US RACING: Code of Honor comes good at Belmont Park

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Code of Honor

Twice a Grade 1 winner last season, Code of Honor signalled more big things to come Saturday when he won Belmont Park’s Grade 3, $100,000 Westchester Stakes off the layoff.

In his first start since the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic, the 4-year-old son of Noble Mission took a wide but winning trip under jockey John Velazquez, getting up to nip Endorsed late in the 1 1/16-mile event.

Code of Honor, the 6-5 favourite, finished up in 1:42.39 over a track that was harrowed yet absorbing significant rainfall.

“You never know after they haven’t run in seven months, but we were confident he’d run his race,” said trainer Shug McGaughey.

McGaughey trains Code of Honor for owner and breeder W. S. Farish. In addition to a runner-up placing in the Kentucky Derby, he won the Travers (G1), was promoted to a victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and took the Fountain of Youth (G2) when on the Triple Crown trail.

Overall, Code of Honor improved to 6-2-1 in 10 starts with earnings of more than $2 million.

After Saturday’s return, Velazquez reported to McGaughey that “we’re right on track” to having Code of Honor competing in major races again.

“He showed up big today,” the jockey added. “I had to go around those two horses around the three-eighth pole and the other horse [Endorsed] had a really good lead. I didn’t want to ask too much of my horse, but he did what he needed to win today. I just wanted to hand ride him and he was good enough to get there.

As the longshot Prendimi set out to an opening quarter mile in 22.88 seconds, Code of Honor bided his time, sitting fifth to lead a second flight of horses in the early going. Through the turn, Velazquez asked as Endorsed slipped through to take the lead along the rail.

The battle was on from there as those two separated themselves from the pack, with Code of Honor nudging ahead with about a sixteenth of a mile left, prevailing by a half-length.

Behind Endorsed, it was well back to 50-1 longshot Forewarned in third.

Code of Honor, who didn’t fire in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup over a deep Santa Anita Park main track, could get another try later this year at Keeneland in McGaughey’s hometown of Lexington, Ky.

“It would be great for me and Mr. Farish to have a participant in there,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “But I’ve got to think about the next one down the line. I’m not smart enough to think that far ahead.”