2024 Kentucky Derby Contenders: HONOR MARIE

The 150th Kentucky Derby (G1) is Saturday, May 4, at Churchill Downs, offering a record $5 million purse. The field is limited to 20 starters based on Derby qualifying points from dozens of prep races. 


Honor Marie

When Alan and Kerry Ribble went in search of a racehorse with Legion Bloodstock, they met with the group’s founder, Kyle Zorn, and said they wanted “a Saturday afternoon type horse.”

They were certainly not expecting a first Saturday afternoon in May type of horse in Honor Marie, who was purchased for $40,000 at the 2022 Keeneland September yearling sale.

But that’s what they got in the bay son of Honor Code, who first appeared on the Kentucky Derby radar with his 2023 victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and solidified that when he finished second to Catching Freedom in the Louisiana Derby (G2), earning 50 additional points to land at No. 13 on the leaderboard.

After the colt’s first race, in which he charged from last to overtake the front-running favorite in the shadow of the wire to win by a head, the Ribbles were so delighted with Honor Marie they bought out the other owners in their Legion Racing group.

Following a runner-up finish in an allowance, he earned his first graded stakes win, again coming from last to take the Kentucky Jockey Club at 1 1/16 miles around two turns at Churchill Downs.

The Kentucky Jockey Club, the colt’s final race as a freshman, was the first graded stakes win for trainer Whit Beckman, as well as the Ribbles. He returned to finish fifth in the Risen Star (G2) at the Fair Grounds behind the Chad Brown-trained Sierra Leone, then missed by a length when closing in the Louisiana Derby.

Honor Marie has been pretty much under the radar, never having been favored in any of his races, but Beckman thinks the colt’s experience at Churchill Downs could work to his benefit.

“Our horse wants every bit of 1 ¼ miles, and having won over this track going two turns, I’m pretty hopeful,” he said.


2024 Kentucky Derby Contenders Odds and Post Position: Honor Marie

Betting advice: He doesn’t have a triple figure speed figure, his jockey has yet to win a graded stakes, and his trainer only has one, but Honor Marie does fancy Churchill Downs and he’s won around two turns. Do not dismiss as a longshot to hit the board.

Post position: 7

Odds: 20/1

Jockey: Ben Curtis

Trainer: Whit Beckman

Owners Ribble Racing, LLC

Career record: 5-2-2-0

Career earnings: $526,175

Most recent race: Louisiana Derby, March 23 (2nd)

Top Equibase speed figure: 98

Pedigree: Honor Code-Dame Marie, by Smart Strike

Color: Bay

Running Style: Closer

Notes: Honor Marie flashed his liking for Churchill Downs on April 14, he breezed through opening splits of 12.40 and 24.80 seconds, passed his workmate Anthem King to cross the wire in 48.80 for the half-mile and galloped out 5 furlongs in 1:02.  “He did it the right way, easily,” Beckman said. “We didn’t want to do a ton this week and he seemed to do it well … Beckman may be the lone descendant of the D. Wayne Lukas training tree not to use white bridles. As he explained, “I didn’t want to have to wash the bridles every day.” … Honor Code came by his name simply enough – a blend of his sire and dam’s names – but the Ribbles chose it because they had seen Dame Marie run and they have a granddaughter named Marie.


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