W. S. Farish’s Code of Honor lived up to the expectations he generated during his 2-year-old campaign when the Shug McGaughey-trained colt rallied to win the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park March 2.
The 3-year-old son of Noble Mission is set for a return in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream, where the Kentucky-bred colt is scheduled to clash with 10 rivals in a quest to further enhance his standing among the leading 2019 Triple Crown prospects in the tradition-rich 1 1/8-mile event for 3-year-olds. Code of Honor, rated second at 3-1, drew post position No. 9.
The Florida Derby will be the main event on a knockout 14-race program (First post: 11:30 a.m.) featuring seven stakes, four graded. The $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) for 3-year-old fillies, the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) and the $250,000 Pan American are highlights on the Florida Derby undercard, along with the $125,000 Sanibel Island, $125,000 Cutler Bay and the $100,000 Sand Springs.
The Florida Derby will highlight six-race sequence for the 20-cent Rainbow 6 Saturday, when there will be a mandatory payout of the popular multi-race wager. The carryover jackpot heading into Thursday’s card stands at a life-changing $2,455,348.
||I. Ortiz Jr.
||Code of Honor
|Juan Carols Avila
||Garter and Tie
As Code of Honor attempts to take another giant step toward the Triple Crown, he will seek to follow in the hoofprints of Orb, the McGaughey-trained winner of the 2013 Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby who went on to capture the Kentucky Derby (G1).
In the first 67 runnings of the Florida Derby, 44 starters went on to capture 59 Triple Crown events, including 24 Kentucky Derby champions, 19 Preakness winners and 16 Belmont victors.
Code of Honor disappointed in his 2019 debut in the Jan. 5 Mucho Macho Man, in which he finished an even fourth as the 4-5 favorite. However, he redeemed himself in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, in which he settled off a strong early pace before rallying through the stretch to capture his two-turn debut.
“I think I have a little bit more confidence [going into the Florida Derby] because I was a little bit shook after the Mucho Macho Man,” McGaughey said. “I kind of changed my strategy and that worked, so I’ve kept on with it and I think he’s progressing the right way.”
McGaughey started asking more of Code of Honor in his morning training after the Mucho Macho Man, and the Kentucky-bred colt responded to offer a decidedly more enthusiastic effort in the Fountain of Youth, in which he raced in mid-pack behind the pressured pace set by Hidden Scroll before kicking in through the stretch. McGaughey would consider a similar scenario in the Florida Derby to be ideal but is confident Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will be quick to adapt to any pace development.
“It depends on the pace. I don’t want him up too close. I don’t think that’s his way,” McGaughey said. “A lot of that will be up to Johnny as the race unfolds out of the gate. I hope we get a little pace, which I think we probably will. Going a mile and an eighth, he’s just going to have to be patient with him as he was the other day.”
Code of Honor demonstrated versatility during his juvenile campaign, in which he won his debut at Saratoga last August after leading throughout the six-furlong maiden special weight race under Velazquez. Seven weeks later, the son of Noble Mission overcame a stumbling start to close from last in the 10-horse field to finish second in the mile Champagne (G1) around one turn at Belmont Park.
Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable’s Bourbon War has done his best running in the stretch in all of his four career starts, most notably while finishing a closes second to Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth. The Mark Hennig-trained colt, who won a Jan. 18 optional claiming allowance at 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream after closing from far back, had to deal with traffic on the turn into the homestretch in the Fountain of Youth before surging late. Hennig was particularly impressed with Bourbon War’s effort after the finish line under Irad Ortiz Jr.
“The gallop-out – some people put emphasis on that, and some people don’t – I thought his gallop-out was much stronger than the rest of the field,” Hennig said. “It really gave us some confidence. I know Irad has a lot of confidence.”
Hennig has also been pleased with the son of Tapit’s preparation for the Florida Derby.
“His daily gallops, he’s putting a lot into them, which is great to see. He’s matured a lot. He’s eating tremendously right now. He’s a horse that’s needed to fill out and grown up as the spring comes on, and he’s doing that,” Hennig said. “Hopefully, that keeps going as we transition to the next town and he does as well as he’s done here.”
Ortiz has the return mount aboard Bourbon War, who was rated third in the morning line at 7-2 after drawing post position No. 4.
Juddmonte Farm’s Hidden Scroll was installed as the 5-2 morning=line favorite after drawing the No. 1 post position. Hidden Scroll, whose heated pace battle with longshot Gladiator King aided the stretch kicks of Code of Honor and Bourbon War, will make his third career start in the Florida Derby, which Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott hopes will not unfold like his Fountain of Youth trip.
Mott is confident that the son of Hard Spun, who was the 6-5 favorite in the Fountain of Youth on the strength of his dazzling 14-length debut victory at Gulfstream five weeks earlier, is more versatile than his two previous efforts may suggest. The Juddmonte homebred has been placed behind horses in his two workouts at Payson Park since the Fountain of Youth and breezed to Mott’s satisfaction.
