The sight of Code of Honor (by Noble Mission) sailing down the stretch at Gulfstream Park on March 2 to win the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes exploded the reputations of some and confounded the expectations of others. As the fifth choice in a field of 11, Code of Honor turned the public choices upside down, with third-choice Bourbon War (Tapit) in second, the second betting choice Vekoma (Candy Ride) in third, and favorite Hidden Scroll (Hard Spun) in fourth after he had set or pressed a fast pace of :22.80 and :22.89 for the first two quarter-mile fractions.
With the Fountain of Youth victory, Code of Honor became the first stakes winner and first graded winner for his sire, Noble Mission, a full brother to champion and leading sire Frankel. Both are sons of the great Irish stallion Galileo (Sadler's Wells), and it is particularly in regard to the expectations of some breeders and advisers that Code of Honor has been such a source of consternation.
Although Noble Mission is a very handsome horse – strong, sizable, and athletic – more than a few breeders put an X next to him on their mating lists, and they were even more emphatic after seeing his first offspring. The immediate verdict was:
“They will not have speed.” Code of Honor ran in front all the way to win his maiden special on debut at Saratoga last Aug. 18.
“They will not be early.” Code of Honor stepped into G1 company for his second start and came from behind to be second in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont.
“They will not run well on dirt.” Code of Honor has raced only on dirt to date and appears to be the first classic candidate for his sire, who raced only on turf.
The third misconception, at least, was understandable because the Galileo stock, and in particular, the racers by sons of Galileo have not prospered under the largely dirt racing conditions in North America.
So, Code of Honor lies outside the norm of what we have come to expect from the typical racing behavior of progeny from the sons of Galileo.
To explain this, two possibilities come immediately to mind. Either Code of Honor is so hugely talented that he could run on any surface and win races, or he is hugely talented and got a good dose of speed from his female family. Either is possible because the chestnut son of Noble Mission defeated a solid-looking field of quick and progressive classic prospects in the Fountain of Youth.
To test the first, however, we will have to await further racing, but that is a potentially exciting and enjoyable way to spend the spring and early summer. On the other hand, we can immediately examine the possibilities of the second option with a look at the colt's dam and her immediate relations.
Bred in Kentucky by Will Farish and racing for that sportsman, Code of Honor is yet another high-class performer out of a daughter of Dixie Union (Dixieland Band). This is Reunited, who won half of her 10 starts, including the G3 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland. She had class and she had speed.
All seven of her offspring to race have won at least twice. Code of Honor is the only stakes winner, but Big League (Speightstown) was second in the G2 Best Pal Stakes, and Zip Up (Ghostzapper) produced Successful Zip (Successful Appeal), who was second in the Sapling Stakes last summer.
There is further evidence of speed in the second dam. She is multiple stakes winner Tivli, a daughter of leading sprinter and sire Mt. Livermore, who sired champion sprinter Housebuster and champion juvenile filly Eliza.
Tivli was one of two stakes winners out of the third dam, Bold Boston, who placed in her only start. Bold Boston is out of stakes winner Faneuil Hall (Bolinas Boy) and was sired by champion and classic winner Bold Forbes.
The “Puerto Rican Cadillac” won his first seven races in a row, the first five in Puerto Rico, and after his return to race in the States, the dark brown son of Irish Castle (Bold Ruler) won the Tremont Stakes by five lengths and the Saratoga Special by eight.
Laid off till the last day of 1975, Bold Forbes returned to his best form by winning the Bay Shore Stakes and then the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct to book a ticket to the Kentucky Derby with trainer Laz Barrera and jockey Angel Cordero Jr.
Bold Forbes won the Derby and finished third in the Preakness, then went to the Belmont with a question about his stamina, which was aided by a series of long-distance gallops. Jockey Angel Cordero put the colt on a six-length lead through a half in :47 and 10 furlongs in 2:01 4/5, only a tick slower than his winning time in the Kentucky Derby. Bold Forbes crawled the final quarter-mile in :27 1/5 and won through sheer determination.
The quality of the colt's courage was underlined when Barrera discovered, after Bold Forbes returned to the winner's circle, that the colt had grabbed a quarter and sheared off part of his heel.
So, yes, there is speed and depth in the family, and classic quality, and the courage to persevere against adversity.
Perhaps this is the code of honor for which the Fountain of Youth winner was named.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in Central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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