Code of Honor Breezes Five Furlongs for Florida Derby
McGaughey Likes What He Sees in Fountain of Youth (G2) Winner
Holy Bull (G2) Victor Harvey Wallbanger Breezes at Gulfstream
Video Link: Harvey Wallbanger/Signalman Workout
W.S. Farish’s Code of Honor pleased Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey Saturday morning while prepping for the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) March 30 at Gulfstream Park.
The 3-year-old son of Noble Mission worked for the first time since capturing the $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream March 2, breezing five furlongs at Payson Park in Indiantown FL in 1:01 and galloping out six furlongs in 1:13 4/5 by McGaughey’s watch.
“I thought he worked really well. He kind of eased away from the pole, picked it up, went the final eighth of a mile in 11-and-change and galloped out very well. He seemed to come back where he might have needed it a little bit,” McGaughey said. “We’ve got two weeks to go, so we can get him fresh again and go from there. We were very pleased with what we saw.”
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Code of Honor, who finished a disappointing fourth as the 4-5 favorite in the one-turn mile Mucho Macho Man Jan. 5 at Gulfstream, bounced back with a sharp three-quarters of a length victory in the two-turn 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth.
“Coming out of the Fountain of Youth, when I came up here and saw him a week later, which was last Saturday, I was really pleasantly surprised with what I saw, not only physically but his energy level,” McGaughey said. “I’m every bit as pleased today. Hopefully, he comes out of this good and we can move forward off this work.”
Code of Honor stamped himself as a colt to watch in his Aug. 18 debut at Saratoga, in which he led throughout the six-furlong maiden special weight race. He came back to finish second in the Oct. 6 Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park, overcoming a troubled start to close from 10th in the one-turn mile stakes.
Although the Farish homebred disappointed in the 3-year-old debut in the Mucho Macho Man, he took huge strides along the Road to the Triple Crown in his two-turn debut in the Fountain of Youth. McGaughey is hopeful that Code of Honor can follow in the footsteps of Orb and also add a Florida Derby win to his resume. McGaughey saddled Orb for a victory in the 2013 Kentucky Derby (G1) after triumphs in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby.
“Orb went forward a lot [in South Florida] and this horse is coming forward,” McGaughey said. “When we ran him in January, he wasn’t nearly the horse he is today. Hopefully, the next couple months he’ll be the same.”
At Gulfstream Park, Harvey Wallbanger breezed five furlongs in 59.66 seconds in preparation for a planned start in the Florida Derby. The son of Congrats is coming off a 29-1 upset victory in the $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull (G1) at Gulfstream Feb. 2. The Kenny McPeek-trained colt had entered the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull off a maiden victory at Churchill Downs Nov. 11 at 1 1/16 miles.
Harvey Wallbanger worked in company with the McPeek-trained Signalman, who finished a disappointing seventh in the Fountain of Youth after completing a strong juvenile campaign with a victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs. Signalman, who is scheduled to run in the Blue Grass at Keeneland April 6, was clocked in a morning’s-best 59.46 seconds while working outside pacesetting Harvey Wallbanger.
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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 ½-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.”
Juddmonte Farms, Inc.’s Hidden Scroll breezed a half-mile in 50.20 seconds Friday morning at Payson Park in Indiantown, FL receiving a little education in rating while preparing for a scheduled start in the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park March 30.
‘I thought it was very good,” trainer Bill Mott said. “We purposely put him behind another horse. We sent a lead horse out in front of him. They actually went off in 13 (seconds), 13, so they went off in 26. I wanted to make sure he was comfortably rating behind another horse, and he went off and was on the rider’s fingertips.”
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Hidden Scroll, who debuted with a spectacular front-running 14-length victory on the Jan. 26 Pegasus World Cup Invitational undercard at Gulfstream Park Jan. 26, came up short in the stretch to finish fourth as the 6-5 favorite in the $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream March 2. The 3-year-old son of Hard Spun became involved in a heated speed duel with longshot Gladiator King while setting rapid fractions of 22.80 and 45.69 for the first half-mile of the 1 1/16-mile stakes under Joel Rosario. Hidden Scroll continued to show the way into mid-stretch before faltering late, checking in three lengths behind victorious Code of Honor.
