Honor Code

Top Kentucky Derby Contenders – Honor Code

The early bull’s-eye is squarely on Honor Code as he was listed as the No. 1 horse on the Louisville Courier-Journal’s highly respected first Kentucky Derby contenders poll of 2014. Honor Code also was the 12-1 Kentucky Derby betting favorite on the most recent Pool 2 future odds for May’s Run for the Roses. Unfortunately for Honor Code, the winter favorite hasn’t done so hot for those who bet on Kentucky Derby races.

Why all the fuss over this colt? Honor Code, owned by Lane’s End Racing and breeder Dell Ridge Farm, certainly has the pedigree, out of AP Indy and mare Serena’s Cat. AP Indy is in the Racing Hall of Fame as he won several major stakes races, including the 1992 Belmont Stakes and that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. AP Indy didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes that year. AP Indy was out of Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner.

Honor Code won his maiden race in August 2013 by running seven furlongs in 1:23.48 at Saratoga, coming from an amazing 22 lengths behind and last place to win by 4 1/4 lengths. Then he was directed to the one-mile Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in October. Honor Code went off as the betting favorite but started slowly and last in the pack again. His furious rally down the stretch wasn’t enough to catch winner Havana, with Honor Code second by a neck.

“Having to go wide probably cost us the race, but Havana got the jump at the head of the stretch and opened up, and we were unlucky to not catch him,” said Honor Code’s trainer Shug McGaughey, a Hall of Famer.

Instead of sending Honor Code to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – where Havana went – McGaughey decided to run Honor Code in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct in late November. The trainer believed that race was better for his horse’s “learning process” than shipping him all the way out to Santa Anita for the Juvenile. McGaughey clearly knows what he’s doing as he trained 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb, the first Derby victory for McGaughey.

At the 1 1/8-mile Remsen, Honor Code, ridden by Javier Castellano, staged a thrilling duel with Cairo Prince (another top Kentucky Derby contender and No. 2 on Kentucky Derby odds behind Honor Code). Castellano got Honor Code the lead at the quarter pole, only to have Cairo Prince pass him a furlong later on the outside. They dueled down the stretch with Honor Code winning by a nose in 1:52.92. The duo ran the final three furlongs in a blazing 35.36 seconds. Honor Code paid $3.60 as the 4-5 betting favorite on horse racing odds and the $240,000 prize pushed his career earnings to $388,000. To give Honor Code’s win even more meaning, Cairo Prince would go on to win the Holy Bull Stakes.

Honor Code’s 2014 debut was expected to come at the February 22 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park but he missed some time with hind ankle bruising, considered only a minor setback. Honor Code has resumed training. McGaughey will be looking to become the first trainer to win the Kentucky Derby in back-to-back years since Bob Baffert in 1997-98 (Silver Charm, Real Quiet).