Godolphin’s talented Grade I winning-homebred Maxfield made a triumphant return to the races Saturday at Churchill Downs when he rallied in deep stretch to beat Ny Traffic by one length in the 23rd running of the $150,000 Matt Winn presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade III) for 3-year-olds.
“Maxfield is thinking Derby,” exclaimed Travis Stone, the voice of Churchill Downs when the dark bay or brown colt crossed the finish line to remain unbeaten in three starts.
Maxfield clocked 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:43.05, earned $88,350 and collected 50 points as part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve” series. The Winn, which offered points on a scale of 50-20-10-5 to the Top 4 finishers, was added to an extension of the series when the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve was rescheduled to Sept. 5.
“We were really anxious to see this one,” said winning trainer Brendan Walsh. “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 two-year-old.”
Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Maxfield was rated in eighth down the backstretch but was only three lengths behind pacesetter Celtic Striker, who led the field of 10 through quarter-mile fractions of :23.98 and :48.21. Pneumatic and Ny Traffic, who pressed the pace most of the way, took over leaving the final turn, but it was Maxfield who was finding his best stride. Maxfield ranged into contention with a wide move down the middle of the track, drew even with the leaders with a furlong left to run and inched clear in the final yards for the handy win.
“The start is a key part of the race,” Ortiz said. “Last time I worked him out of the gate at Keeneland he worked better. He’s really matured a lot. If you can keep breaking like he did today and be in a spot like he did, he’s going to be a really nice horse.”
Maxfield had been on the sidelines since his 5 ½-length score in the $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland in early October. He was one of the likely favorites for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but was forced to scratch because of a minor issue in his right front leg.
Now a winner of $442,762 and 60 points overall on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, the Matt Winn was Maxfield’s first start of the year.
“He came off the layoff today going 1 1/16 miles and Brendan did a really good job to get him fit so I don’t see a mile-and-a-quarter being a problem at all.”
Maxfield returned $4.60, $3.80 and $2.80 as the 6-5 favorite. Ny Traffic, ridden by Paco Lopez, returned $4.40 and $3 and finished three-quarters of a length in front of Pneumatic who paid $2.80 to show under Ricardo Santana Jr. Attachment Rate was another 3 ¼ lengths back in fourth.
Necker Island, Celtic Striker, Shake Some Action, Informative, Flap Jack and Major Fed completed the order of finish. Mystic Guide and Crypto Cash were scratched.
“Jose gave him a great ride,” Walsh said. “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.”
Maxfield, a son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense out of the Bernardini mare Velvety, was bred in Kentucky by his owners.
The Matt Winn is named in honor of the famed Churchill Downs president that served as the driving force in the development of the Downs and his beloved Kentucky Derby