OCEANPORT, N.J. – It’s not so much a new and improved version of Code of Honor who will make his return to the races in Saturday’s Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin Stakes, trainer Shug McGaughey said, as it is a more mature one.
Idle since a fifth-place finish on Jan. 23 in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, Code of Honor heads a field of seven for the $250,000 Iselin Stakes, the feature on Monmouth Park’s 14-race card that day.
With those seven months off, McGaughey said the 2019 Kentucky Derby runner-up and Travers Stakes winner is now all grown up.
“We gave him a good amount of time off and he has come back strong and he has been training really well at Saratoga,” he said. “I’m looking forward to running him on Saturday.
“He has grown up quite a bit physically with the time off. He was a late foal (May 23) so we were always kind of playing catch up with him. I think he is all caught up now.”
The Kentucky-bred Code of Honor, now 5, looms large over his six rivals for the mile and a sixteenth Iselin Stakes. He has won two Grade 1 races (the 2019 Travers and the 2019 Jockey Club Gold Cup) and five of his six career wins have been in graded stakes. Overall, the W. S. Farish homebred is 6-for-16 lifetime with four seconds and two thirds. His career earnings stand at $2,731,320.
“It wasn’t a body maturity thing with him,” said McGaughey. “He was always doing fine. Being a late foal it just took him a little time to catch up. That’s the best way I can explain it.”
Code of Honor’s 2020 campaign started with a victory in the Grade 3 Westchester Stakes but failed to produce another win in four races after that. But he was third in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, second in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap and second in Grade 1 Clark Stakes.
“It wasn’t a frustrating year, but it wasn’t exactly what we hoped for after it started out with a win,” said McGaughey. “That’s why I’m looking forward to running him again with the time off we gave him.
“He was so close last year. Maybe this year will be the year for him.”
A son of Noble Mission-Reunited by Dixie Union, Code of Honor has proven he can run well fresh, so McGaughey doesn’t have any concerns about the lengthy layoff.
“He won his first start. And when he was a 3-year-old he ran in the Dwyer on July 6 at Belmont and then didn’t run again until the Travers on Aug. 24,” McGaughey said. “So I think fresh is good for him.”
Code of Honor finished third in the 2019 Kentucky Derby but was elevated to second with the disqualification of Maximum Security. He was also second but placed first due to interference in 2019 Jockey Cup Gold Cup after finishing a nose behind Vino Rosso.
Paco Lopez, well on his way to an eighth Monmouth Park riding title, has the mount.
The rest of the Iselin field consists of West Will Power, Croatian, I’m a G Six, Magic Michael, Phat Man and Brice.
Monmouth Park Press Release