OCEANPORT STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 3 | 1 1/16 MILES (TURF)
Mark Bacon and Diana Wells' Silver Max returned to the turf to capture his fourth graded victory in style by crossing the wire 5 ¼ lengths ahead of his next closest rival in Sunday's Grade 3, $170,000 Oceanport Stakes at Monmouth Park. The 4-1 third choice returned $10.80, $5.60 and $4 to his backers while picking up $90,000 to push him over the million dollar mark and leave him with $1,058,403 in lifetime earnings from a 20-9-5-1 career line.
The Dale Romans charge broke alertly, setting quick fractions of :23 ⅘, :47 and 1:09 ⅘ as he wired the field with ease. Silver Max only had a half-length lead through six-furlongs as last year's winner of this race, Tune Me In, tried to keep pace but ultimately faded to finish seventh.
"He's just a super quick horse that's capable of laying down some speedy fractions," Romans said. "He just keeps going and going. I only have one other horse in my barn that can match his easy, fluid stride -- and that's Little Mike."
Despite the swift fractions, Silver Max shook free from his competition around the far turn to widen his lead in the stretch, and by then it was a race for second. The four-year-old colt stopped the clock in 1:40 for the 1 1/16-mile test over the firm turf with Robby Albarado in the saddle.
"He broke great and I just held on; there wasn't much to it, " Albarado said. "I was able to get him nice and relaxed. There was no contention early which was good for him and he finished fast."
Howe Great got up for second and it was another 1 ¾ lengths back to Hudson Steele in third, who got up by a head over Change of Command. Decisive Moment, 5-2 favorite Swift Warrior, Tune Me In, Two Notch Road, General Logan and Hobbs rounded out the order of finish. Glass Art was scratched.
Silver Max needed six starts before breaking his maiden on Gulfstream Park's turf in January 2012 and after a well-beaten fifth in the Holy Bull on dirt, he switched back to turf with a gusto. His proceeded to set a six-race win streak beginning with a 3 ¾-length romp over allowance/optional claiming rivals at Gulfstream and he followed with a convincing 5 ½-length triumph in Keeneland's Transylvania Stakes.
Next came a 2 ¾-length, tour-de-force performance in the American Turf at Churchill Downs. Silver Max continued to humble the competition with a facile two-length win in the Arlington Classic and he won the Virginia Derby last July off a 6 ¾-length, track record-setting performance in the Oliver Stakes, completing a mile over Indiana Downs' turf in 1:33.88.
Silver Max's six-race win streak would come to an end when he made his first Grade 1 start in the Secretariat at Arlington Park on August 18, as he gave way in the stretch to finish fifth. The son of Badge of Silver would close out his three-year-old campaign with a disappointing ninth in the Shadewell Turf Mile at Keeneland in October.
He failed to regain his form when he made his 2013 debut in the Appleton at Gulfstream Park in March, finishing fifth, and then was fourth to Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill in May. The bay showed promise when running away with the Opening Verse Stakes by 9 ½ lengths over a sloppy Churchill Downs track in a race that was taken off the turf two starts back on June 1. He was exiting a third-place finish in the Cornhusker Handicap over a fast Prairie Meadows track at the end of last month.
Bred in Kentucky by Steve Snowden, Seth Lauffer and Will Lauffer, Silver Max was a $20,000 Fasig-Tipton July yearling. Produced by the Kissin Kris mare Kissin Rene, he is half-brother to stakes winner True Kiss. This is the extended family of Grade 1 winner and sire Yes It's True as well as Canadian champion and Grade 2 winner Kiss a Native.