To Honor and Serve
By Jon Forbes | 10/02/2010 03:22 PM ET
I suppose you can say the extra distance served him well.
To Honor and Serve, stretching out from seven furlongs to 1 1/16 miles, rolled to a 8 ¾ length score yesterday in his second start to become the first horse of the 2010 fall championship meet at Belmont Park to be featured in the New York Watch Series, which profiles up-and-comers that have recently cleared the maiden ranks at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott for Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation, To Honor Serve entered yesterday’s race off a solid runner-up performance at Saratoga on September 4. Leaving from the rail that day, the juvenile rushed up to contest the pace with the favorite and eventual winner Astrology, grew slightly leg weary in midstretch, and stayed on well after steadying with a sixteenth to travel.
“It was a tough race,” said Mott. “It was a 14-horse field and he had the one-hole. He had a lot to overcome.”
Mott was hopeful the debut race would serve as a valuable learning experience for To Honor and Serve.
“We thought he’d run well in his next start and wouldn’t have been surprised if he ran a big race,” said Mott.
And To Honor and Serve did just that in yesterday’s fifth race. Kept in the clear by John Velazquez, the colt pressed the pace in third through fractions of 23.61 and 47.89, claimed a narrow advantage inside the three-furlong marker, and edged away in the stretch under a hand ride to post a facile success.
Both of To Honor and Serve’s parents excelled over a route of ground – his freshman sire Bernardini won the 2006 Preakness, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup en route to being named that year’s Champion Three-Year-Old Colt, and his dam Pilfer won the listed Go For Wand at Delaware Park in 2004 – so it should be no surprise that Mott believes To Honor and Serve will only improve with as the races get longer.
“That’s what our expectation has been all along,” Mott said.
Bred in Kentucky by Twin Creeks Farm, Larry Byer, and Rancho San Miguel, To Honor and Serve sold for $250,000 as a weanling and the following year was acquired by Live Oak for $575,000 at Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale.
Many of the industry’s brightest stars embarked upon their careers at the NYRA tracks, including a number of recent Triple Crown race winners. Super Saver, Big Brown, Jazil, Birdstone, Funny Cide, and Empire Maker are all among the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes victors that kick-started their careers at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, or Saratoga.
The list also includes recent champions Gio Ponti and Indian Blessing; brilliant fillies Flashing, Little Belle, Music Note, and Devil May Care; Quality Road, triumphant in the 2010 Metropolitan Handicap and Woodward; and Afleet Express, winner of this year’s Travers.