He’s stumbled. He’s been bumped. He was involved in the historic Kentucky Derby disqualification. And now the latest in the intriguing world of Code of Honor: Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez lost his whip in the stretch, but the chestnut colt would not be denied in cruising to victory in the $250,000 Dwyer (G3) at Belmont Park.
The 3 ½-length win for the William Farish-owned chestnut colt announced the re-emergence of Code of Honor as a 3-year-old to be reckoned with in the summer season.
“He’s a pretty classy horse,’’ said Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. “Hopefully, we have a horse to come back with and we’ll see what happens down the road.”
After such a crazy Triple Crown season, and with Kentucky Derby (G1) winner by DQ Country House and Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Sir Winston sidelined indefinitely, why not start keeping tabs on Code of Honor?
His resume — three wins, two seconds and one third from seven career starts for earnings of $1,215,820 — is even more impressive than it appears. After winning his first start, Code of Honor stumbled at the start of the Champagne (G1), dropped 10 lengths back, but still finished second. This year, he bumped with a rival in the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Pak and finished fourth, then won the Fountain of Youth (G2) before again bumping with a rival but still running third in the Florida Derby (G1). He finished third in the Kentucky Derby (moved up to second after Maximum Security was DQ’d from first to 17th for interference).
McGaughey planned a break if Code of Honor didn’t win the Derby. So the colt missed the Preakness and Belmont, and slowly worked his way back into form at Belmont Park. His talent was on full display in the one-mile Dwyer, the first of five graded-stakes at Saturday’s Stars & Stripes Racing Festival.
In a field of six, Code of Honor ($4.30) was sent off as the even-money favorite, and was content to sit back in last place through the first three-quarters of a mile. Then Velazquez guided his colt outside for a clear run and Code of Honor responded – even as Velazquez dropped his whip in the stretch. Winning time was 1:35.81.
“I think that’s exactly the way he wants to run, just drop back out of it a bit and, depending on the pace, making one run like that,’’ said McGaughey. “I thought he was a pretty easy winner today.”
What lies ahead isn’t set, but McGaughey is headed, as usual, to Saratoga, and says he’s considering both the Jim Dandy (G2) on July 27 and the Travers (G1) on Aug. 24.
“That’s the goal, but we’ll have to see how it all plays out,’’ he said.
Maximum Security, the 1-9 beaten favorite in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park on June 16 in his first start since the Derby, could run next in the Haskell Invitational (G1) on July 20, and perhaps regain some of his luster with a win. But Code of Honor, a son of Noble Mission, out of Reunited, is certainly a colt to watch.
As of Sunday, the list or probables for the Haskell are Maximum Security, King for a Day, Joevia, Mucho Gusto, Chilly in Charge and Spun to Run. Possibles include Everfast, Harvey Wallbanger, Laughing Fox, Math Wizard, Tax and Lexitonian.
Other results from Belmont over the weekend:
Catholic Boy never seemed settled during the running of the $700,000 Suburban (G2), and Centennial Farms’ Preservationist ($9.90) took charge at the top of the stretch for a 4 ½-length victory over the 3-5 favorite. Winning time for the 1 ¼ miles was 1:59.99. Pavel was third in the 11-horse field. For trainer Jimmy Jerkens, it was his third Suburban victory, having won in 2015 and 2016 with Effinex. Said Catholic Boy’s jockey Javier Castellano: “He didn’t relax in the first part of the race, and I think that’s what cost me the race.” A rematch between the top two finishers could take place in the Woodward (G1) at the Spa on Aug. 31.
Promises Fulfilled ($3.30), owned by Robert Baron, led throughout and won the $300,000 John A Nerud (G2), a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race for the BC Sprint (G1) on November. Ridden by Luis Saez, Promises Fulfilled won by 4 ½ lengths over Warrior’s Club. Trainer Dale Romans indicated he might consider the BC Mile (G1).
The Turf Triple series is off and running, with Concrete Rose ($7.80) taking the $750,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) and Henley’s Joy ($43.60) pulling off an upset at 20-1 odds in the $1 million Belmont Derby (G1).
Owned by Bloom Racing Stable, Henley’s Joy overtook Social Paranoia on the outside and won by three-quarters of a length under Jose Lezcano. It was the first graded-stakes win for the 3-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy.
In the Oaks, trainer Rusty Arnold hoped he hadn’t given Concrete Rose too much time off, but no worries as his 3-yer-old filly took the lead at the top of the stretch and won by 2 ¾ lengths over Aidan O’Brien-trained Just Wonderful. “Everyone had run and we hadn’t run in two months and a couple of days so I was a little worried,’’ said Arnold of his filly who now has four wins in five starts. “Sometimes the plan works, sometimes it doesn’t. This one did “ Newspaperofrecord, the favorite expected to be in the front of the pack, was rank and rated back by rider Julien Leparoux (he finished ninth).
The next stop on the newly created Turf Triple series is Aug. 2 for fillies in the $750,000 Saratoga Oaks; and Aug. 4 for males in the $1 million Saratoga Derby (G1).
On Friday at Belmont: Royal Charlotte ($5), trained by Chad Brown, drew away for a four-length win over Cookie Dough in the $150,000 Victory Ride (G3) for 3- year-old fillies on Friday at Belmont in her graded stakes debut, running her record to 4-for-4 (next up could be The Test at Saratoga on Aug 3).
Elsewhere around the U.S.:
At Delaware Park:
Mark Grier’s Eons ($10.40) won the $200,000 Kent Stakes (G3), defeating favorite Award Winner by a neck on Saturday. A winner in four of six races, Eons could race next in Saratoga. … Jaywalk ($4.80), the 2-year-old filly champion, won her first race of 2019 by taking the $300,000 Delaware Oaks (G3). Trained by John Servis and owned by D.J. Stable and Cash is King, Jaywalk won by nine lengths over 4-5 favorite Fashion Faux Pas. … Morsches Stable’s Gentle Ruler ($9.40) won the $200,000 Robert G. Dick Memorial (G3) for her first graded stakes win and fourth victory in a row for trainer Ian Wilkes.
At Los Alamitos:
Marley’s Freedom, the 3-5 favorite, won the $200,000 Great Lady M (G2) for the second year in a row for Hall of Famer trainer Bob Baffert. A 5-year-old daughter of Blame, Marley’s Freedom won by 1 ¾ lengths with Drayden Van Dyke aboard on Saturday. Next up for the mare with nine wins in 18 career starts is a return trip to Saratoga to try and win the Ballerina (G1) on Aug. 24 for the second year in a row.
At Prairie Meadows:
Sir Anthony ($18.80) rallied on the outside and won the $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (G3) by a neck over Dark Vader on Friday … Lady Apple ($4), a daughter of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, came through as the favorite and won the $200,000 Iowa Oaks for 3-year-old fillies by a half-length over Ulele.
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.