SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) — Code of Honor won a stretch duel with Tacitus and Mucho Gusto, holding off hard-luck Tacitus by three lengths to win the $1.25 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.
Trained by Shug McGaughey, who won his fourth Travers, and with jockey John Velazquez aboard, the chestnut son of Noble Mission covered the 1¼ miles in 2 minutes, 1.05 seconds and paid $10.80, $5.20 and $3.80 on a sunny day with temperatures in the mid-70s.
Tacitus paid $3.70 and $2.80, and Mucho Gusto returned $3.80.
Code of Honor was the second choice in the Travers at 4-1 after an impressive victory in the Dwyer at Belmont Park in his previous start in early July. Belmont Stakes runner-up Tacitus was the 5-2 morning line favorite.
"I never had any doubts about distance as a problem, just him putting his mind to running," Velazquez said. "When I got him out in the clear, he responded right away."
Tacitus, wearing blinkers for the first time, had the lead in the back stretch before Mucho Gusto moved alongside at the half-mile pole and edged in front. At the top of the stretch they were challenged by Code of Honor, Owendale and Tax before Code of Honor slid past on the outside for the win.
Endorsed was fourth, followed by Owendale in fifth.
Tacitus trainer Bill Mott was looking for a breakout race for his gray colt, who stumbled out of the gate and nearly fell in finishing second to Tax in the Jim Dandy Stakes, a traditional prep race at Saratoga for the Travers. Instead, he finished second for the third straight time.
The race was delayed for about five minutes while crews took down signs on the inner turf course after jockeys raised concerns the billboards might distract the horses.