Honor Code wins 'peculiar' thriller in Grade 2 Remsen
By John Scheinman | 11/30/2013 06:05 PM ET
Slow early, fast late would be an understatement for the 100th running of the Grade 2, $400,000 Remsen on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The early pace could not have been much slower - an opening half-mile in 52.74 seconds, six furlongs in 1:17.56 - yet by the time the 2-year-olds hit the stretch, they were moving unmistakably fast as rising star Honor Code hooked up in a thrilling duel with Cairo Prince.
Honor Code, trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey and ridden by Javier Castellano, took the lead at the quarter pole; Cairo Prince passed him a furlong later on the outside, and Honor Code fought back to win by a nose, running the 1 1/8-mile race in 1:52.92.
It was the fifth win on the card for Castellano, who also won the Grade 2 Demoiselle and the Grade 3 Comely.
Cairo Prince, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and ridden by Luis Saez, finished a half-length in front of Wicked Strong, who was followed by Intense Holiday, Master Lightning, Matuszak, Afleet Accompli and Mental Iceberg. Noble Moon was scratched.
Heading down to the winner's circle after the race, McGaughey could scarcely process what he had just seen. Asked about the slow early fractions, he said, "I was shocked. Shocked.
"He got down on the inside of [Cairo Prince in the stretch] and he got by him," McGaughey said. "He showed a lot of guts. I'm proud of him. I think the horse in second is a nice horse, and it was a peculiar race."
Honor Code, owned by Lane's End Racing and breeder Dell Ridge Farm, showed in his third career start he is more than just a one-dimensional late runner.
In his debut, a seven-furlong sprint over a sloppy track this past summer at Saratoga Race Course, Honor Code came flying from 22 lengths back to score by 4 ¼ lengths. In his second start, he dropped back to last, 11 lengths off the pace, before rallying to just miss to Havana in the Grade 1 Foxwoods Champagne at a mile on October 5 at Belmont Park.
In the Remsen, however, Castellano involved Honor Code from the start. In his first try around two turns, he placed Honor Code just off the pace in fourth on the inside behind long shot leader Master Lightning.
On the backstretch, Castellano wanted to get off the rail, and he rode Honor Code into second place and then steered him to the outside of the front-runner.
"I didn't put him up there; he put me there," Castellano said. "The way he ran the first part, he showed me more speed and was more comfortable and relaxed. I felt the pace was slow. The opportunity was there; I took it. I didn't want to fight him."
Meanwhile, Cairo Prince, coming off a victory in the Grade 2 Nashua, raced on the outside within striking distance throughout before cutting loose at the quarter pole.
He and Honor Code put on a torrid display, with the final three furlongs of the race going in 35.36 seconds. Honor Code, in the end, would not be denied, winning a bob at the wire.
"That was a tough beat," McLaughlin said. "The winner is a good horse, but that was a tough one. I thought we had it won."
Honor Code paid $3.60 for a $2 win bet as the 4-5 favorite. The $240,000 first-place purse pushed his earnings to $388,000.
McGaughey said he would take the son of A.P Indy down to the Payson Park Thoroughbred Training Center in Florida for the winter, with an eye on the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby as a path to the Triple Crown series.
Castellano said, "The horse showed me he would like more distance," and McGaughey saw that as a good sign, whether Honor Code wants to come from behind or race near the pace.
"He's going to run that far," McGaughey said of the Triple Crown distances. "We just have to figure out how he wants to do it."