W.S. Farish's homebred Code of Honor scored his second Grade 1 win in a row this Saturday, albeit via disqualification.
The 3-year-old son of Noble Mission, ridden by John Velazquez for trainer Shug McGaughey, will be listed as the official winner of the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup after first-place finisher, Vino Rosso, was taken down for interference in the stretch.
Code of Honor and Vino Rosso came down the stretch together, battling all the way to the wire, and Vino Rosso hit the wire a diminishing nose ahead of Code of Honor. However, the head-on view showed that Vino Rosso brushed with Code of Honor several times, resulting in the stewards' decision.
“Both horses ran incredible races and you hate to see it happen like this,” said McGaughey. “I do think we had gotten by him and the other horse [No. 5, Vino Rosso] came out into us a little bit. We battled back to just be beaten by a nose. I can't say enough about Code of Honor to be able to step up against older horses the way he did today.”
The final time for 1 1/4 miles over Belmont Park's fast main track was 2:00.30.
Code of Honor's victory, which came as the 2-1 second choice in the five-horse field, earned him an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park.
Tacitus was the quickest out of the gate, but Ortiz quickly sent Vino Rosso up to take over the lead. Vino Rosso made his way over to the rail, setting fractions of :24.02 and :47.73 as Tacitus angled out to sit second on his outside. Preservationist was content to sit third early on, while Code of Honor was a good five lengths behind the leader.
The field took closer order approaching the far turn with Tacitus just a head behind Vino Rosso, and Code of Honor went around Preservationist into third position just two lengths off the front.
Tacitus faltered nearing the head of the lane, but Code of Honor went three-wide late in the far turn to challenge Vino Rosso in the stretch.
Vino Rosso was game but brushed Code of Honor several times, and Ortiz was unable to keep him from interfering with that rival. Code of Honor grabbed the lead by a head at one point, but Vino Rosso came back up the inside to re-take it. In the final strides before the wire, Code of Honor cut the winning margin from a neck to a nose, but came up just short until the stewards took action to disqualify Vino Rosso.
“Honestly, he came out and bumped my horse on me,” said Velazquez. “I had put the head in front of him and he bumped him. It kind of got my horse off balance for the second time when he bumped him. And now he puts the head in front of me and I'm trying to get back in front him and he beats me by a head or a nose or whatever it is.
“It was a perfect trip, no complaints at all. Just when we got to the eighth pole, he bumped me a little bit, just enough to get my horse off balance.”
Tacitus finished third ahead of Preservationist in fourth.
Bred in Kentucky by his owner, Code of Honor is a second-generation homebred out of the Grade 3-winning Dixie Union mare Reunited. Farish sent the colt to the Keeneland September sale as a yearling, but bought him back for $70,000 and retained him to race. A winner on debut and second in the G1 Champagne as a juvenile, Code of Honor won the Fountain of Youth and was elevated to second in the G1 Kentucky Derby earlier this year.
His breakthrough win came in the G1 Travers last out, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup win over his elders improves Code of Honor's record to five wins from nine starts for earnings of over $2.3 million.
“I don't go after anybody, but this is a wonderful horse and he deserved it,” said Farish. “I saw the pictures of it and it was definitely three bumps but bottom line, we're all very excited. It was a really meaningful win for us. We had our family here from all over the country and Shug is just a great, great friend, a wonderful trainer and he did a fabulous job with this horse. This is just fantastic.”
Asked if the Breeders' Cup Classic were next on the colt's agenda, Farish was noncommittal.
“That's up in the air,” he said. “This horse needs a little vacation but on the other hand, he comes out of his races well and that is certainly a possibility.”
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