Grade 1 Runhappy Travers winner Code of Honor will look for a second Grade 1 score when he takes on older horses in Saturday's 101st running of the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.
Owned and bred by W.S. Farish, who campaigned eventual Horse of the Year Mineshaft to a victory in the 2003 Jockey Club Gold Cup, Code of Honor will attempt to give Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey a fourth victory in the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup after previously winning with Vanlandingham (1985), Easy Goer (1989) and Miner's Mark (1993).
The chestnut son of Noble Mission was a three-length winner of the “Mid-Summer Derby” on Aug. 24 at Saratoga, where he registered a career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure. Since the impressive effort, he has worked three times over the Belmont Park main track, the most recent of which was a half-mile move in 50.63 seconds.
Code of Honor arrives at the Jockey Club Gold Cup after one month's rest. He won the Travers off of a seven-week layoff from his G3 Dwyer score at Belmont, which came nine weeks after his runner-up effort in the G1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
“I think it's a good spot for him. It's a small field so hopefully the speed will show a little bit,” McGaughey said. “We'll just let him run his race. He came out of the Travers fine and he's coming back a month off of that effort but he seems to be doing really well. I think he'll run his race, and we'll see if he's good enough. There are some nice horses in the field but if he goes over there and runs his race I think they'll know he's in there.”
A victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup would put Code of Honor on even terms with Maximum Security, who captured the Florida Derby and Haskell Invitational, in terms of Grade 1 victories this year.
Code of Honor has amassed $1,885,820 in lifetime earnings having won four of eight career starts. He will leave from post two and will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who piloted Tonalist (2015) and Hoppertunity (2016) to Jockey Club Gold Cup victories.
Still questing for a Grade 1 victory, Travers runner-up Tacitus placed in two of the three legs of the Triple Crown and seeks a breakthrough win when emerging from post one.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who saddled Cigar (1995), Flat Out (2012) and Ron the Greek (2013) to victories in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Tacitus was placed third in the G1 Kentucky Derby following victories in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby and G2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets. Tacitus has finished second in his three starts following the Derby in the G1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, G2 Jim Dandy and most recently the Travers.
Tacitus will look to give owner Juddmonte Farm their first Jockey Club Gold Cup win since Aptitude took the 2001 edition. Jockey Jose Oritz, who seeks his first win in the race, will have the return call.
Centennial Farms' Preservationist, one of two Grade 1-winning older horses in the field, comes off of a win in the G1 Woodward presented by NYRA Bets on Aug. 31 at Saratoga. Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, the lightly-raced 6-year-old son of Arch made his stakes debut a winning one in July when besting dual Grade 1-winner Catholic Boy in the G2 Suburban, which is run over the Gold Cup's classic distance.
Following his career debut in June 2016 where he finished second, Preservationist was placed on the shelf and did not race again until the following December. He broke his maiden in January 2018 at Aqueduct and defeated winners in a first-level allowance at the Big A one month later before going on the shelf for 11 months.
Regular pilot Junior Alvarado will be aboard Preservationist from post four.
St. Elias Stable and Repole Stable's Vino Rosso captured the G1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita in May going ten furlongs, which garnered a career-best 105 Beyer. A victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup would make Vino Rosso and his two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winning sire Curlin, the first dual generation winners of the race since Shuvee (1970-71) and Nashua (1955-56).
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. will seek his second Jockey Club Gold Cup victory when he guides Vino Rosso from post three.
Rounding out the field is Ron Paolucci Racing and Jeffrey Lambert's three-time winner Olympic Village, who recently won for a $75,000 tag over the main track at Saratoga in August; his first start since defeating winners at Laurel Park in November.
The Anthony Quartarolo-trained son of Congrats is cross-entered in the G3 Ack Ack on Saturday at Churchill Downs. Should he opt for the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Olympic Village will be ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.
Since its inception in 1919, the prestigious 1 1/4-mile event for 3-year-olds and upward has consistently been a premier race in the North American classic division. All-time greats Man o' War, Gallant Fox, Whirlaway, Citation, Nashua, Forego, Kelso, Affirmed and John Henry have added the Jockey Club Gold Cup to their ledger. More recent thoroughbred titans to win the event include Cigar, Skip Away, Bernardini and Curlin.
America's Day at the Races will present live national television coverage of Jockey Club Gold Cup Day at Belmont Park from 2:30-6:30 p.m. on FS2 with regional coverage airing on MSG Networks from 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Saturday's lucrative card features four graded stakes including two Breeders' Cup Win and You're In events with the Jockey Club Gold Cup offering a berth in the Grade 1, $6 million Classic and the Grade 1, $300,000 Vosburgh providing a berth in the Grade 1, $2 million Sprint, both on Saturday, November 2 at Santa Anita Park. Saturday's card is also highlighted by the Grade 2, $300,000 Beldame and the Grade 3, $200,000 Pilgrim.
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