Shutty: Code of Honor made for the Travers Stakes' distance

August 25, 2019 02:26pm
Shutty: Code of Honor made for the Travers Stakes' distance
Photo: Courtesy of NYRA

Along with favored Tacitus, picks across a broad spectrum of handicappers were made for Tax, Owendale, Mucho Gusto and even Looking At Bikinis heading into the Travers Stakes (G1). However, I don't recall seeing Code of Honor atop many tickets.

Some cited the “can’t get the distance” claim. That really surprised and, at the same time, delighted me, as Code of Honor was a clear “A” horse and ranked as our No. 1 Travers contender by Horse Racing Nation's Super Screener handicapping system.

As the dust settles on a major Saturday of racing at Saratoga, let’s take a look at what led to conviction that distance was not going to be an issue:

First, note the stout breeding on the sire side with a Brisnet Average Winning Distance of 7.8 highlighted in green. Anything more than 7.5 indicates potential to go the classic 1 1/4-mile distance.

Next, take a look at this colt’s last three running lines. Going back to the Florida Derby (G1), recall that Maximum Security walked on the front end with a pace so slow that the horse that followed him around the track, the huge long shot, Bodexpress, finished second. A confirmed closer, Code of Honor was severely compromised by that pedestrian pace and essentially ran the same race as Maximum Security, just several lengths behind: slow early/fast late, as indicated by the Brisnet Late Pace figure of 115.

Now look at Code of Honor’s running line coming out of the Dwyer (G3). It is identical to his running line the Florida Derby, only this time there was nothing close to a Maximum Security in that prep race. So Code of Honor came from last to first crushing the overmatched field despite running wide and jockey John Velazquez losing the whip. That day, Code of Honor didn't need the encouragement as the son of Noble Mission galloped out past the wire like he could run all day.

While he got a perfect rail trip in the Kentucky Derby, he held position well to finish third -- being placed second after Maximum Security's disqualification -- and did not look like a horse that was backing up as they approached the wire. That was jut another indicator that 1 1/4 miles was well within his range regardless of the pace setup. 

Lastly, Code of Honor was wisely rested after the Kentucky Derby by trainer Shug McGaughey, and his works leading up to the Travers were quite brilliant. Combined with that sharp prep, we knew this horse was sitting on a big race.

As stated in the Super Screener
“Code of Honor comes into this in the ideal way. He had that handy 60-day break since the Derby and submitted a perfect prep performance last out overcoming a very slow pace. Won his debut here stylishly and the Derby third-place finish was no fluke. Top win pick.”

As it turns out, the pace was about average on a track that was playing fair on the day, if not a little kinder to off-the-pace types. Mucho Gusto and Tacitus dictated the early terms and were still right there in the final furlong before Code of Honor blew past them for the easy win at odds of 9-2.

Tacitus enjoyed most of the attention due to his near misses via tough trips, which prompted trainer Bill Mott to add blinkers. And it appeared that the colt worked well in them. However, when the gates opened Tacitus found himself on the lead heading into the turn and not looking all that comfortable. But as is always the case with this locomotive, he just keeps running with no apparent limit, still muscling his way to a runner-up again.

The one nagging issue for the Super Screener which prevented him from earning the top pick was that it was starting to look like he has been creating his own trouble. Our final note in our analysis of Tacitus: “trip?”

In the end, the Super Screener called the exacta cold. In addition to the suggested exacta ticket cashing, so did the trifecta, superfecta and Pick 4 tickets. Despite the chalky Travers outcome, the total return was $1,300.  

We'll be back at it next weekend with Saratoga's Woodward (G1) and a host of 2-year-old events featuring through Labor Day. Until then, go fast and win -- and consider getting the Super Screener advantage with your handicapping.

2019 Travers Stakes (G1)


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