ELMONT, N.Y. – Multiple Grade 1-winner Code of Honor, trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey for W.S. Farish, rallied from off-the-pace to win his seasonal debut in Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Westchester, a 1/16-mile test for older horses at Belmont Park.
The Kentucky homebred, a 4-year-old son of Noble Mission, won four-of eight starts last season including a score in the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers and a dynamic effort in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup when elevated to victory over Vino Rosso.
Prendimi blasted out of the gate to mark the opening quarter-mile in 22.88 seconds with Payne tracking from second position on the inside and Joevia and Senior Investment stalking from a wide position.
Code of Honor, the 6-5 mutuel favorite, was patiently handled by Hall of Famer John Velazquez in fifth position through the early running while racing outside and clear of trouble. Joel Rosario sent Endorsed, the 3-1 second choice, with a bold inside move down the back straight and took command into the turn with the half-mile clocked in a swift 46.73 on the muddy main track.
Endorsed maintained his lead through the turn but Code of Honor, under confident handling by Velazquez, angled outside of horses and into the clear for the stretch run. Endorsed dug in gamely, but Code of Honor would not be denied a half-length win in a final time of 1:42.39.
Velazquez said he was impressed by the impressive effort from Code of Honor.
“He showed up big today,” said Velazquez. “I had to go around those two horses around the three-eighths pole and the other horse [Endorsed] had a really good lead. I didn’t want to ask too much of my horse, but he did what he needed to win today. I just wanted to hand ride him and he was good enough to get there.
“He’s stronger. He looks a lot stronger,” added Velazquez. “He grew up and so hopefully we can have a good year.”
McGaughey said he was pleased with the effort and that he could point Code of Honor to the Grade 1, $500,000 Runhappy Metropolitan slated for July 4 at Belmont.
“I think he beat a pretty good horse in Endorsed. They were pretty far in front of the rest of them. Coming off that long layoff, I was very pleased,” said McGaughey. “I figured he’d like the track. Sometimes when it’s like that and its open, anything can win, but I think the two best horses ran one-two.
“We’ll have to see how he comes out of it,” continued McGaughey. “I don’t want to do too much with him; running back in the Metropolitan is an option; I’m not ruling it out.”
Forewarned rallied to complete the trifecta, six lengths in arrears of Endorsed. Rounding out the order of finish were Joevia, Payne, Mihos, Monongahela, Senior Investment and Prendimi. Wait for It and Backsideofthemoon were scratched.
Code of Honor, who also captured the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in a sparkling sophomore campaign that saw him elevated to second in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, continued his good run of form at Belmont, which includes a victory in the Grade 3 Dwyer on July 6 and a runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Champagne as a juvenile.
Code of Honor banked $55,000 in victory while improving his record to 6-2-1 from 11 starts. He paid $4.50 for a $2 win ticket.
Live racing resumes Sunday with a 10-race card highlighted by the $80,000 First Defence for 4-year-olds and up going seven furlongs on the Widener turf in Race 9 at 5:36 p.m. Eastern. First post is 1:15 p.m.
NYRA Press Release
Photo: Code of Honor. Credit: NYRA/Coglianese Photos