Bloodlines: Code Of Honor Stakes Out New Territory For Sire Line

by | 08.27.2019 | 10:36am
Code of Honor (Noble Mission) and jockey John Velazquez win the Travers (Gr I) at Saratoga Racecourse 8/24/19. Trainer: Shug McGaughey. Owner: W.S. Farish

Victory in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga made Code of Honor (by Noble Mission) the seventh colt of 2019 to win a G1 stakes in the States at nine furlongs or farther on dirt. The others are Maximum Security (Florida Derby, Haskell), Roadster (Santa Anita Derby), Omaha Beach (Arkansas Derby), Country House (Kentucky Derby), War of Will (Preakness), and Sir Winston (Belmont).

That's not a shabby lineup, but it's worth noting that none of the other six started in the Travers. That fact kept the key race at Saratoga from being a longed-for divisional championship, but some of the half-dozen mentioned above hope to make the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Handy, handsome, and sound, Code of Honor is certain to start for the Classic if all goes well for the chestnut son of Noble Mission (Galileo). Usually referred to by his official nickname, “full brother to the unbeaten superhorse Frankel,” Noble Mission is easing out from under the towering shadow of his famous brother and beginning to cast some shade of his own.

For instance, Noble Mission is the first son of Galileo to sire a winner of a G1 race on dirt that I can find record of. This is not a minor accomplishment. Neither Galileo nor his famous sire Sadler's Wells sired a G1 winner on the dirt courses of America, either. The primary reason for that is the sons and daughters of those two great sires were campaigned almost exclusively in Europe, which has no G1s on dirt, and darned few of those were sent to test the dust of American dirt racing.

The only son of Sadler's Wells who has set up camp in America and prospered is El Prado, a highweighted juvenile in Ireland at 2 who did not train on at 3. As a result, El Prado was sold to the U.S., beginning his career at Airdrie Stud at a modest stud fee and earning his way to stallion stardom through the speed, tenacity, versatility, and soundness of his offspring. They race with excellence on dirt, as well as on turf.

Ever so fitting, El Prado has a pair of top-tier sons, one associated mostly with turf and the other mostly with dirt. The turf son of El Prado is champion turf racehorse Kitten's Joy, who has shown much of his sire's versatility for distance in his progeny but has gotten by far the best results with them on the grass. The other top-class stallion son of El Prado is Medaglia d'Oro, who was a first-class racer on dirt and then became the leading sire with a first-crop classic winner and champion in Rachel Alexandra (G1 Kentucky Oaks, Preakness, Haskell, etc.). Medaglia d'Oro is entirely in line with the Sadler's Wells tribe regarding the distance preferences of his progeny, with most excelling at a mile or more, but the seal-brown son of El Prado has shown his versatility by getting stock that are competitive on differing surfaces and around the globe.

Now Code of Honor has stuck his flag in the soil of North America for the Galileo branch of Sadler's Wells, and it would not do to underestimate the elegant chestnut.

Second in the G1 Champagne Stakes at 2, Code of Honor has won three of his six starts this season, including the G2 Fountain of Youth and G3 Dwyer to go with his G1 Travers. In addition, Code of Honor was third in the G1 Florida Derby and second in the G1 Kentucky Derby.

Bred in Kentucky by Will Farish, Code of Honor is out of the stakes-winning Dixie Union mare Reunited, winner of the G3 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes. The mare has a yearling colt by Karakontie, foaled a full brother to the Travers winner this year, and was bred back to Quality Road for 2020.

Like most Lane's End yearlings, Code of Honor was sent to the yearling sales but was RNA for $70,000 at the Keeneland September auction. Presumably, the modest response to the good-looking colt was due to his being a May 23 foal, and trainer Shug McGaughey has commented publicly both on the colt's immaturity and on the progress he has made over the past few months.

Given that Code of Honor's sire improved markedly with age and the colt's own proven ability at 2 and earlier at 3, Code of Honor would appear to be a racer who could become a performer of exceptionally high merit in the coming months.

This would be great for racing and good for the owner-breeder when his G1 winner goes to stud at Lane's End.

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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