“I think this horse is fine behind horses; he’s fine on the lead if the pace is such that he needs to be on the lead. That’s the rider’s decision. They have to make that choice when they leave the starting gate,” said Mott, who has named Javier Castellano to ride Hidden Scroll for the first time Saturday.
Gary and Mary West’s Maximum Security could be expected to be a pace factor in the son of New Year’s Day’s stakes debut in the Florida Derby. The Jason Servis-trained colt has launched his career during the Championship Meet with three eye-catching victories, including a front-running 14 ¼-length triumph last time out in an optional claiming starter allowance Feb. 20, when he ran seven furlongs in 1:21.72.
“I’d like to see two horses head-and-head for the lead and him tucked in laying third about four lengths off of them. I’ll leave it to [jockey] Luis Saez. He’s a great rider,” Servis said. ”He’s a young horse that is probably going to lay it all out just because he’s young enough where he hasn’t really learned just to go through the motions. I’ll leave it to Luis and see what happens.”
Maximum Security has been a pleasant surprise for Servis, ending up in the Florida Derby after debuting in a $16,000 claiming race that he won by 9 ¾ lengths Dec. 20. The homebred colt came right back to capture an optional claiming allowance by 6 ½ lengths Jan. 24 before his stunning victory Feb. 20.
“I thought he had some ability but I didn’t think he was this kind of horse, to be honest. I thought for [$16,000] he was well-spotted and he’d get the job done,” said Servis, whose trainee was rated fourth at 9-2 in the morning line after drawing po0st positon No. 7. “I’m a big boy. He was in for a claiming price and we got lucky and he didn’t get claimed. Then I picked a couple of soft spots out for him where he was the heavy favorite and he easily won those. He’s three-for-three at Gulfstream, so we’ll see.”
Harvey Wallbanger passed the Fountain of Youth after posting a 29-1 upset victory in the $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Feb. 2 for Harold Lerner, LLC, AWC Stables, Nehoc Stables, Scott Akman and Paul Braverman. The Ken McPeek-trained colt finished second in his first three starts before breaking through with a maiden-breaking score at Churchill Downs in his juvenile campaign finale and capturing the Holy Bull.
The son of Congrats closed from ninth in the Holy Bull to win by a length under Brian Hernandez Jr., who has the riding assignment Saturday.
“The Holy Bull was a lot of fun,” Hernandez said. “We were a ways back – that’s his running style. The race set up for him. We had a lot of speed in front of us. I was liking my spot. I was able to sneak up the fence and turning for home when we were in contention, I thought he’d go on and finish it off, and he did. He ran on and ran a really big race.
“He came out of some good maiden races in Kentucky in the fall,” Hernandez added. “When he was there for me in the Holy Bull the whole way, that’s what gives you confidence.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who has saddled a record five Florida Derby winners, has opted to give Current, a graded-stakes winner on turf, another chance on dirt Saturday. Owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Robert LaPenta and Dixiana Farms, LLC, the son of Curlin, who finished third in the Feb. 3 Dania Beach at Gulfstream on turf last time out, finished seventh in the Nov. 24 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) over a sloppy Churchill Downs track in his only main track race.
Manuel Franco has the call on Current, who won the Bourbon (G1) at Keeneland last fall.
Calumet Farm’s Everfast, who closed strongly to finish second behind Harvey Wallbanger at 128-1 in the Holy Bull, has been entered in the Florida Derby by trainer Dale Romans with the hope that the son of Take Charge Indy can rebound from a distant eighth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth.
Chris Landeros has the return mount.
Jacks or Better Farm’s Garter and Tie, who was a force in the FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes last summer, will try to improve on a sixth-place finish behind Harvey Wallbanger in the Holy Bull. The Florida-bred son of Brooks ‘n Down had previously won the Smooth Air and finished third in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes going a one-turn mine. The homebred colt won the $250,000 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes Affirmed going seven furlongs last summer.
Jeffrey Sanchez has the assignment aboard Garter and Tie.
Top Racing LLC and Global Thoroughbreds LLC and GDS Racing Stable’s Bodexpress will seek to break his maiden in the Florida Derby after finishing fourth in Hidden Scroll’s spectacular maiden score two starts back and a close second following a rough start last time out. Trainer Gustavo Delgado named Nik Juarez for the mount.
Los Samanes LLC’s Union’s Destiny, who finished sixth from his outside post in the Fountain of Youth after checking in third behind Garter and Tie in the Smooth Air, will return in the Florida Derby. Trainer Juan Carlos Avila awarded the mount to Leonel Reyes.
Thoroughbred Champions Training Center LLC’s Hard Belle, a one-time winner in 13 career starts for trainer Jaime Mejia, will be ridden by Jose Batista.
