Code of Honor makes seasonal bow in Saturday's Westchester (G3)
by Brian Bohl
Code of Honor will make his 4-year-old debut - and first start since November's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic - in the 92nd running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Westchester on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Owned and bred by W.S. Farish, Code of Honor is looking to build on a sophomore campaign in which he captured the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers at Saratoga Race Course and was elevated to first in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in September at Belmont.
The Noble Mission colt finished his year with a seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup on November 2 at Santa Anita Park.
After wintering at Payson Park Trainer Center in Indiantown, Florida, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said Code of Honor has shown off his more mature form, breezing twice at Belmont, including a four-furlong work in 49.09 seconds on June 1.
"He had a very good winter and we're really looking forward to getting him started," McGaughey said. "He's always been very athletic and now he's had some time to grow up, so we'll see how it goes."
Code of Honor, who also captured the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, has done well in his last two starts at Belmont, including a victory in the Grade 3 Dwyer on July 6. He will now take aim at the 1 1/16-mile Westchester, one of four stakes on the opening Saturday of the Belmont spring/summer meet that will be held without spectators.
"I liked the distance for him. I think one of his best races last year was the Dwyer going one mile," McGaughey said. "It's just about getting him started. We're in it to win but as long as we can get a good effort out of him where we can move forward, we'll be happy, too."
Hal of Famer John Velazquez will ride from post 9.
Michael and Jeff Fazio's Joevia will be making his first Belmont appearance since running third in last year's Belmont Stakes. Trained by Gregg Sacco, Joevia will be returning after having a successful "Llewellyn" surgery to correct a breathing issue following off-the-board efforts in the Grade 3 Razorback in February at Oaklawn Park and the Stymie on March 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack last out.
Joevia worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds on Saturday over Belmont's Big Sandy.
"He's training terrific. The breathing issues seem to be behind him," Sacco said. "By the way he's training, his gallop outs and his mental attitude right now - he's all there. It wasn't my first choice to come back in a stakes race, I was hoping to bring him back in an allowance.
"But we're home at Belmont and he ran his best race here in the Belmont Stakes," he added. "He's trained really well over the Belmont main track, so we're going to go for it. I think he's going to run a good race for us."
Junior Alvarado, who guided Flat Out to victory in the 2013 Westchester, will be in the irons from post 6.
Richard Malouf's Senior Investment is amid the best stretch of his career. The 6-year-old son of Discreetly Mine has won his last three races, earning a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure last out in his 31st career start for his five-length score in the Harrison E. Johnson Memorial on March 14 at Laurel Park.
Conditioned by Scott Lake, Senior Investment has already won his most races in a single year. He will also be returning to Big Sandy for the first time since running fifth in the 2017 Belmont Stakes.
"He's been training the best since I've had him," Lake said. "I couldn't be happier with him. He's just been lights out. He's been a horse that can go to the lead or come off the pace."
"He just does everything right," he added. "He'll run all day. I actually would like to see it a little longer. Obviously, it's a step up, but he was third in the Preakness and he's really doing well."
Jorge Vargas, Jr. will pick up the mount from post 7.
Godolphin's Endorsed will return to stakes company for the first time since running fifth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 7. The 4-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro was transferred into the care of Hall of Famer Bill Mott and posted a half-length win in his first start for him on May 20 at Oaklawn Park.
Endorsed, who ran second in the Curlin on July 26 and fourth in the Travers, is 4-1-0 in eight career starts. Joel Rosario will ride from the inside post.
Backsideofthemoon, who has finished in the money in four of his last five starts with a couple of wins against optional claimers, will have the services of jockey Eric Cancel from the outermost post 11.
Trainer Chad Brown entered a pair of contenders, including Monongahela, who will be making his first start since Brown took over the training duties. The 6-year-old veteran is 7-12-3 in 29 career starts and won his first graded stakes last year after capturing the Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin at Monmouth Park. Jose Ortiz will have the call from post 2.
His new stablemate, Payne, has won three in a row, and will step up to stakes company for the first time in his 11th start. Kendrick Carmouche has the call from post 4.
Rounding out the field is Prendimi, who has finished second in four-of-five starts this year, for trainer Chad Summers [post 5, Reylu Gutierrez]; Mihos, winner last out on April 17 at Gulfstream Park for trainer Jimmy Jerkens [post 3, Irad Ortiz, Jr.]; Wait for It, conditioned by Edward Coletti, Jr. [post 10, Mychel Sanchez]; and Forewarned, making his first start on the NYRA circuit since running fifth in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile in December at Aqueduct for trainer Uriah St. Lewis [post 8, Manny Franco].
Slated as Race 7 on Saturday's 11-race card, which offers a first post of 1:15 p.m. Eastern, the Westchester will feature on America's Day at the Races, produced by NYRA in partnership with FOX Sports, and airing live on FS1 and MSG+. Free Equibase-provided past performances are available for races that are part of the America's Day at the Races broadcast and can be accessed at www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.
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