FIRECRACKER S. | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP | GRADE 2 | ONE-MILE (TURF)
Silver Max, making his first since finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Mile last November, turned in a trademarked front-running triumph on Saturday in the Grade 2, $224,800 Firecracker at Churchill Downs.
Hustled out of the gate by Robby Albarado, the 6-5 favorite maintained steady lead of more than a length throughout the one-mile test contested on firm turf. Setting a swift pace of :23 3/5, :46 4/5, and 1:09 4/5, Silver Max held sway through the stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths in a time of 1:34 1/5 and paid $4.60.
"Obviously he did his patented bust-away-from-there and went to the front," Albarado said. "He was cruising along there pretty good and had his ears forward the whole way so I knew he was content with his cruising mode. He's got such a high cruising speed and that's his asset. He's going so fast that they burn themselves up trying to get to them."
Owned by Mark Bacon and Dana Wells, Silver Max is trained by Dale Romans.
"It was unbelievable. It was his first race back and when that horse (Regally Ready) ran up to him on turn I was thinking that maybe if I didn't have him tight enough that the horse might get by him. But he's just class and with these class athletes you can't mess 'em up; I just need to stay out of his way and he'll get the job done for me," Romans said.
"This win means a lot because these are good people. Mark (Bacon) and I have been good friends since high school and it's a lot of fun to win for them," Romans added. "I told Mark that we were friends before we bought the horse for $20,000 and now we're really good friends."
Nikki's Sandcastle nosed out the Romans-trained Guys Reward for second, with Villandry a neck farther back in fourth. Free World, Valentino Beauty, Regally Ready, and Joha rounded out the order of finish.
Runner-up in his first five starts, all at two, Silver Max went on to win seven of his next eight, including six in succession, at age three in 2012. Five of the latter were in stakes: the Transylvania at Keeneland, the American Turf at Churchill, the Arlington Classic, the Oliver at Indiana Downs, and the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs.
Last season as a four-year-old, Silver Max won four stakes, including the off-the-turf Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland over dual Horse of the Year Wise Dan, Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga, and Oceanport at Monmouth Park. He also captured the Opening Verse at Churchill. The five-year-old's record now stands at 24-12-5-1, $1,913,598.
Bred in Kentucky by Steve Snowden, Seth Lauffer and Will Lauffer, Silver Max is by Badge of Silver and was reared by the Kissin Kris mare Kissin Rene, who has also produced the stakes-winning True Kiss, who in turn produced the stakes-placed Tiz Kissable.
Kissin Rene, a daughter of 15-time stakes winner Monique Rene, is herself a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Prince of the Mt. Monique Rene's descendants also include Grade 1-winning sire Yes It's True and Canadian champion Kiss a Native.