Code of Honor & Bourbon War Possible Rematch In Florida Derby
There very well could be a rematch between Code of Honor and Bourbon War in this year's edition of the Grade 1 Florida Derby. Trainer Shug McGaughey reported Sunday morning that William S. Farish's Code of Honor came out of his victory in Saturday's $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) in good order.
"So far, all systems are go," said McGaughey less than 16 hours after watching the 3-year-old colt win Saturday and bounce back from a disappointing performance Jan. 5 here in the Mucho Macho Man. "He seems to have come back fine. We shipped him back last night to Payson [Park Training Center] and he seems fine this morning."
After wrapping up his 2-year-old campaign with a second-place finish in the Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park last fall, Code of Honor was the heavy favorite in the Mucho Macho Man. But the son of Noble Mission came up empty and was never a factor when finishing fourth. Dismissed at 9-1 Saturday, Code of Honor redeemed himself with a big win in the Fountain of Youth.
McGaughey, a Hall of Fame trainer who won the 2013 Fountain of Youth, Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1) with Orb, said he needed to make some changes.
2019 Florida Derby Odds & Entries
** Odds to be posted after draw **
"Obviously, I thought about [the Mucho Macho Man] a lot," he said. "I thought from what I saw he probably needed the race and probably, maybe, needed to change his running style just a little bit. We needed to get into him and train him a little harder and more frequent and see if he would take it. We thought, `If he takes it, we'll go on.' But it was something that came to me pretty quick."
McGaughey said his preference is to remain at Gulfstream Park and follow the same route as Orb and run next in the $1 million Florida Derby March 30. "But we're going to have to see how he bounces out of this one," he said.
No matter where Code of Honor shows up next, McGaughey doesn't believe the longer distances of the spring classics will be a detriment for the Farish homebred.
"I don't think distance will be a problem at all," McGaughey added. "He had a brother who ran two turns in Kentucky and Noble Mission ran as far as you wanted him to run. He was a mile-and-a-half, mile-and-five-eighths horse. [Code of Honor] is a very efficient kind of horse in the way he moves."
Trainer Mark Hennig said Sunday morning Bourbon Lake Stable's and Lake Star Stable's Bourbon War was "bright and very happy" after closing to finish second behind Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth. It was the second consecutive year Hennig saddled the second-place finisher in the Fountain of Youth. Last year, Hennig's Strike Power finished behind Promises Fulfilled.
"He came out of it well," Hennig said. "There were a few things that might have made a difference. Coming off the turn he had to swing just a little wide. But that's horse racing."
Hennig is also optimistic about his colt's ability to go longer.
"He's a horse that likes to run. I really liked his stride the last sixteenth. He just lowered his head and he really knew what he wanted," he added. "I don't know if you always get that pace set up, but I think he's proven he doesn't need a pace set up. If they're going slower he'll race a little closer."
Hennig said his immediate thought is to run next in the Florida Derby. "But we have to see how the horse is doing," he added. "He's also won at Aqueduct."
Hoffa's Union Pointing to Florida Derby
Hoffa's Union, an impressive maiden winner at Laurel Park in his career debut last month, is being pointed to the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) Saturday, March 30 at Gulfstream Park, trainer Mark Casse said Thursday.
Hoffa's Union was purchased by a group headed by Gary Barber and Adam Wachtel and turned over to Casse following a front-running 15 ½-length romp against fellow 3-year-olds Feb. 28 in 1:43.61 for about 1 1/16 miles, which is configured around two turns at Laurel.
The gelded son of 2012 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Union Rags, acquired for $11,000 as a 2-year-old in training last May by previous trainer and co-owner Gary Capuano, has been working at Casse's training center in Ocala since the private sale.
"So far I haven't done a whole lot with him, just galloping. He didn't run that long ago. We've got him here with us and he's a beautiful, beautiful horse," Casse said. "We're looking right now at the Florida Derby. We kind of like the timing of it. Obviously, it's going to be a huge step, but as long as he's doing well we're going to take a shot."
The 68th running of the 1 1/8 mile Florida Derby anchors a spectacular program that includes seven stakes, four graded, worth $2.15 million in purses. Among other horses being considered for the premiere Triple Crown prep are Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (G2) winner Code of Honor and runner-up Bourbon War, Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull (G2) winner Harvey Wallbanger, Final Jeopardy, Hidden Scroll, Maximum Security and Vekoma.
"If you look at his numbers ... he stacks up with all those guys," Casse said. "It's a tall task and a big jump up in class, but if he can come back and repeat the numbers that he ran in his first start, it puts him right there with the best of them.
"He was so impressive. He ran fast. He ran faster than older horses," he added. "He ran a good Beyer number and ran a good Ragozin number and just was impressive. The guys got together and bought him and I was lucky enough to get to train him."
About the Florida Derby
The Florida Derby is an American Thoroughbred horse race for three-year-old horses held annually at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. Since 2005, it has been run five weeks before the Kentucky Derby, which is held on the first Saturday in May. Thus the Florida Derby is currently run either at the end of March or the beginning of April. Added to the racing schedule in 1952, the Grade I race is run at �e<1 1�,,8 miles on the dirt for a purse currently set at $1 Million.
The Florida Derby was first run in 1952. It has long been a prestigious prep race for the Kentucky Derby and since 2013 has been part of the official Road to the Kentucky Derby.
The race was originally run in early to mid-March and Kentucky Derby hopefuls would then run in another major prep race in April. In 2005, Gulfstream Park shifted its scheduling to run the race five weeks before the Kentucky Derby. This was originally believed to be a liability, as the preferred spacing of races is typically three to four weeks. When Barbaro won the 2006 Kentucky Derby, the five-week spacing began to be viewed as a potentially positive feature, allowing a horse to come into the Kentucky Derby well rested.
In 1977, a large field resulted in the race being run in two divisions.
Between 1926 and 1937, the Flamingo Stakes was known as the Florida Derby.