Tammy Fox had been telling trainer Dale Romans all along she thought Silver Max was going to one day shake off his immaturity and add himself to their stable's growing list of graded stakes winners.
When Fox hopped on the bay colt two days before Friday's running of the Grade III, $100,000 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland, she had a strong inkling she was going to have the satisfaction of saying "I told you so" to her longtime partner.
"I got on him two days ago and ... he's just matured and gotten so much better," Fox said. "I felt a difference."
The difference between Silver Max and his five rivals Friday was equally as apparent to the 23,986 in attendance for the opening day of Keeneland's Spring Meet as the son of Badge of Silver coasted to a 5½ -length triumph in gate-to-wire fashion.
In addition to giving co-owner and Louisville resident Mark Bacon his first stakes win, Silver Max also earned the first black-type victory of his nine-race career. The colt tested his connection's patience when he finished second five consecutive times to start his career, but got over the hump when he broke his maiden going a mile on the Gulfstream Park turf on Jan. 13.
The fact Romans felt confident enough to put Silver Max in the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 29 spoke to the ability they thought he held. While he ran fifth that day on the main track, Silver Max showed his home was indeed on turf when he came back to win an allowance test at Gulfstream by 3¾ lengths on March 9.
"I was getting on him from Day One and I always told Dale he's going to be a nice horse, just take your time with him," said Fox, assistant and partner to Romans. "I said he will win a stakes somewhere down the line. When we worked him at Saratoga on the grass you could tell there was a big improvement from the dirt to the grass there. He seems like a much better grass horse."
As has been the case in most of his previous starts, Silver Max broke on top from post No. 6 on Friday and was running free up front with State of Play settling in second through fractions of 23.46 and 47.37 seconds.
The open-length lead Silver Max established down the backside under jockey Robby Albarado did not have a dent put into it as the field rounded the final turn and settled in for the stretch run. Under only mild urging, Silver Max — sent off at odds of 3-to-1 — kicked into another gear, hitting the wire in 1:41.81 over a course rated firm for the 11⁄16-mile distance.
"It's unbelievable, it's my first stakes win," said Bacon, who co-owns Silver Max along with Dana Wells. "He has kept improving since his first race. Dale has had a lot of confidence in him and that gave us a lot of confidence in him."
Travel Advisory closed from the rear of the pack to get second while stakes winner State of Play held for third, 2¼ lengths clear of 2-to-1 favorite Monastic.
"He raced pretty well around the first part of the race, then around the second turn he kind of stopped running," said John Velazquez, jockey for State of Play. "When he came down the lane, he came back and ran again. It was strange."
Fox and Bacon said it is still to be determined where Silver Max will run next, but remaining on turf is almost guaranteed for his immediate future.
"I think he's found a home on grass," Bacon said.