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Honor Marie won the 2023 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs, a prep race for the 2024 Kentucky Derby (G1). The victory was trainer Whit Beckman’s first at the graded stakes level.
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Honor Marie made a sweeping move at the top of the stretch and drew clear late to win Saturday’s 97th running of the $400,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II) at Churchill Downs by two lengths over Real Men Violin on the “Stars of Tomorrow II” program for 2-year-olds.
Honor Marie, owned by Alan Ribble’s Ribble Farms LLC and trained by Whit Beckman, ran 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:44.31, earned $240,455 and collected 10 points as part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve” series, which offered points on a scale of 10-5-3-2-1 to the top five finishers as a “Prep Season” race.
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For Beckman, a graduate of Louisville’s Saint Xavier High School and a former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown, it was his first graded stakes win since starting his own stable in 2021.
“He’s a very nice horse and we were confident with his pedigree, and the way he trained, he’d enjoy longer distances,” Beckman. “It’s very exciting to have a horse like this and win our first graded stakes with him.”
Nomos, making his first start on dirt, along with first-level allowance winner Stretch Ride and longshot One Red Cent vied for the early lead through a first quarter mile in :23.70 and the half in :48.45 as Honor Marie raced relaxed at the rear of the field of eight. Honor Marie began to move into contention along the inside around the turn, and then tipped out six-wide at the top of the stretch after six furlongs in 1:13.40.
Racing in the clear down the stretch, Honor Marie collared Stretch Ride at the three-sixteenths pole as maiden winner Real Men Violin punched his way through along the rail and drew away for the two-turn triumph.
“I was thinking the two turns would help out,” Bejarano said. “After I saw there was a lot of speed in the race which would fit him. He came with a big run. In his last start he ran OK but that was seven furlongs. I was more confident with him going two turns today.”
Honor Marie paid $19.62, $6.80 and $4.26 as the 8-1 sixth betting choice. Real Men Violin, under Brian Hernandez Jr., paid $5.82 and $3.86 at odds of 5-1. Stretch Ride was another two lengths back in third at 4-1 and returned $4.16 to show with Martin Chuan aboard.
It was another length back to Street Sense (GIII) winner Risk It in fourth, who was forced to check repeatedly nearing the half-mile pole. He was followed by 8-5 favorite Awesome Road, Champagne (GI) third Dancing Groom, One Red Cent and Nomos.
Overall, Honor Marie has won two of his three starts with earnings of $318,175. Previously, he finished second to Otto the Conqueror in a first-level allowance at Churchill Downs on Oct. 29, his lone defeat.
“We’ll probably take him down to Fair Grounds after this,” Beckman said. “They have a good program for 3-year-olds.”
Honor Marie, a son of Honor Code out of the Smart Strike mare Dame Marie, was bred in Kentucky by Royce Pulliam.
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