Honor A. P. lets Shirreffs hope and dream of the Kentucky Derby

November 06, 2019 12:08pm
Since taking out his trainer’s license in 1978, John Shirreffs has saddled four horses in the Kentucky Derby, with the first of those, Giacomo, scoring one of the biggest upsets in race history at 50-1 in 2005.
That lofty 25% strike rate in the Derby is largely the result of Shirreffs’ well-known patience with young horses. It simply isn’t part of the stable’s program to push a young colt toward the spring classics. “Derby fever” doesn't tend to set in six months from the May 2 classic at Churchill Downs -- unless, that is, there’s a colt like Honor A. P. in the shed row. By Honor Code and out of Grade 1 winner Hollywood Story, Honor A. P. dazzled when stretched out to a mile at second asking for an Oct. 13 maiden special weight event at Santa Anita Park. He went to the front and ran off in the final eighth of a mile to win by 5 ¼ lengths in a final time of 1:37.94. It was one of the fastest times at the distance during the just-concluded Santa Anita autumn meet and earned a 91 Beyer Speed Figure.

“When the possibility is there, when you have a horse with this type of potential to get you to the (Derby), it gets pretty exciting to think about the future,” Shirreffs said. “You prepare. You hope. You dream. Then all you can do is see what happens.”

Honor A. P. has worked twice since his graduation day, most recently breezing four furlongs Monday in :48.60 over Santa Anita’s deep main track. It was the seventh-fastest time of 66 at the distance. Hall of Famer jockey Mike Smith, who has been aboard for both of Honor A. P.’s starts, was also in the irons for Tuesday’s drill.

“I thought it was an almost perfect work,” Shirreffs said. “He’s the type of horse that gets over the ground so lightly. When he’s working he makes this track look like it’s fast. He just floats when he goes.  “Mike was very happy. They were working with with another horse and all Mike did was crouch down a little bit. (Honor A. P.) lengthened his stride and you could see the other horse kind of lose his action trying to keep up. He’s very impressive.”
Honor A. P. was bred in Kentucky by George Krikorian, who campaigned Hollywood Story to a win in the 2006 Vanity (G1), among other graded stakes and four straight Breeders’ Cup appearances beginning in 2003.  Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable purchased Honor A. P. for $850,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale. C R K Stable has previously campaigned several graded stakes winners including Switch, who twice hit the board in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) winner Our New Recruit, and Kobe’s Back. Their most-recent Kentucky Derby starter was Candy Boy in 2014. Shirreffs said the task with Honor A. P. is getting to the Kentucky Derby. Whether that route includes another start this year, possibly in the Dec. 7 Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), remains to be seen. “We’re going to sort of take our time with him, maybe pick a race here or there if we want to save him for a 3-year-old campaign,” Shirreffs said. “It will be interesting to see how we’re able to do that. If you want to make the Derby, all the races are weighted to the end of the season. So anything you do early really has minimal impact to what you do later.” There are some similarities between the 2-year-old campaigns of Honor A. P. and Giacomo. Both debuted sprinting in the summer of their 2-year-old seasons, which is relatively early for most of Shirreffs’ runners, and then both broke their maidens in October when stretched out at Santa Anita in start No. 2. As for Giacomo, he was wheeled back three weeks after his maiden win to run third in an allowance race, and then a month later finished second in the Hollywood Futurity (G1) before being put away for the winter. Could Honor A.P. continue along that familiar path? Shirreffs said Honor A. P. could race again this year “if something comes up that looks good.” This seemed to indicate an allowance race could either come in place of, or in addition to, a potential run in the Los Alamitos Futurity in early December.

Shirreffs' other Kentucky Derby runners were A.P. Warrior, who was sixth in 2006; Tiago, Giacomo's half-brother, who ran seventh in 2007; and Gormley, the ninth-place finisher in 2017. 

 

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