Godolphin's homebred Maxfield emphatically concluded an 11-race career Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs by taking the $749,334 Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare (G1) over Happy Saver. As planned since earlier this fall, Maxfield now retires and joins the stallion ranks at Darley at Jonabell Farm for 2022.
Friday's victory, the 4-year-old son of Street Sense 's second at the grade 1 level after first capturing the 2019 Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland as a juvenile, improved his Churchill Downs record to 5-for-5. Four of those victories have come in graded stakes.
His affinity for the Churchill strip was on display Friday, as was his adaptability. With little speed in the Clark other than 3-year-old Midnight Bourbon, Maxfield, without much coaxing from jockey Jose Ortiz, grabbed the position he needed, racing right behind the pacesetter.
So as Midnight Bourbon set a comfortable pace with fractions of :23.83 and :48, Maxfield always had him in his sights. Then heading into the second of two turns, Maxfield was poised to dial up the pressure. He pushed Midnight Bourbon into six furlongs in 1:11.70 and was poised to take command.
Making his first start against older horses, Midnight Bourbon proved stubborn until the final furlong, when Maxfield surged to the front.
With approximately a sixteenth of a mile remaining, Happy Saver pulled alongside Maxfied's outside flank, but Maxfield responded to fend him off. He scored by a half-length, completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.06.
"I knew I put Midnight Bourbon away and switched (urging) to my left hand, and he gave me another gear when he saw Happy Saver coming," Ortiz said.
Maxfield paid $4.40 to win as the second choice in the wagering behind Midnight Bourbon, who was narrowly favored, also at 6-5 odds.
The victory was the first in the Clark for trainer Brendan Walsh and Ortiz, who traveled from New York for the ride.
Maxfield notched his eighth victory Friday to go along with two seconds and a third. The Clark advanced his earnings to just over $2 million. He is now the richest horse Walsh has trained.
"I'm just delighted he got the job done and went out on a winning note," the trainer said. "This is a very prestigious race. And it was nice, you know, that he could win it and hopefully he can go on to have a great stud career.
"But he's just been an unbelievable horse. I can't say enough about the horse. I mean, he's been fantastic from the get-go. He's come back from an injury. He's been a great learning experience for all of us. And, you know, he's helped me get out of bed in the mornings—a lot—in the last two years, and it'll be hard to find another one like him."
Michael Banahan, Godolphin USA's director of bloodstock, said running in the Clark rather than the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) became the year-end goal when Godolphin had the Brad Cox-trained Essential Quality for the Classic. Essential Quality ran third behind Knicks Go and Medina Spirit.
"And we ended up having a big win here tonight with the Clark, which is also a very prestigious race," he said. "A great result for Brendan and his team, who have nursed the horse through some ups and downs over the last (two) years."
Maxfield missed both the 2019 TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (G1) and the 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) due to injuries.
"It's just been a great team effort to get the horse back and keep him at that level," said Banahan.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Happy Saver, winner of last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1), didn't switch leads down the stretch but still finished with energy to check in three lengths clear of graded stakes winner Midnight Bourbon in third.
"He ran a huge race," jockey Tyler Gaffalione said of Happy Saver. "Hats off to Maxfield who was best today and ran great."
Maxfield is one of five foals out of the winning Bernardini mare Velvety, though Maxfield is her sole winner from three to race. She also has a 2-year-old Medaglia d'Oro filly named Loved and foaled an Uncle Mo colt this year. Velvety is out of the multiple graded stakes-winning Caress, making Velvety a half sister to grade 1 stakes winner and sire Sky Mesa (Pulpit).
Maxfield will stand for a $40,000 fee next year.