ELMONT, N.Y. - With sensational back-to-back Grade 1 victories on the NYRA circuit in the Metropolitan Handicap and Whitney, Lane's End Racing and Dell Ridge Farm's multiple graded stakes winner Honor Code will headline a field of seven in the Grade 2, $400,000 Kelso for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, Honor Code enters the Kelso having established himself as one of the top older horses in the country. With three wins from four starts this year and two wins from three starts at the distance, McGaughey opted for the Kelso instead of the traditional 1 ¼ - mile Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup for Honor Code's final prep before a start in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
"I was looking for something that would jumpstart him and move him forward," said McGaughey. "I was worried about the 1 ¼ [miles] in the [Jockey Club] Gold Cup taking a little bit out of him, and then I'd have to build him back up again. We'll see if I'm right or wrong."
Best known for his late charge, Honor Code most recently put forth a bullet workout at Belmont last Sunday, completing five furlongs in 1:00.60. McGaughey intends to let Honor Code run his race, rain or shine, as inclement weather may be in the forecast.
"Obviously, we'd like to have a hot pace but we're just going to let him run his race," said McGaughey. "If it's an off track, the one thing we'll have to worry about is if there's speed in there that doesn't stop on an off track. He'll like an off track. He trains on it fine and broke his maiden on an off track."
Installed as the 3-5 morning line favorite, Honor Code will depart from post position 2 with Javier Castellano aboard.
Returning to New York off a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic on August 22 at Del Mar is Red Vine for owners Sarah and Jon Kelly and trainer Christophe Clement. A 5-year-old son of Candy Ride, Red Vine has moved up though the optional-claiming ranks, where he began his year on April 1 at Aqueduct Racetrack. He followed that victory with a pair of starts at Monmouth Park, picking up his first stakes victory in the Majestic Light on May 23, followed by a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile on July 5.
"It's very exciting," said Clement. "I've been shipping Red Vine all year long so it's nice to be able to run him at Belmont, even if it's going to be a very tough race. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Honor Code, but when I ran Red Vine in the Pacific Classic I thought it was little bit at the end of the world for him. So maybe he'll be more efficient at the one-turn mile, but we'll find out Saturday."
With Joel Rosario in the irons, Red Vine will leave from post 5 as the 5-1 morning-line second choice.
Looking to get back on track after a pair of difficult trips in his first two starts in North America is Tamarkuz for trainer Kiaran McLauglin and Shadwell Stable. A multiple graded stakes winner in Dubai - most notably capturing the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on March 28 at Meydan Race Course - The son of Speightstown will look to improve off a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga Race Course. Previous to that he finished fourth in the Met Mile at Belmont after being bumped at the start and having to travel wide.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle a pair with Mylute for Whisper Hill Farm and Matterhorn for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners. A 5-year-old son of Midnight Lute, Mylute last out finished fifth August 22 in the Grade 1 Woodward at the Spa. Matterhorn, a 4-year-old son of Tapit, makes his first start since placing third in the Phillip H. Iselin Stakes on August 30 at Mommouth Park.
Rounding out the field and shipping in from California is Appealing Tale for trainer Peter Miller and owner Gary Barber. Winner of the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien Stakes on August 22 at Santa Anita, the front-running Appealing Tale will look for his second victory in eight starts this year that included second-place finishes in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar and Grade 1 Triple Bend Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
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