OCEANPORT – Whatever plans trainer Shug McGaughey settles on going forward with Code of Honor, he now has the perfect set-up race behind him to work off.
Code of Honor, the 2019 Kentucky Derby runner-up and Travers Stakes winner, easily shook off the cobwebs from a seven-month layoff, rolling to a two-and-a-half-length victory in the Grade 3, $250,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park on Aug. 21.
Ridden by Paco Lopez, the multiple Grade 1 winner simply outclassed his six rivals despite being idle since a fifth place finish in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 23 at Gulfstream Park, according to a press release.
“I thought he ran good. I was pleased, very pleased,” said McGaughey. “Paco Lopez let him break and run away from there. He knows that racetrack and he had him laying up a little closer than he usually is and made his move kind of early on to try to go on and get the thing over with. He rode a really nice race on him.”
Lopez, well on his way to an eighth Monmouth Park riding title, was able to get the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Noble Mission into a spot along the rail off of early front-runners I’m a G Six, West Will Power and Brice.
Following an opening quarter in :24.42, with the half going in :47.59, Lopez slipped Code of Honor outside to give him clear run.
He took off after the leaders through six furlongs reached in 1:10.77 and was rolling three-wide coming out of the turn, drawing off with ease. West Will Power finished second, a neck ahead of Phat Man.
The winning time for the mile-and-a-sixteenth was 1:42.38.
“He broke really sharp,” said Lopez. “I didn’t have to use him to get early position. He was very comfortable. Sometimes with horses off a layoff they want to go, so I actually had to take a little hold of him early. I let him settle into a good spot, then I was able to slip outside in the middle of the backstretch.
“Once he was clear and on the outside I felt good. He’s a very nice horse. He was strong. You could not tell he was off as long as he was. He was very comfortable the whole time. I was waiting a little bit in the stretch for the Phat Man to make a run at us, but my horse was just too good.”
The Will S. Farish homebred paid $4.00 to win.
The victory improved Code of Honor’s overall line to 7-4-2 from 17 career starts and boosted his career earnings to $2,881,320. Six of those victories have come in graded stakes company.
“This is the first time he has run in a long time,” said McGaughey. “With my training I don’t try to overdo it. I think he could have been drifting out a little at the end. Maybe he was getting a little tired, I don’t know. But we got it in him and we got a win and hopefully we can go on to some other things down the road.
“We will see how he comes out of it, but I think it sets us up pretty good. I would like to think about a race at Belmont in the first part of October.
“This will take a little bit out of him, shipping (from Saratoga) and running, and now you have to ship back. It’s not 50 degrees. It’s hot. I will be glad to get him back up to Saratoga and watch him for a few days. We will take it easy with him and go from there,” said McGaughey.