The beat continued on for
trainer Todd Pletcher in 2013, when
5-2 third choice Havana won the Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park by holding off the fast-closing Honor Code..
The win is the third in
the last four years for Pletcher in the Champagne. In 2010 he won with Uncle Mo, and last year Shanghai Bobby won the prestigious race, and both went on to victory in the
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. In total, Pletcher has won this race five
The race began with Debt Ceiling setting the early pace as Havana sat close behind on the inside. Debt
Ceiling and Havana stayed in those positions through a half mile in :45.54. In
the meantime, 9/5 favorite Honor Code fell far behind in last place.
Moving into the clubhouse
turn, Debt Ceiling began to fade and Havana surged to a clear lead on the rail.
The first six furlongs went in 1:10.12 and it appeared that Havana was tiring.
As jockey Irad Ortiz urged Havana to the wire, Javier Castellano had Honor Code on the move.
Coming down the stretch
Honor Code was coming fast in the middle of the track. With each stride it
became clear that it was going to be a close finish. At the wire Honor Code had
run out of track and Havana held on to win by a head in a final time of
1:35.81. With a victory in this “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge
race, Havana gets a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
After the race Pletcher
talked about Havana’s performance, “Havana was inside with an experienced horse
[Debt Ceiling] to his outside through pretty fast fractions. It’s a long way
from a 5½ furlong maiden to a grade one with what looked a really really
stellar field," said Pletcher. "We are very proud of his effort.”
Honor Code's trainer Shug McGaughey thought they could have won it, "He [Honor Code] was coming off a maiden win in the slop, and he had trained good. I thought he looked good and paddocked well. He wasn't 22 lengths out of it today; it was only 12 or 15. Having to go wide probably cost us the race, but Havana got the jump at the head of the stretch and opened up, and we were unlucky to not catch him. I thought it was an awfully big effort for a horse of his type who is just learning and is kind of lazy in the first part until you do ask him. I think once we get him going around two turns and maybe more races into him he'll get a little more adaptive, into the race. I don't want to change his style of running if that's what he wants to do; I'm hoping he'll do it on his own."
Strong Mandate was not a factor in the Champagne and after the race trainer D. Wayne Lukas offered excuses, "[Jockey Jose Ortiz] thought he wasn't getting around the track as well as he did at Saratoga. The two local horses looked good. Maybe I should have gotten him here a couple weeks [ago] and put a couple works into him over this deeper surface. It's quite a drastic change from Churchill Downs and Saratoga to this."
Pletcher also looked ahead
to Havana’s chances in the Breeders’ Cup, “I think he will improve off of this
race and I think Santa Anita at two turns might suit him well. He will train
here [Belmont Park] and go to Santa Anita the week of the Breeders’ Cup if all