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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

Honor Code Strikes Back in the Remsen


There is a reason why Honor Code was made a clear favorite among individual horses in the first Kentucky Derby future pool. In a strangely run race, the handsome son of A.P. Indy persevered after being overtaken in the stretch, and fought back powerfully on the rail to nail Cairo Prince by a nose on the wire in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes. The brave performance, fitting of an early favorite for next spring’s Run for the Roses, represented his first stakes win after coming desperately close to catching Havana in the Grade 1 Champagne.


It wasn’t long after the start that you could tell this was not going to be your normal race. 33-1 shot Master Lightning went right to the lead, and then the walking began. Jockey Javier Castellano, aboard the favored Honor Code, quickly felt the slowness of the early pace, and sent his charge to a stalking position, in sharp contrast to his first two starts. As the leader completed early fractions of :25.84 and :52:74, Honor Code moved right outside of the longshot on the lead.


As the Remsen group of eight hit the far turn, Honor Code made his move and went after Master Lightning. He stuck his nose in front, but just behind him was the heavy second choice, Cairo Prince. Coming out of the turn, the two favorites came together and it looked like it might be the second choice’s day. After a brief battle for the lead, Cairo Prince edged clear to lead by a half-length inside the eighth pole. As soon as it looked like Cairo Prince was going to do it, though, Honor Code began to show his class and dug down deep for the wire. After a mile and an eighth in 1:52.92, over the fast main track at Aqueduct, it was Honor Code who had fiercely fought back to get his nose in front.


Winning trainer, Shug McGaughey, who won his first Kentucky Derby this year with Orb, was happy with his young horse’s determination.


"We just said we were going to let him run his race. When [front-runner Master Lightning] went that slow, we went on and engaged him,” said McGaughey. “He got down on the inside of that horse [Cairo Prince in the stretch] and he got by him. He showed a lot of guts. I'm proud of him. I think the horse in second is a nice horse, and it was a peculiar race.”


In defeat, both Cairo Prince, who was coming off a big win in the Nashua, and third place finisher, Wicked Strong, who closed well on the outside to be beaten only a half-length, ran valiantly. You don’t often see an early pace as slow as the one seen in today’s Remsen. All three of the main players, all of whom were making only their third lifetime appearance, were taken out of their normal running styles, but in the end, I don’t believe the dawdling early fractions affected what the final order of finish was going to be.


I'm probably not going out on a major limb by predicting that this will prove to be the most influential Remsen in years by the time next spring rolls around. Honor Code appears every bit the part of a future classic horse, and at nine furlongs today, he looked like he was just beginning to get rolling. It will be fun to see how this horse, who seemingly has all the tools, will progress over the winter.


We'll give him a little time and take him to Payson [in Florida],” said McGaughey. “He's going to run that far [Triple Crown distances], we just have to figure out how he wants to do it."


Whatever way he wants to do it, Honor Code is not only deserving of his place atop the early Kentucky Derby lists, but looks like one juvenile who will not wilt at three, but rather only get better with maturity, and as the distances increase. In my opinion, Honor Code is on the fast track to the first Saturday in May.



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Older Comments about Honor Code Strikes Back in the Remsen...

Should be powered home in a gutsy performance.
On the surface it looked like a plodding type of race, especially when they stopped the teletimer in 1.52.95 for 9F. However, when looking at the splits it was an entirely different matter. Honor Code ran his first 5F in 1.05.19 and 6F in 1.17.56 mainly because the pace-setter dictated the early fractions. That was probably the reason why he was up so close to the pace. Honor Code came home his final 6F in a much faster 1.11.92, final 5F in 59.83, final 3F in 35.36 and final furlong in 11.70 (which extrapolates to a final 2F in 23.43). For this he received a Beyer of 88, which IMO shows the fallacy that Beyers sometimes present. This was a much better race than an 88 Beyer would indicate. When looking at the actual race time fractions for the three 9F stakes, the Demoiselle, Comely and Remsen, the first 4F in the Demoiselle were in 50.65 and the final 3F in 37.17; Comely in 48.04 and 37.94; and Remsen in a much slower 52.74 and much faster 35.36. Honor Code proved himself today with a guy performance, ran unhurried but up close to a dawdling pace, and then powered home in fast time which compares very favorably to the extrapolated final 3F of 37.09 in the Cigar. He should now be the early favorite for the Derby and unlike some of the early Derby favorites in the past few years, he looks very legitimate.
what an exciting race. I dont think Cairo Prince should be counted out. he looked great.
Honor Code seems different than most of the recent November Derby favorites, Old School trainer, distance breeding and coming back in the stretch was pretty impressive, but this was a crazy race. It is hard to judge any of these horses based on the Remsen, but Honor Code deserves to be the winter Derby favorite and looks like the strongest favorite in many years.
Honor Code ran every fraction of this race faster than the previou....EVEN AFTER a close to 2 sec acceleration between the half and three quarter! Finishes in 23.38 (11.69 final eighth) AND shows the rare ability to be passed in stretch and retake the lead! ....and he's only 2... If he's not special then i've never seen one that was.
I am always impressed when a horse is passed in the stretch and then digs down and wins - especially a two year old! Not impressed with the slow time though....?
Hopefully,they are all ok.The scratch i was almost glad for was my guy All Most Famous. I think he is probably the best(i am sure there is a bias in there somewhere) the scratch was not for anything serious.Just precautionary. I think he would of won,but coming back in 3 weeks.He might of paid the price down the line.
He's a very nice horse, but probably not a ten-furlong type. Wicked Strong looked great; too bad about the Noble Moon scratch.
Congratulations Zipse,Your guy Cairo ran a huge race. I never thought he'd be competetive at the distance. Hope you made some holiday investment on him.But like i said. Nice call.
I really liked Wicked Strong's race. The top two got away from him at the top of the stretch. He was 3 lengths back at that point. He didn't get going until the last 150 yards, and closed nicely in the final 16th against two good colts that were not slowing down at all (last furlong in 11.4), losing by a diminishing 1/2 length in the end.
Such a weird race but very impressed by Honor Code's versatility. He still remains my favorite 2 year old:)
I think.........Pincay or a Shoemaker would never let fractions like that be posted
I second Andy. Super impressive. This horse at two years, in only three races has already proved he has a wicked turn of foot, he can close sharply, but also win stalking, and he proved today he has heart. Can't wait to see what this colt can do!!!
Anytime a horse loses the lead in the stretch and comes back to win that is impressive, especially for a 2YO.
With all due respect, at least to my eye, this was one of the more inconclusive Remsen Stakes of the past few years. It’s hard to make sense of or determine the real ability of any horse who runs into a 1:41.13 mile. I can’t say the track was playing slow based on the fractions set by Private Zone, even considering that was over a shorter distance and by older horses. Regardless, the jury is still out IMO.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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