Racing News

McGaughey discusses sophomore squad

  • Mr Speaker is back on turf, while Honor Code stays on the Derby trail (Lauren King/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Mr Speaker will get back on turf for the Grade 3, $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park Saturday. The dark bay colt made a dashing rally up the fence to win the Dania Beach Stakes on the sod in December, but trainer Shug McGaughey opted to experiment with the main track for the Holy Bull Stakes on January 25. Though forwardly placed early in that competitive test, the three-year-old son of Pulpit didn't find another gear and tired to finish seventh, 10 3/4 lengths behind the romping winner Cairo Prince.

The Phipps Stable homebred will race with Lasix for the first time in the nine-furlong Palm Beach, and jockey Jose Lezcano will have the return call.

"He wants the grass," McGaughey said. "I took a shot in the Holy Bull, and he didn't run that bad. I think when (Lezcano) started riding him, that's when the grass part of him kicked in. So I'm looking forward to getting him back on the grass on Saturday and, everything being equal, we'll make our way back to Belmont."

McGaughey indicated that Mr Speaker would also be considered for the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes on Keeneland's Polytrack on April 12.

"We'll nominate him there, but they've got some awfully good races at Belmont," McGaughey offered. "Now there's that million-dollar race on Fourth of July weekend (the $1.25-million Belmont Derby [G1]), and there's a couple of good 3-year-old races at Saratoga. The Phippses like to key on Belmont and Saratoga, so I'd like to have a fresh horse for that."

Also in the McGaughey shedrow is Honor Code, the winter-book favorite for the Kentucky Derby who is nearing a return to action. The son of A.P. Indy worked a half-mile in :52 at Gulfstream on Tuesday.

"I'm really happy with him -- I think every day is better than the last," McGaughey offered. "I jogged him Wednesday and he galloped great (Thursday)."

Honor Code has not faced the starter since edging Cairo Prince in the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct in November, and McGaughey suggested that the sophomore will get back on track in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 15.

"I'm going to work him again over the weekend and will probably put him in company," McGaughey said. "I'd like to have Javier (Castellano) come out and do it. I'll make up my mind after that."

McGaughey indicated that he will wait a few weeks before deciding whether Top Billing will contest the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby on March 29. In his stakes debut, the chestnut colt delivered his usual late-running performance to finish third behind dueling pacesetters Wildcat Red and General a Rod in last Saturday's Fountain of Youth Stakes.

"He's come out of his race really well," the horseman said. "The track was quick all week and you could see it was speed-favoring on Saturday. The Florida Derby is where I would like to run him, but I'm going to wait and see what the track's like and how he bounces out of it. I'd prefer to run here."