SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – W. S. Farish’s homebred Code of Honor swept past his foes in mid-stretch before drawing off convincingly to conquer Saturday’s $1.25 million Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.
Breaing from post 2 under John Velazquez as the 4/1 third choice on the tote, Code of Honor took back to ride in ninth early. Up front, the 2/1 favorite Tacitus and the 3/1 second choice Mucho Gusto dueled with Tax for the early lead. The trio posted fractions of :23.11, :47.26, and 1:11.21, with the opening 1/4-mile coming as the fourth-fastest in the past 29 runnings.
Heading into the far turn, Code of Honor began advancing toward the front, circling several runners around the far outside before straightening for home in the middle of the track. With clear running room, Code of Honor drew alongside Mucho Gusto and Tacitus near the 1/8 pole, but he soon shot past and found nothing but smooth sailing ahead.
Edging clear with every step, the Shug McGaughey-trained Code of Honor crossed 3 lengths the best in a final time of 2:01.05 for the 1 1/4-mile event over the fast main track.
“I never had any doubts about distance as a problem, just him putting his mind to running,” said Velazquez, who notched his second Travers win after taking the 2005 edition with Flower Alley. “Today, I made sure, when I got him out to the clear, he responded right away, so I was very happy for him. Obviously, we’ve been looking for this kind of performance for a long time. He’s a late foal, not really knowing what to do. He’s never really put it together until today.”
Donning blinkers for the first time, Tacitus showed strong early speed, but perhaps he ran too strongly too early because he was unable to hold off the winner. Tacitus was a 1/2-length clear of a stubborn Mucho Gusto, while behind them, Endorsed rallied late to neck out Owendale for fourth. The Curlin Stakes winner Highest Honors necked out Tax for sixth, while Chess Chief was a 1/2-length ahead of Laughing Fox for eighth. The recent maiden-breaker Scars Are Cool, a stumbling-out-of-the-gate Looking At Bikinis, and a never-involved Everfast completed the order of finish.
Code of Honor’s win was his second straight after winning the Dwyer Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park last month and improved his overall record to 8-4-2-1. The 3-year-old son of Noble Mission, who finished second in the Kentucky Derby (G1) via disqualification, has now bankrolled $1,885,820.
“It doesn’t get old, but it can’t take that long again,” said McGaughey, who won his first Travers 30 years ago with Easy Goer and became just the third trainer ever to win at least four editions. “He’s been a bit of a Jekyll-and-Hyde horse. Today, he put it all together. He trained really well. The Dwyer was a really good race, so we were hoping we were going to see what we saw.”
Code of Honor returned $10.80 to win, $5.20 to place, and $3.80 to show. Tacitus brought back $3.70 to place and $2.80 to show, while Mucho Gusto paid $3.80 to show.