US RACING: Maxfield wins Grade One event at Churchill Downs

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More than six months since Maxfield became a Grade 1 winner with an eye-catching stretch drive in Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity (G1), he delivered again to win Churchill Downs’ Grade 1, US$150,000 Matt Winn Stakes in a similarly impressive performance.

Guided patiently by jockey Jose Ortiz, Maxfield split horses near the top of the stretch, then emerged quickly from the back of a compact lead pack to mow down dueling leaders late in a key stop on the 2020 Kentucky Derby trail.

A postponement of the Run for the Roses until Sept. 5 allowed Maxfield the luxury of time once he missed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and required surgery to remove a bone chip from his ankle. The Street Sense colt looked no worse for the wear Saturday, finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.05.

“Brendan did a fantastic job getting him ready off the layoff,” Ortiz said. “I don’t think a mile and a quarter will be a problem for him.”

A Godolphin homebred trained by Brendan Walsh, Maxfield improved to 3-for-3 and collected 50 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby. In most years, that’s enough for a starting spot.

Runner-up Ny Traffic (20), third-place Pneumatic (10) and Attachment Rate (5) in fourth also advanced up the Derby leaderboard with the Wynn kicking off an extended Derby trail that will also include the June 20 Belmont Stakes, now a logical target for Maxfield.

It wasn’t all smooth going for Saturday’s star. He was fanned wide entering the first turn before settling in eighth of 12 up the back stretch. And as he commenced a winning rally in the stretch, Ny Traffic, ridden aggressively by Paco Lopez, appeared to veer out, looking to strip some of Maxfield’s momentum.

Neither bit of traffic trouble kept Maxfield from making his ascent back up the Kentucky Derby lists. Ortiz said that may have been because his colt, known to leave the gate slow at age 2, got away much faster Saturday.

“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,” the jockey said. “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.”