Twelve months ago, trainer Shug McGaughey
had a promising colt named
Orb, who broke his maiden in late November for longtime clients Stuart
Janney III and Ogden Mills Phipps. That colt blossomed at the right
time, winning a first-level allowance at Gulfstream Park prior to taking
the trophies in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Florida Derby
(G1), and putting up a career-best performance in the Kentucky Derby
McGaughey has another youngster in his barn that could take him back
to Louisville for the first Saturday in May. Honor Code, a son of A.P.
Indy campaigned by Lane’s End Racing and Dell Ridge Farm, has already
captured his share of headlines. After a rousing debut score at
Saratoga, the dark bay put in a strong run in the Champagne Stakes (G1)
at Belmont on October 5 and came up a neck short to Havana. He closed
out 2013 by taking advantage of trotting-horse fractions in the Remsen
Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct on November 30 and fought back to deny the
highly regarded Cairo Prince that afternoon.
Like his sire, Honor Code was born with an undescended testicle, and
McGaughey shipped the colt to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in
Lexington, Kentucky, to have it removed.
“He was a ridgling and had a testicle taken out,” the Hall of Fame
trainer explained. “I think he probably knew it was there. Obviously, he
was running good, so how much [it bothered him] I don’t know. But I
wanted to get it out of the way so it would be one less thing that I had
to worry about.”
Honor Code, a great-grandson of champion Serena’s Song, has rejoined McGaughey’s Florida string.
“He’s doing fine,” McGaughey said. “He’s up at Payson Park and
training every day. I’ll probably start working him around the first of
the year and see where it takes us. I would think the Fountain of Youth
would - if everything went right - probably be in our plans, but before
that, I don’t know.”
Honor Code closed at 10-1 in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future
Wager, but McGaughey stressed that fortune will play a large role in the
next few months.
“At this time, Orb had just broken his maiden, and this horse won a
Grade 2 and just got beat in a Grade 1,” McGaughey said when asked to
compare the two runners. “With Orb, starting around the first of
January, he just started improving, improving, improving. Everything
went right with him. I could work him when I wanted to work him, it
didn’t rain, and we’ll just have to see if all that happens with Honor
Code. He doesn’t have to improve as much as Orb did, but, hopefully,
he’ll improve a little bit and we can get the same breaks with him that
we did with Orb. Everything went right all winter and spring with Orb.”
Also settling into the same shedrow as Honor Code is Top Billing, a
son of Curlin who put in an eye-catching run in the slop to score by 5 ¼
lengths at Laurel on December 6. McGaughey trains that chestnut for
William S. Farish and E.J. Hudson Jr. Top Billing will likely make an
appearance at Gulfstream soon.
“He’s at Payson Park also,” McGaughey noted. “I’ll look for a spot
for him when I see the new [condition] book.” McGaughey is scheduled to
saddle Mr. Speaker for a start in Saturday’s $100,000 Dania Beach (G3),
a mile turf stakes for 2-year-olds.The son of Pulpit broke his maiden
in his third start last time out, leading all the way to post a 2
¾-length triumph over Belmont Park turf.
“The first time he ran, he ran better than it looked. He missed a
hole and got farther back than we wanted to. He ran really good the
second time. A bug boy rode him and might have moved a little early on
him. Next time he ran, he ran great,” McGaughey said. “We had him
entered in a stake at Aqueduct and they called the races off that day.
This was the next logical spot.”
Javier Castellano has been named to ride the Phipps Stable homebred colt, who has run all three of his races on turf.
“The female family ran on the grass and the Pulpits seem to like the
grass,” McGaughey said. “But I think he’ll run on the dirt, too.”