Honor Code motors home late in Gulfstream Park Handicap

March 07, 2015 12:48pm
The $300,000 Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap might have drawn a short field for the 2015 running of the race, but it was far from devoid of talent. With a trio of last year’s top 3-year olds plus another trio of seasoned older runners, it was a battle of the young upstarts versus the experienced veterans. And on a track that generally favors speed, Honor Code did what very few runners can do at Gulfstream Park. Spotting the front-runners a dozen lengths, the now 4-year old rolled down the center of the track late to just get the victory.
All six runners broke well, but Private Zone and Valid were quickest out of the gate. Engaging in their own private match race, the two speedsters lost no time in distancing themselves from their other four rivals. Opening up 5-6 lengths on their closest competitor, the duo raced stride for stride down the Gulfstream backstretch in splits of :23.51 and :45.96. Strung out behind them were Wicked Strong, East Hall, Loverbil and Honor Code, who raced well off the pace in last.
Entering the far turn, Private Zone and Valid continued to battle it out on the front end, but behind them, the rest of the field was hitting their best strides. At the ¾-mile call, which went in 1:10.09, Honor Code had just one horse beat, but a furlong later, he had moved into 4th and had the front-runners firmly in his sights.
Jockey Javier Castellano, who was aboard Honor Code, admitted that their trip was a bit worrying despite being his mount’s typical run style. “I didn’t mind it (being far back), because he’s a come-from-behind horse and the pace set up perfect for him,” he explained. “Those two horses (Private Zone and Valid) hooked up together all the way. But I was kinda worrying on the backside because he wasn’t picking it up. At the 3/8-pole, he turned around and just took off at the top of the stretch. It was amazing the way he did it, very strong.”
Castellano might not have been overly worried, but trainer Shug McGaughey was ready to throw the race out after the break. “I was ready to go home (after the break). I was watching it on TV, and down the backside there wasn’t a ‘1’ on there for a long time. Then I saw him swing to the outside,” the trainer confessed. “At the eighth pole, I thought maybe he was going to hang a little bit. But then he switched on to his right lead and he came on. To see him run a race like that; this was only his second race in a year, we’ve all got to remember that. To see him come back and run the way he did and dig down, and from the five-sixteenths pole to the wire to run as hard as he did and then gallop out as well as he did, it’s a tribute to the horse.”
Midway through the stretch, Private Zone and Valid still held the advantage, but Wicked Strong and Honor Code were cutting away at their lead. With less than a furlong to run, Wicked Strong’s rally stalled, and Honor Code swept past that foe and took dead aim at the lead. With one final surge, the colt nabbed both Valid and Private Zone to get to the wire first, the winner by ½-length in 1:36.37 for the mile event.
Trainer James Jerkens, who saddled Wicked Strong, said after the race, “I thought he ran good. On the middle of the turn, it looked for a second like they (Private Zone and Valid) were getting tired, but they weren’t. He kept trying. He got a little tired. He hung, but when Honor Code went by him, I thought he tried to come back, which was good to see.”
Private Zone finished second after leading for the entirety of the race. Valid won the photo for 3rd, just edging out Wicked Strong. East Hall finished an even 5th, and Loverbil finished a non-threatening 6th and last.
As the 5-2 second choice, Honor Code paid $7.00/$3.40/$2.80. Private Zone, the 6-5 favorite, returned $2.80/$2.20, and a show bet on Valid was worth $2.60. The $2 exacta paid $19.40, the $0.50 trifecta returned $14.40 and the $0.10 superfecta was worth $5.19.
By A.P. Indy and out of the Storm Cat mare Serena’s Cat, Honor Code is a homebred for Dell Ridge Farm, LLC and Lane’s End Racing. Today’s win improved the ridgling’s career record to 6: 4-2-0 for total purse monies of $626,740.
Honor Code’s next start is still up in the air. When asked, McGaughey repeated the same sentiment he gave to the owners. “As I told (the owners), I said please don’t let me run this horse back too quick now. I know this had to take a little out of him,” the trainer said. “We’ll just wait and see. We’ve got the Westchester Mile up there. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I would very seriously doubt that the Carter would be something in the books. The Met Mile is a good possibility. Obviously he runs good off a layoff so that wouldn’t be anything I’d be worried about. The owners might be more worried about it than me.” 


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Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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