Silver Max goes gate-to-wire in Firecracker

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Silver Max returned from a seven-month layoff to win the Grade 2 Firecracker Stakes at Churchill Downs, leading all the way in a 1 1/2-length victory Saturday.

The 5-year-old owned by Mark Bacon and Dana Wells held off late rallies from Nikki's Sandcastle and Guy's Reward to cover the mile on turf in 1:34.21.

Ridden by Robby Albarado, Silver Max paid $4.60, $4 and $2.80 as the favorite in the field of eight. Nikki's Sandcastle returned $5.80 and $3.40, a nose ahead of Guy's Reward, who paid $4.

Silver Max's seasonal debut at the home track of trainer Dale Romans earned a seventh graded stakes win after he finished fourth behind Horse of the Year Wise Dan in last fall's Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita. His 12th victory in 24 career starts and winner's share of the $224,800 purse boosted his lifetime earnings to more than $1.9 million.

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