“I guess considering as fast as he went early, the fact that he was able to finish up at all was actually quite remarkable. I think it leaves us at a little bit of a loss to know where we’re at. We’re at a little bit of a learning stage with him. Not only do we have to find out if he can rate a little bit, we have to find out if he can truly get a mile and an eighth real well,” Mott said. “If we go back to the Florida Derby, you’re adding another 1/16th of a mile, which he’ll have to rate a little bit in order to get that distance.”
Friday’s breeze, the Juddmonte homebred’s first since the Fountain of Youth, was designed to give Hidden Scroll a taste of rating.
“Both the rider and the horse ate a lot of dirt, but [Hidden Scroll] got the experience and he let the dirt hit him. He pulled him out at the 3/16ths pole and he went out and joined his company. I told him to let them finish together, which they did,” Mott said. “The work was 50-and-a-fifth for Hidden Scroll, but he came home in 24, which is nice – 12, 12 – and he galloped out really well. He actually got five-eighths in 1:02-and-change.”
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano will ride Hidden Scroll for the first time in the Florida Derby.
“There’s a change in riders. As everyone knows, Joel Rosario was on last year’s 2-year-old champion [Game Winner] and we felt if we go back in the Florida Derby, it’s probably a good time to make a change and let somebody else get accustomed to the horse,” Mott said. “Javier Castellano has the mount right now. He’s a well-seasoned rider. He’s been in those kind of races. Hopefully, it will be a good fit.”
Mott is hoping the pace scenario in the Florida Derby will not be nearly as testing for Hidden Scroll as it turned out to be in the Fountain of Youth.
“Pace is always dependent on who’s in the race. You never know if you’re going to have the same group and the same matchup. I think we’ve got to be ready if there’s a crazy pace; we’re going to have to be ready to maybe give him a chance early in the race and rate a little bit,” the Hall of Fame trainer said.
Mott plans to give Hidden Scroll a tune-up breeze next weekend before shipping him to Gulfstream Park two days before the Florida Derby to school in the paddock and gate.
Bourbon War Preps for Florida Derby with Half-Mile Breeze
Bourbon Lane Stable and Late Star Stable’s Bourbon War tuned up for a scheduled start in the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) March 30 during a half-mile breeze at Gulfstream Park Friday morning.
The Mark Hennig-trained 3-year-old colt was timed in 50.50 seconds for his first workout since finishing a fast-closing second in the $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream March 2.
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Hennig, who delayed the work from 7:30 to 9 a.m. due to an early-morning rain, said he was opted to give Bourbon War a maintenance breeze.
“I thought the track might be a little heavy. I wanted to go with a maintenance work this week and we can sharpen him up next week, kind of what did last time prior to the Fountain of Youth,” Hennig said.
In the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, Bourbon War settled well off the fast pressured pace set by Hidden Scroll before advancing on the far turn, swinging wide off the turn into the homestretch, and making a strong run through the stretch. The son of Tapit finished three-quarters of a length behind victorious Code of Honor before offering an impressive gallop-out under Irad Ortiz Jr.
“I was very impressed. I think he was just hitting his stride,” Hennig said. “I thought it took him a little while to transition off the turn. He kind of had to swing a little wider than he wanted to. Irad also mentioned that he had to wait on the turn when those horses were backing up and didn’t want to make his move and have to check. He said he waited and tried to be patient rather than move too soon and be forced into where he’d be stopped and have to be restart. He felt like he could definitely been closer.”
Bourbon War had previously won a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance by 2 ¼ lengths going away Jan. 19 at Gulfstream. The Kentucky-bred colt broke his maiden at first asking by 2 ¼ lengths in a mile race originally scheduled for turf at Aqueduct Nov. 11. Three weeks later, he worked his way through traffic to finish fourth in the Dec. 1 Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct.