Byrnes: Code of Honor has a shot in muddled 3-year-old race

By Jeffrey Byrnes
September 22, 2019 09:15am

Saturday's Pennsylvania Derby (G1) was expected to add clarity to the 3-year-old division given it included the perceived leader in Maximum Security; Preakness winner War of Will; the streaking Mr. Money, who won four graded stakes races in a row; and the always dangerous Improbable.

Then a chaotic 2019 season continued when Maximum Security missed the race due to a bout of colic, and Math Wizard ran down Mr. Money to score at 30-1.

(As you've probably heard, it turns out Maximum Security vs. War of Will wasn't the rematch we all needed to see. Math Wizard and Maximum Security -- both now Grade 1 winners -- both competed as $16,000 claimers last December at Gulfstream Park.)

So Math Wizard's win raised only more questions in regard to who the leader of this division is. Of course, the argument can be made that it's still Maximum Security given his two Grade 1 wins this season in addition to crossing the wire first in the Kentucky Derby. But there's one other colt firmly in the picture -- and with a big chance to improve his resume while Maximum Security's sidelined. 

Code of Honor
has arguably been the most talented sophomore male in the second half of the racing season, with runaway wins in the Dwyer (G3) at Belmont Park and Saratoga's Travers Stakes (G1). Going back to the spring, there's another victory in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park, but he also shows a pair of finishes behind Maximum Security if counting the Kentucky Derby's pre-disqualification results.

Where does this put Code of Honor in the three year old discussion? I believe it's right near the top, and the lead is there for the taking with Code of Honor set to face older competition -- something Maximum Security hasn't yet done -- in Belmont's Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1).

Waiting are the likes of fellow sophomore Tacitus; Grade 1 winners Vino Rosso, Preservationist and Yoshida; along with Tenfold, the Pimlico Special (G3) winner earlier this season going 1 1/4 miles. 
The probables indicate that this will be no easy feat for Code of Honor.

Should the Shug McGaughey-trained son of Noble Mission score again on Saturday, he'd be looking at a runner-up in the Kentucky Derby followed by three straight graded victories, two of them at the classic 10-furlong distance. That, in my opinion, would put the pressure on Maximum Security to deliver again before the end of the season. And who knows if he'll get the chance to do that given this week's setback.

Code of Honor could still go on to the Breeders' Cup Classic -- McGaughey hasn't fully indicated whether that could be in the plans -- while a race like the Cigar Mile (G1) could also lock up an Eclipse Award. Remember, Code of Honor won going eight furlongs with relative ease in the Dwyer.

None of these questions apply, however, unless Code of Honor stays on a roll and wins the Jockey Club Gold Cup. I believe the title's there for the taking in a tumultuous 2019.


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Meet Jeff Brynes

I have loved this sport since my early childhood. My first true memory was when my grandfather took me to Saratoga for the 2005 Travers Stakes, and watching Flower Alley come down the stretch to duel with Bellamy Road. I'll never forget that day, the roar of the crowd, and the pure excitement of winning. I became an instant fan of the game. Since then, I've visited many tracks, among them Monmouth Park, Saratoga Harness, Freehold Raceway, Belmont Park, and the Meadowlands -- all in the New York / New Jersey area. 

Of all the horses I've seen in my lifetime, none have captured my imagination like Curlin. The two time Horse of the Year is, and will always be, my all-time favorite horse. Other favorites include Rachel Alexandra, Medaglia D'Oro, Wise Dan and American Pharaoh.

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