guillermo, the group’s senior vice president, said.

“This is the only way to protect Thoroughbreds from heat-related injuries, as New York, Maryland, and Pennsylvania tracks have already recognized,” she added. “If even one horse collapses, Monmouth officials should be held criminally liable for cruelty.”

Attempts to reach Monmouth Park officials for comment Friday were not successful.

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