Improbable Upsets Heavily Favored Maximum Security As He Rallies For 4 ½ Length Win In Grade I, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes



ARCADIA, Calif. (Sept. 26, 2020)–With his highly regarded stablemate pressured while a joint second between horses going to the far turn, Bob Baffert’s rapidly improving Improbale kicked into high gear from dead last and swept to an emphatic 4 ½ length score in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita, a key prep for the Grade I, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland Nov 7.

Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, Improbable got a mile and one eighth in 1:49.01 while notching his third consecutive Grade I victory.

Longshot Take the One O One, ridden by Jose Valdivia, Jr., set a solid pace while Maximum Security, regarded by many as the best horse in America, sat a joint second between Sleepy Eyes Todd and Midcourt, while Take the One O One opened up to a two length lead a quarter mile out, only to see the winner sweep by four-deep turning for home.

“I knew I was coming in here with two really good horses,” said Baffert, who collected his fourth Awesome Again win.  “Maximum Security was in that scrum and they were really running up close (together).  I saw Drayden, he knew what was happening, so he just sat back.  He rode a great race, he knew what was going on, he took his time, rode him with patience.

“He’s had good luck with this horse.  He loves this track.  He seems to be better in the gate here, that’s why we ran him here.  I hate to see my horses have to beat the other horse but ‘Max’ ran gallantly.  He fended off the speed, but the next one is the big one.  But today, it was all about Improbable.”

Owned by WinStar Farm, LLC, China Horse Club International, Ltd. and SF Racing, LLC, Improbable, fifth as the favorite behind Maximum Security in the 2019 Kentucky Derby and most recently a winner of the Grade I Whitney at Saratoga Aug. 1 and the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup at Santa Anita June 6, was off at 9-5 and paid $5.60, $2.40 and $2.10.

“The gate guy did a fabulous job with him, holding him still, he got out clean,” said Van Dyke, who has now won six races with Improbable, including the Hollywood Gold Cup.  “I was going to see what everyone else was gonna do, and they did what they did and I did what I did and it worked out good.”

With regard to his thoughts on the upcoming Breeders’ Cup Classic, Van Dyke took an introspective approach.  “I take it a day at a time and I’m grateful for this win.  He showed a different tactic today, which he showed before when he was two.  He used to come off the pace more than usual…He’s been training super, so I was just waiting for the stretch to come.

“It’s awesome, especially for Bob and the owners, everyone involved.  I’m grateful for the chance.  He’s gotten better and better.  He’s a great horse.”

With today’s win, Improbable, a 4-year-old colt by City Zip out of the A.P. Indy mare Rare Event, collected his fourth Grade I win and improved his overall mark to 14-7-3-0.  With the winner’s share of $180,000, he increased his earnings to $1,709,520.

Maximum Security, who became the only horse in Kentucky Derby history to be disqualified from victory for a racing infraction, had a six-race winning streak snapped in what was his third start for Baffert.  Pressured between horses throughout, he battled gamely for the place, finishing a half length in front of Midcourt.

Reunited with Luis Saez, who last rode him in the $20 million Saudi Cup three starts back on Feb. 29, Maximum Security was the 1-2 favorite in a field of five and paid $2.10 and $2.10.

“There was a lot of pressure along the way and he couldn’t get comfortable, but that’s how these races go,” said Saez.  “You win sometimes and don’t others.  The good thing is he pulled up pretty good, so let’s see how next time goes.  He was fighting at the end of the race, but we lost.”

Off at 12-1 with Victor Espinoza, Midcourt paid $2.40 to show.

Fractions on the race were 23.33, 46.36, 1:09.79 and 1:35.65.

The Awesome Again, named for the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner that was bred in Ontario, Canada by Frank Stronach and owned by his Stronach Stables, is a Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge Race qualifier, with the winner earning a fees-paid berth into the Grade I, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 7.