Honor Code to Benefit from Public Workout

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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An Early Christmas for Horse Racing Fans

Handicapper Art ParkerBy Art Parker

If you play horses long enough you know it will happen. Unbeatable favorites adored by the public crashing to defeat on a major stage. Although the public was terribly disappointed in the defeat of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Travers Stakes the result of that race reminds us of something far more important that Saratoga being the graveyard of favorites. It reminds us that at anytime, anywhere, the very best can go down to defeat.
But racing can also do the opposite. A race may result in a possible champion emerging, or a result that propels a serious challenger forward.
This August has provided both scenarios. First was the defeat of the invincible American Pharoah, in a race restricted to his own generation. The others came earlier in the month.

 

A female watched and waited to pounce on a grouper of older males, representatives of the toughest division in the game. Beholder not only defeated a group of older men, but she embarrassed the hell out of them. And the field included the defending Breeders’ Cup Classic Champion. All Beholder did was crush her opponents in the Grade One Pacific Classic at Del Mar by eight lengths and did little more than let out a yawn. When this year is reviewed and one uses the words “dominate performance” they better have the reel running of Beholder at Del Mar.

The other race was actually the earliest in the month and it didn’t confirm a horse as a champion – even though it may play a major role in determining the champ of the male handicap division. Honor Code, who put on a clinic of how to run others down in the Met Mile, showed that he is a true closing machine in the Grade One Whitney. What else would one expect from a horse with blood bluer than B.B. King’s Greatest Hits Album?

 

Two years ago Honor Code showed us what he could do as a baby in New York. I prayed that he would stay healthy for the Derby – I was one that wanted him to win since the Derby was one of the few marquee races left unclaimed by the get of the great A.P. Indy. Honor Code missed most of his three year old year but has come back and demonstrated what a great horse he really is. Shug McGaughey has done a terrific job at getting this one back into racing and orchestrating what may be a championship year. If there has been a heart pounding, thrilling race this year it was the Whitney. Honor Code, who is a terrific stallion prospect, showed what a great sustained runner he is.

So the table is set. I hope these three go in the Breeder’s Classic. I feel safe in saying that American Pharoah and Honor Code will be there if they are both healthy. Beholder has a spot locked up because of her win at Del Mar, but The Breeders' Cup at Keenelandtrainer Dick Mandella hasn’t decided what he will do with his champion mare. Just imagine a Classic with American Pharoah showing the way with Beholder getting closer at the top of the stretch, and both of them hear the ground shake when Honor Code turns on the afterburners. Who will win? The fans of racing, that’s who. I just can’t imagine a better Classic.

 

It’s closer than you think. This year I hope it comes October 31st, just the way I envision it.