Code of Honor blows by late to win Saratoga's Travers Stakes

August 24, 2019 05:44pm

Minutes before they broke Saturday in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes, trainer Shug McGaughey said, “Let’s get it on.” And that’s just what his trainee, Code of Honor, did while capitalizing on a one-run style to blow by a dueling Tacitus and Mucho Gusto in the Saratoga stretch.

The final time was 2:01.05 for 1 1/4 miles, giving McGaughey his fourth Travers victory overall but first since Coronado's Quest in 1998.

"That's too long," McGaughey said. "It can't take that long again."

A W. S. Farish homebred son of Noble Mission, Code of Honor entered the Mid-Summer Derby off a victory around one turn in Belmont Park's Dwyer Stakes (G3). His other season highlights include a victory in Gulfstream Park's Fountain of Youth (G2) and runner-up placing in the Kentucky Derby.

But the Hall of Fame trainer has also termed this a "Jekyll and Hyde" sort of season, with Code of Honor sprinkling in some disappointing results.

"He put it all together today," McGaughey said. "He trained really well. His Dwyer was a really good race. We were hopeful we were going to see what we saw." 

An even brighter future could be ahead for the May foal, the youngest in the Travers field of 12.

Looking At Bikinis' stumble from the gate changed the race complexion from the start. Rather than head to the lead as expected, that colt ceded position to Tacitus, the race favorite who donned blinkers for the first time Saturday and dueled inside of Mucho Gusto.

Fractions went in 23.11, 47.26 and and 1:11.21. Those two never faded so much as Code of Honor blasted by late on their outside, his face covered with dirt after sitting in behind the leaders most of the way.

McGaughey said he anticipated a stiff pace, including Tacitus' early positioning.

"Johnny rode a great race on him," the trainer added after Code of Honor's three-length win. "He was patient with him and tried to keep him focused, because sometimes he can lose his focus a little bit. We're tickled to death."

"I just had to put his mind on running," Velazquez added. "Today I made sure when I had him out to the clear he responded right away."

Off as the 4-1 third choice, Code of Honor returned $10.80 to win.


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