Code of Honor, who captured the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) March 2, tops a list of 31 nominations for the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) March 30 at Gulfstream Park.
The Shug McGaughey-trained colt made a strong run on the final turn and through the stretch to register a three-quarters of a length triumph in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, a key prep for the 1 1/8 mile stakes for 3-year-olds that has established itself as the premier Triple Crown prep since its inaugural running in 1952.
Code of Honor will seek to follow in the hoof prints of Orb, the McGaughey-trained winner of the 2013 Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby who went on to capture the Kentucky Derby (G1).
In the first 67 runnings of the Florida Derby, 44 starters went on to capture 59 Triple Crown events, including 24 Kentucky Derby champions, 19 Preakness winners and 16 Belmont victors.
The 68th Florida Derby will headline 11 stakes worth a total of more than $2.5 million scheduled for March 29-30. Gulfstream’s signature race for 3-year-olds will be supported by the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Mile (G2), the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), the $250,000 Pan American (G2), the $125,000 Cutler Bay, the $125,000 Sanibel Island and the $100,000 Sand Springs. Four stakes, including the $100,000 Orchid (G3), the $100,000 Skip Away Stakes, the $100,000 Appleton Stakes (G3) and the $75,000 Sir Shackleton, will be contested on March 29.
Bourbon Lanes Stable and Lake Star Stable’s Bourbon War, R.A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables’ Vekoma and Juddmonte Farms, Inc.’s Hidden Scroll, who finished second, third and fourth, respectively, behind Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth are also nominated to and expected to return in the Florida Derby.
Mark Hennig-trained Bourbon War won two of three starts prior to the Fountain of Youth, including a fast-closing 2 ¼-length optional claiming allowance at 1 1/16-miles at Gulfstream Jan. 18; George Weaver-trained Vekoma captured the Nashua (G3) at Aqueduct in his 2018 finale before racing evenly to finish third in his 2019 debut at Gulfstream; Hidden Scroll was sent to post as the 6-5 favorite for the Fountain of Youth after scoring by 14 lengths in his career debut Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park. In addition to Hidden Scroll, trainer Bill Mott nominated Tacitus and Country House, who are not scheduled to take on their stablemate.
Harvey Wallbanger, who registered a 29-1 upset victory in the $350,000 Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Feb. 2, is also among the nominees scheduled to start in the Florida Derby. The Ken McPeek-trained colt was coming off a maiden victory around two turns at Churchill Downs in his previous start for owners Harold Lerner, LLC, AWC Stables, Nehoc Stables, Scott Akman and Paul Braverman.
Gary and Mary West’s Maximum Security is scheduled to put his undefeated record on the line in the Florida Derby. The Jason Servis-trained son of New Year’s Day debuted for a $16,000 claiming tag in a 9 ¾ -length romp at Gulfstream Dec. 20 and went on to win a pair of starter optional claiming races, including an 18 ¼-length score that was achieved in a swift 1:21.72 for seven furlongs Feb. 20. The Servis-trained Final Jeopardy, a recent optional claiming allowance winner at Gulfstream for the Wests, is also nominated.
Hoffa’s Union, who was purchased by Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable, Christopher Dunn, Rose Petal Stable and Foard Wilgis after winning his recent debut at Laurel Park, is expected to make the leap from maiden to Grade 1 stakes competition in the Florida Derby. The Mark Casse-trained son of Union Rags captured a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race by 15 ½ lengths Feb. 28.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who has saddled a record five Florida Derby winners, is represented by seven nominees, including Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Robert LaPenta and Dixiana Farms LLC’s Current; Starlight Racing’s Cutting Humor, Robert and Lawana Low’s Federal Case; Let’s Go Stable and Richard Schibell’s Outshine; Robert LaPenta’s So Alive; A 1 A Racing and Let’s Go Stable’s Soldado; and Wertheimer and Frere’s Spinoff. Federal Case is entered in Saturday’s Hutcheson (G3) at Gulfstream and Spinoff is entered in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds. Pletcher saddled Audible for a Florida Derby victory last year.
Trainer Dale Romans is represented by three horses on the Florida Derby nominations list – Calumet Farm’s Everfast and Albaugh Family Stables LLC’s Admire and Come On Gerry. Everfast finished second behind Harvey Wallbanger in the Holy Bull before finishing off the board in the Fountain of Youth. Admire and Come On Gerry are coming off out-of-the-money finishes in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Holy Bull, respectively.
Southern California-based trainer Richard Mandella nominated last weekend’s Fox Hill Farms, Inc.’s Omaha Beach, last weekend’s Rebel (G2) winner who is not slated to run, as well as Jay Em Ess Stable’s Extra Hope. Hronis Racing LLC and John Sadler are represented on the nominations list by Nolo Contesto.
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.
"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 ¬Ω-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‚Å,,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.