ELMONT, N.Y. — Making his first start since finishing third and placed second following the disqualification of Maximum Security in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, Code of Honor earned his second graded stakes win besting a field of six in the 102nd running of the Grade 3, $250,000 Dwyer to kick off the stakes action for the Stars & Stripes Racing Festival on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Breaking from post 3 with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez aboard as the even-money favorite, Code of Honor settled comfortably in last position early as Majid led up front, setting fractions of 23.83 seconds for the opening quarter mile and the half in 47.95.
At the quarter pole, Code of Honor moved to the three-path and found an opening at the top of the stretch with Final Jeopardy and Rowayton in close pursuit. In an all-out drive, Code of Honor extended away to win by 3 ¼ lengths.
He completed the one-mile distance in a final time of 1:35.81 on a fast main track.
"He ran as we expected," said Velazquez. "I was behind the horse I expected to be. I went to go to the outside, and Jose [Ortiz, aboard Mihos] went to the outside, so I went back to the inside and he responded right away. Today, he put it all together the way we expected out of him. Hopefully, he can continue doing that going forward."
Returning $4.30 for a $2 win wager, the homebred son of Noble Mission for owner and breeder Bill Farish boosted his earnings to $1,216,320, picking up his second win from four starts this year after capturing the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in March at Gulfstream Park.
"He is a pretty classy horse," said winning conditioner Shug McGaughey. "I was just talking to Johnny. We were talking about how quiet he was in the paddock and then when I gave Johnny a leg up, he gets on his toes, goes to the post that way and then he breaks and he was there. I think that's exactly the way he wants to run; to just drop back out of it a bit and, depending on the pace, making one run like that. I thought he was a pretty easy winner today. Hopefully, we have a horse to come back with and we'll see what happens down the road."
Following Final Jeopardy in second was Rowayton, Mihos, Majid and Whiskey Echo.
Code Of Honor is one of 52 horse that have been invited to Monmouth Park’s TVG Haskell Invitational. If his connections accept the challenge he could face Maximum Security again.
Meanwhile Maximum Security and fellow contender, Joevia remain on schedule for Monmouth Park’s signature race on Saturday, July 20, with the trainers of both locally-stabled 3-year-olds saying they’re pleased with the status of their respective horses as the field continues to take shape two weeks prior to the Grade 1 race.
Maximum Security worked a mile on July 6, with trainer Jason Servis satisfied with what he saw.
“He’s doing okay,” said Servis “It was all good. He went a mile in 1:54 – one minute the first half, 54 seconds the second half. I was happy with that.”
Joevia, coming off a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes, will work on July 8 “weather permitting,” said trainer Gregg Sacco.
“It’s going to be a maintenance work with a good gallop out. Then we’ll have one more (work) after that next Sunday (July 14) if the weather cooperates,” said Sacco. “He’s doing super. We’re on schedule for the Haskell.”
Sacco, whose family roots are tied to the opening of Monmouth Park in 1946 when his father William trained, said that having a Haskell Invitational contender “is a dream come true.”
“It’s incredible, really,” said Sacco, who began training on his own in 1989 at Monmouth Park. “Growing up the way I did at Monmouth, with my dad training here since the track opened, watching as many Haskell races as I did as a kid … it’s an incredible feeling to be this close to being in my first Haskell.”
Maximum Security, beaten in his most recent start by a length in the TVG.com Pegasus Stakes on June 22 by Haskell contender King for a Day, looks to be closer to his pre-Kentucky Derby form, according to Servis. The Gary and Mary West-owned colt won the Kentucky Derby by 1¾ lengths before being disqualified to 17th for interference.
“I would say he is starting to point that way,” Servis said of the Florida Derby winner. “Right now he’s doing good.”
The $1 million Haskell Invitational headlines a July 20 card that includes the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup, the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher Stakes, the Grade 3 WinStar Matchmaker Stakes, the Grade 3 Oceanport Stakes and the Wolf Hill Stakes.
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