Crushing maidens by eight lengths, second time out, much the best while being geared down in the Nashua, and then winning the Remsen impressively had the nation all on edge, waiting for To Honor and Serve to serve up a dominating win in the Fountain of Youth. The race was to be his three-year-old debut and everyone was expecting big things from the blue blooded colt. But the hopes turned out to be false, as the son of Bernardini fell flat, finishing just a so-so third.
The loss had many scratching their heads. This could not be the same horse that was looked in the eye, pressured throughout the Remsen and responding by holding off his pursuer, with measured ease, down the stretch. He not only ran dully, but after sitting in a garden spot, off a soft pace, he faded back well beaten after never really threatening. Mystified, his supporters blamed the loss on rust, and that he would bounce back in the Florida Derby. The result was another dull third, after racing on a dead rail and only making a slight move before fading back.
It was later found that To Honor and Serve had injured his suspensory ligament. It was five months before we would see him again, this time sprinting six and a half furlongs in the Amsterdam Stakes. Hopes were high again, hoping to see the colt regain his form and he did not. Too fresh coming off the layoff and got hooked into a speed duel with Arch Traveler, which left him empty in the stretch.
After the Amsterdam, trainer Bill Mott decided that maybe it was time for a confidence booster. He entered To Honor and Serve in a nine furlong allowance against older horses. After three straight disappointments, the bettors still had faith, making him the even money favorite. He rewarded them in a big way, rating just off the lead, making his move, and never looking back. He crossed the wire in a sharp 1.48.13, the fastest nine furlongs he had ever run.
Mott now has his star pointed towards the Grade two, one million dollar, Pennsylvania Derby. The brilliant To Honor and Serve we saw in his last outing would be a deserving favorite and most likely win this race, but how do we know that To Honor and Serve will show and not the one that lost three in a row? There are plenty of horses that can run fast times, but once a pecking order is established it is hard to break. Is To Honor and Serve on of those brilliantly fast horses that needs to run against weaker to run his best race or is he a leader that will fight for the win?
So far, it looks as though he may be the type that will not run when faced with a strong willed opponent. It would seem that from his track record, that To Honor and Serves needs to run with weaker to feel stronger and to run his top race. But until the gates open, all of this is just theory, and I will be watching with interest to see if To Honor and Serve is indeed back.