Code of Honor went to the starting gate at Gulfstream Park Jan. 5, carrying the lofty expectations of a betting public that made him an odds-on choice in the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man, the first stakes of the year on the Road to the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) March 30.
The bettors' high hopes were quickly deflated when the W.S. Farish homebred colt turned in a flat performance to finish fourth in the one-turn mile stakes for 3-year-olds following a less than ideal start.
Code of Honor will seek to redeem himself in Saturday's $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (G2), which will headline a 14-race program highlighted by nine graded stakes at Gulfstream. Sired by Noble Mission, a multiple Group 1 stakes-winning full brother to undefeated European champion Frankel, Code of Honor will be making his debut around two turns in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth.
“You would think it would help him. We'll have to wait and see, but I'm looking forward to running him two turns,” Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said.
Prior to his disappointing Mucho Macho Man performance, Code of Honor finished second in the Oct. 6 Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park, closing from dead last after a tumbling start to finish three-lengths behind front-running favorite Complexity..
“It was a very impressive race. I thought if we had got off good that day we probably would have put a little pressure on the winner. We wouldn't have been so far back. I thought they'd be other stuff going with him anyway, but they didn't. He got kind of hung out to dry,” McGaughey said. “When he stumbled, the kid [Eric Cancel] was patient with him and let him get his feet back under him, and he made a huge move.”
Although the Kentucky-bred colt, who was scratched the morning of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs Nov. 2 due to a fever, has had slow starts in his last two races, McGaughey isn't concerned.
“I think it was just circumstances. He stumbled leaving the gate in the Champagne and I think he got squeezed a little bit here and he kind of rushed up there a little bit, which is probably not what he wants to do,” McGaughey said. “I think we'll take a little different angle there and just left him run his race Saturday.”
Code of Honor shot right out of the starting gate in his debut at Saratoga last August on his way to a front-running victory.
“He had worked really well. Mark Casse had a horse in there [Wild Medagliad'oro] that had finished a good solid second in his first start. I had watched him run. I didn't know he we could beat him or not but we did,” McGaughey said. “When he had come up to me two or three times we worked him on the training track and he worked really well.”
Code of Honor has had a series of seven workouts at Payson Park in Indiantown, FL since his disappointing Mucho Macho Man effort, and McGaughey reports that he is training aggressively for his return to action under Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
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