After appearing beaten in the stretch, Honor Code re-rallied up the rail to edge Cairo Prince in the final jumps of Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct. The well-regarded Kentucky Derby prospect earned his first stakes victory with the nose decision.
Owned by Lane's End Racing and Dell Ridge Farm LLC, the Shug McGaughey trainee netted 10 points for winning the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" event, increasing his total to 14. Honor Code was exiting a head second in the Grade 1 Champagne on October 5.
The dark bay ridgling provided jockey Javier Castellano with his fifth winner on the afternoon.
Honor Code stumbled at the start and raced close to a marginal pace, a change in tactics from his first two starts when he rallied from far behind.
He was only three lengths back in fourth following an opening quarter-mile in a glacial :25 4/5 and had advanced to second, trailing pacesetter Master Lightning by only a half-length, after a half-mile in a dawdling :52 3/5. After three-quarters in a ridiculously slow 1:17 2/5, Honor Code moved to the take the lead between calls entering the stretch drive. But Cairo Prince advanced along the outside to take overhaul the favorite and was put down for the drive.
Cairo Prince reached the mile mark in 1:41 with a half-length advantage, but Honor Code was not done yet. He gamely went after the leader in deep stretch and got up by the narrowest of margins to win the photo.
"We just said we were going to let him run his race," McGaughey said. "When (Master Lightning) went that slow, we went on and engaged him. He got down on the inside of that horse (Cairo Prince) and he got by him. I thought he got beat leaving the eighth pole, but he showed a lot of guts coming back."
"I didn't put him up there (close to the pace); he put me there," Castellano said. "The way he ran the first part, he showed me more speed and was more comfortable and relaxed. I felt the pace was slow. The opportunity was there; I took it. I know he's a come-from-behind horse but the pace was slow. I didn't want to fight him.
"I think Cairo Prince tried to make the strong, sweeping move and tried to get the jump. My horse is a big, long-striding horse and he anticipated it a little bit. He found a second gear and he came back. He galloped out very strong. The horse showed me he would like more distance. Today, he proved a lot. He's a special horse, and you can put him wherever you want."
Favored at 4-5 among eight opponents, Honor Code paid $3.60 to win after completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:52 4/5 on the fast track.
"I think the horse in second (Cairo Prince) is a nice horse, and it was a peculiar race," McGaughey added. "We'll give him a little time and take him to Payson (Park Thoroughbred Training Center in Florida). He's going to run that far (Triple Crown distances), we just have to figure out how he wants to do it."
Cairo Prince held second by a half-length over the fast-finishing Wicked Strong in third. It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to Intense Holiday, who was followed by Master Lightning, Matuszak, Afleet Accompli and Mental Iceberg. Noble Moon was scratched.
Bred in Kentucky by Dell Ridge Farm, Honor Code is from the last crop of legendary sire A.P. Indy and hails from stakes-winning Storm Cat mare Serena's Cat. That makes his a half-brother to Noble Tune, hero of this year's Grade 2 American Turf and runner-up in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
Serena's Cat is out of the stakes-winning Serena's Tune, a daughter Mr. Prospector who also produced multiple Group 3 winner Vocalised. Honor Code's third maternal dam is the mighty Serena's Song, the champion three-year-old filly of 1995 and earner of more than $3.2 million. Serena's Song is directly responsible for graded/group stakes winner Grand Reward, Harlington, Schramsberg and Sophisticat.
Honor Code, who has now earned $388,000 from three starts, was the lowest individual-priced horse in the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool that closed Saturday.