For all those people that thought To Honor and Serve was going to be one of the top three-year-olds in the nation this year – you were right. In a sublime performance today at Parx Racing, the son of Bernardini ran one of the finest races by any American sophomore so far in 2011.
The handsome bay colt looked like a winner all the way as he comfortably stalked the Pennsylvania Derby pace set by Rush Bay through the first six furlongs, before uncorking a burst of speed that carried him effortlessly to a large lead at the eighth pole. From there, the Bill Mott trainee coasted home under Jose Lezcano to a 2 ¼ length score, despite a strong rally from the Belmont Stakes winner, Ruler On Ice. Travers runner-up Rattlesnake Bridge finished 3 ½ lengths farther back in third. Final time for the nine furlongs over the fast main track was an excellent 1:47.34, making it the fastest Pennsylvania Derby in history.
Bred in Kentucky and owned by Live Oak Plantation, To Honor and Serve is bred to be a good one. Besides being out of one of the best young sires in the world in Bernardini, he also gets his class from his female side as he is out of the stakes winning Deputy Minister mare Pilfer. Considering his looks, breeding, and connections, it was not a surprise to see To Honor and Serve become one of the top rated juveniles in the country last fall.
Finishing the year with three consecutive victories, including easy wins in the Nashua and Remsen Stakes, To Honor and Serve was on everyone’s short list of top contenders for the Kentucky Derby, but after two mediocre third place finishes in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, and then a strain to a suspensory ligament, he became the forgotten three-year-old. Those forgotten months don't matter now. He tipped us off that he may be back with a dominating performance against older allowance foes on August 26 at Saratoga, and today he proved that he is for real.
With the Pennsylvania Derby victory, To Honor and Serve improved his career record to five wins from nine starts as he drew within an eyelash of becoming a million dollar earner. The Pennsylvania may not have been the Derby that his connections were hoping for nine months ago, but today’s win positions To Honor and Serve perfectly for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. With no older, nor three-year-old males exactly setting the world on fire this year, the big race may be ripe for a horse who is putting it all together at just the right time … A horse just like To Honor and Serve.