By Duane Fonseca
Godolphin handler Brendan Walsh's hunch of his first Grade One success being achieved in enthralling fashion came true Saturday after Maxfield showed great heart and produced a breathtaking performance to win the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.
Godolphin's homebred son of Street Sense was a class apart as he annihilated the 10 runner field with a looping run under Jose Ortiz in the extended mile event on a track deemed fast. At the finish, Maxfield was a good five and a half lengths ahead of Gouverneur Morris, who in turn was a half-length in front of Enforceable in third.
Victory in the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series “Win and You're In” race for the Juvenile division, means Maxfield has earned his free berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on 2 November.
A thrilled Walsh said: “Obviously, we'll see how he comes out of this (before a decision on the Breeders' Cup Juvenile-G1), but if you don't bring him, who do you bring?
“I always knew (winning my first Grade 1 race) would be special but to win it here for these people (Godolphin) it's extra special. Fantastic. Indescribable. “
It was Maxfield's second career success in as many starts, having shed his maiden status on his debut in a mile contest at Churchill Downs on 14 September.
In the Futurity, Maxfield found himself back in the pack. However, Ortiz got him to save ground down the backstretch and he then wound his way through the field to take the lead with a looping run approaching the far turn. He built comfortably and steadily thereafter to win with five and a half lengths to spare.
“He's a very special horse,” said Walsh. “I've been around a lot of good horses, and good horses breathe different air. I think this horse is right there. I thought he might take a run or two to break his maiden, but we knew he was a super-talented horse. He overcame a lot the first day we ran him, and he came out of that race doing so good. To come back in three weeks for a horse that's only run once is a big ask, but he answers every question."
Winning rider Ortiz added: “He's a very nice horse and he's very smart. He broke slow first time, took dirt and came running at Churchill. Today, he did the same thing. Broke a bit slow, relaxed and when I asked him to go, he was there for me the whole time.”
Elsewhere in the United States, another Godolphin homebred, Final Frontier clinched victory in the fourth running of the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Shekky Shebaz placed second a length and three fourths in arrears.
In what was a truly good day for Godolphin Stateside, Alms won the Grade 3 Matron Stakes over six furlongs under Jose Lezcano for trainer Mike Stidham. At the wire, Alms was a length and a quarter ahead of Time Limit.