Honor Code to Benefit from Public Workout

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But will he get the Classic he wants?

By ART PARKER

Honor Code ran in last week’s Grade II Kelso Handicap at Belmont as trainer Shug McGaughey said it was a better prep than the Jockey Club Gold Cup. One couldn‘t help but wonder why Shug was making that move. Was Honor Code not at his best? Why take the best older male in the country and run for a paltry $400,000 instead of a $1,000,000?

It looks like Shug had a plan and stuck to it. The connections of Honor Code are far more concerned about winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic than the Jockey Club. It’s not just because the money in the Classic is enough to sink a ship. My speculation is that a win in the Classic, added to the exemplary record of Honor Code, escalates his value in the breeding shed even more. Honor Code is a great stallion prospect. He is a true blue blood. His future value increases greatly with a win in the Classic accompanied by the footnote of beating a Triple Crown winner in American Pharoah. All of this makes the $1,000,000 Jockey Club purse look like peanuts.

The Breeders' Cup at KeenelandIt was pretty clear to me when the field in the Kelso reached the half mile pole. Castellano had Honor Code on the rail, in the slop. At most tracks the rail is a terrible place to be on in the mud, but Castellano had the big guy down there for about half the race. Why didn’t he move Honor Code away from the rail when he was in his usual last position of running at the back of the field? About midway in the turn Castellano moved Honor Code out away from the rail and then before entering the stretch moved him very wide. When you are wide at Belmont in the turn you lose much more ground than you do elsewhere. Once he was straight Honor Code was way out in the center of the track and much farther back than normal.

If you play the game long enough you learn that all horses are not always intended for a big effort. Often horses are getting a little schooling. Often horses are in need of a race that will help assure an overall successful campaign. There is an old saying, something like, “A race is worth three or four workouts.” There could be any number of reasons why Shug put his star in the Kelso instead of the Jockey Club. As far as I’m concerned he was not out to win the Kelso. It was just a race that intended to help Honor Code in another way.

I try not to become a big fan of any horse, but Honor Code is an exception. I’m hoping Shug’s plan works. I hope that Honor Code is as fit as a fiddle on the day of the Classic. But as time marches on things begin to look more difficult for the son of A.P. Indy. In early August a good horse named Moreno was retired. Just before the end of September Bayern was retired. Then came the news that trainer Todd Pletcher was running Liam’s Map in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, not the Classic. All of this is not good for Honor Code. It appears that all speed that can compromise American Pharoah has disappeared. An unchallenged American Pharoah can make the Classic look like the Preakness or the Belmont.

There is no doubt that Honor Code is an exceptional horse and a closing machine, but the pace scenario of the Classic looks to be totally against him as of this point. Beholder looks to have the best shot at beating American Pharoah because there is no doubt she will probably get first run at the Triple Crown winner.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 12-time qualifier to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He recently won a $24,000 package into the 2016 Kentucky Derby Betting Championship. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is also a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program. He is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

Comments

  1. David Juffet says:

    If Beholder fires she’s the horse to beat. Honor Code should get up for 2nd. I believe AP is over the top and will be off the board.

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