April 1 (UPI) -- Another weekend, another round of upsets on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
In Florida and in Dubai, favorites continued to tumble, leaving the field wide open for newcomers to surface in the coming weekend's big round of qualifying races.
Here's how things went with five weeks to go before the 145th Run for the Roses:
The Florida Derby
There wasn't a whole lot of action in the $1 million Grade I Xpressbet.com Florida Derby as Maximum Security jumped out to the lead, set a controlled pace and never faced a serious challenge, winning by 3 1/2 lengths at odds of nearly 5-1. Bodexpress, at 71-1, was second, another 3 1/4 lengths to the good of Code of Honor, the Fountain of Youth winner. The favorite, Hidden Scroll, never got going after being boxed in behind the winner in the first turn and faded to finish sixth.
Maximum Security, a New Year's Day colt who won't actually be 3 until 10 days after the Kentucky Derby, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.84 with Luis Saez riding for trainer Jason Servis. He remains undefeated but his three previous races, all at Gulfstream Park, were well short of Derby-prep caliber. The first was a claiming race in which he could have been -- but wasn't -- bought for $16,000.
Servis himself didn't seem totally sold on Maximum Security as a Kentucky Derby threat while reporting on Sunday morning he exited the Florida Derby safe and sound.
"Candidly, if you read between the lines, there had to be a reason why I ran him for $16,000," the trainer said. "Am I glad I didn't lose him? Hell, yeah. Is he training good and sound? Yes. But there was a reason why I ran him for $16,000."
He said he will continue to train Maximum Security in South Florida while his owners, Gary and Mary West, decide on plans. The Wests also own Game Winner, who stands No. 10 on the Derby leaderboard after finishing second in his division of the Rebel at Oaklawn Park.
Code of Honor has plenty of points on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard to get into the big race. Bourbon Honor, who finished fourth in the Florida Derby, has 31 points, which could put him on the bubble. Hidden Scroll won't make the field but could be a dangerous Preakness candidate.
The UAE Derby
Pending results of the four remaining big-points races, the point standings for the Kentucky Derby field are topped by Plus Que Parfait, who totally reversed his poor and declining winter form at Fair Grounds to post a dramatic victory in Saturday's $2.5 million Group 2 UAE Derby at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai.
Plus Que Parfait, a Point of Entry ridgling, came to the desert as the winner of only one of his six previous starts. He was sixth in the Grade III LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds in January, then 13th in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes over the same track in February. At that point, trainer Brendan Walsh, who earlier in his career worked for Godolphin in Dubai, decided a change of scenery couldn't hurt his horse.
In fact, it seemed to help. A lot. Plus Que Parfait, with Jose Ortiz getting his first-ever ride in Dubai, saved ground into the turn, shot through an opening between horses in the stretch run and carried on strongly to win by 3/4 length over fellow American import Gray Magician. Manguzi was third, another neck back. Plus Que Parfait added 100 points to the 4 he accrued by finishing second in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club last fall. That puts him atop the list.
While there was no clear favorite in the UAE Derby, the field did include runners from Japan and Europe as well as several hot local contenders.
"This has been the plan for quite a while and his owners are based out here," Walsh said. "We said if things didn't work out to get to the Kentucky Derby (in U.S. races), then we would come here. He had a bad day the last time he ran but we didn't hold it against him and it has worked out. Brilliant."
Walsh said the colt will ship back to Kentucky and head for Churchill Downs, possibly with a stop at Keeneland.
Gray Magican was awarded 40 points in Dubai, making his total 41 and likely qualifying for Louisville. But trainer Peter Miller said it's "not likely" he will contest the Run for the Roses.
The only non-upset result of the weekend came in Japan, where Der Flug remained undefeated in winning the Fukuryu Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse by 1 1/2 lengths from Master Fencer. The race was the last of four in the "Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby" and the 40 points earned by Der Flug put him atop that list.
However, the Behkabad colt is not nominated to the Kentucky Derby. If he is not added to the nominees list Monday for $6,000, Churchill Downs could elect to offer the Japanese spot in the Derby starting gate to Master Fencer, who has the most points of any currently nominated contender.
The April 6 schedule finds three races offering points on the 100-40-20-10 scale -- the $1 million Grade II Blue Grass at Keeneland, the $750,000 Grade II Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and the $1 million Grade I Santa Anita Derby.
At Chelmsford City in England, the Cardinal Handicap winds up the "European Road to the Kentucky Derby" series with the winner likely to have first all on a spot in the Derby.