Mon, 03/04/2019 - 13:57

Code of Honor (Noble Mission {GB}) had seen his stock fall a bit since a fast-finishing second in last October’s GI Champagne S., but he got back on an upward trajectory Saturday, rallying to annex a strong renewal of Gulfstream’s GII Fountain of Youth S. A debut winner–somewhat surprisingly in a dirt sprint–at Saratoga last August, the W. S. Farish homebred was a popular pick for the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after his eye-catching rally in the Champagne. He was ruled out of that race after developing a fever that morning, however, and subsequently bypassed a planned start in Aqueduct’s GII Remsen S. later in November. When he did return, Code of Honor was a dull fourth at 4-5 in the one-mile Mucho Macho Man S. Jan. 5. He’d fired several bullets at Payson Park since that outing, but was let go at 9-1 as the money poured in on highly regarded maiden romper and ‘TDN Rising Star‘ Hidden Scroll (Hard Spun).

Scraping paint into the first turn after breaking from the rail, Code of Honor sat in a far-back fifth down the backside as Hidden Scroll zipped out to post very fast fractions of :22.80 and :45.69. The chalk seemed to be running on fumes as fellow ‘Rising Star‘ Global Campaign (Curlin) chased him around the home bend, and Code of Honor began to take closer order while traveling sweetly under Hall of Famer John Velazquez. GIII Nashua S. winner Vekoma (Candy Ride {Arg}) also mounted a bid, and well-regarded Bourbon War (Tapit) started to come alive from far back.

Code of Honor came off the inside to tackle the up-and-down Hidden Scroll in upper stretch, and kept finding to deny the late bid of Bourbon War by 3/4 of a length. Vekoma grabbed third over Hidden Scroll, who was far from disgraced in defeat after setting that impossible pace.

Code of Honor wins the Fountain of Youth S. (G2) at Gulfstream Park

“There was so much speed in the race I was expecting a quick pace in front of us,” said Velazquez, who had broken a tie with Jerry Bailey in winning his record fifth Fountain of Youth. “We broke well, got position into the first turn and we held that position there. Once I was on the backstretch, I was very comfortable with the way he was doing things. By the three-eighths pole, I was a little uncomfortable–one horse was kind of backing up and the other one was kind of holding me there. I had to make kind of a premature move around the quarter pole and I got there a little too soon, to tell you the truth, but once he got in front, he opened up a little bit.”

This was the second Fountain of Youth tally for fellow Hall of Famer and trainer Shug McGaughey, who scored in 2013 with eventual GI Kentucky Derby winner Orb (Malibu Moon). He spoke with the TDN earlier this week about Code of Honor (click for Q&A and video).

As for what could be next for Code of Honor, McGaughey said, “There’s obviously three different spots. The [Mar. 30 GI] Florida Derby would be my preference. We’ve got to ship him an hour and a half down the road [from Payson]. But there is the [GII] Wood [Memorial S. Apr. 6] and [Apr. 6 GI] Bluegrass. It’s not all the Kentucky Derby. If he takes us there it’ll be fine, but we’ve still got to do it again.”

Of the beaten favorite, trainer Bill Mott said, “He ran good. It makes you wonder, ‘well, should we have chosen an easier spot?’ But I guess we felt we wanted to find some things about him today, and we found out we weren’t ready for this… I would have loved to have gone in :46 3/5 and maybe we would have had a little more to finish up with. He got wrapped up in basically kind of a speed duel in a sense with a horse he shouldn’t have been. Anyway, that’s history. We’ll turn the page.”

Pedigree Notes:

Code of Honor hails from the first crop of Noble Mission (GB) (Galileo {Ire}), the full-brother to the great Frankel (GB) and a MG1SW overseas in his own right. He is Noble Mission’s first stakes winner, and the 12th grade/group winner for potent broodmare sire and former Lane’s End resident Dixie Union. Code of Honor’s dam Reunited, also bred by Will Farish, annexed the 2005 GIII TCA S. She produced a Karakontie (Jpn) colt in 2018 and was bred back to Honor Code.

SOURCE: TDN 3/2/19