Racing News

Commissioner pleases Pletcher; McGaughey upbeat about Honor Code, Top Billing

  • Commissioner and Top Billing (Adam Coglianese Photography)

Todd Pletcher-trained Commissioner is training forwardly for his scheduled stakes debut in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park on February 22.

"We're very pleased with him," Pletcher said. "Physically, he's in great order. He holds his weight well. He's a very easy horse to train.

The three-year-old son of A.P. Indy is scheduled to breeze at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream's satellite training center in Boynton Beach, Florida, on Sunday in preparation for the 1 1/16-mile prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby on March 29 and, eventually, the $2 million Kentucky Derby on May 3 at Churchill Downs.

It will be Commissioner's fourth breeze since his sensational 2014 debut.

The WinStar Farm homebred colt, who had opened his career with a second-place finish at Monmouth and a 1 1/8-mile maiden-breaker at Saratoga last summer, came back from a long layoff to prevail again at the 1 1/8-mile distance at Gulfstream on January 3. Commissioner stalked the pace before taking over the lead in the stretch and holding off Top Billing by a neck.

The Shug McGaughey-trained Top Billing came back to register an eye-catching last-to-first allowance win on January 29 going 8 1/2 furlongs.

"For him to win a mile-and-an-eighth race off a layoff against a top-quality field and Top Billing coming back to win impressively really flatters the race," said Pletcher, who teamed with WinStar Farm for a Kentucky Derby win in 2010 with Super Saver.

In other Triple Crown news, McGaughey issued an upbeat bulletin on Thursday about his high-profile sophomores Honor Code and Top Billing.

Honor Code, the Remsen hero who missed some time with a hind ankle problem, got back on the worktab at Gulfstream Park Wednesday with a three-furlong move in :35 3/5 over a fast main track.

"He breezed very well -- I was very pleased with him," McGaughey said. "He seemed to come out of it very well. I jogged him this morning just to make sure and it seemed like he was none the worse for the wear, so, hopefully, all systems are go."

A son of A.P. Indy, Honor Code defeated Cairo Prince in the Remsen at Aqueduct on November 30, and underwent surgery to remove an undescended testicle afterward. He was the shortest-priced individual betting interest in the recently concluded Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 2, closing at $12.10.

McGaughey, who enjoyed a trouble-free winter last season with Orb, has yet to finalize plans for Honor Code's return to action.

"I think the (Grade 3, $500,000) Gotham (at Aqueduct on March 1) in New York would be too soon," McGaughey stated. "Two weeks after that is the (Grade 2, $600,000) Rebel (at Oaklawn on March 15), and I think that would be one I could probably make."

The Hall of Fame conditioner was philosophical about the possibility of a race for Honor Code in the next condition book at Gulfstream.

"It would be difficult," McGaughey admitted. "You've got the Fountain of Youth and then you've got the (Grade 3, $150,000) Swale (on March 1) coming up and the Florida Derby, so I think it would be it be difficult for a race like that to go. It would be nice, but I'm not going to depend on something like that."

McGaughey swept the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby last season with Orb, and Top Billing will be his representative next weekend in the Fountain of Youth. The Curlin colt blew past his rivals in an entry-level allowance at Gulfstream on January 25, and recorded a half-mile move in :49 1/5 on February 8 at Payson Park.

"He's doing very well," McGaughey said. "He breezed last Saturday and I thought he breezed great. He was going to the gate today, just stand and back out. We'll two-minute lick him maybe Friday or Saturday and breeze him on Monday."