ELMONT, NY – A bumpy ride in the stretch caused the stewards to disqualify the original winner, Vino Rosso, and name Code of Honor the victor of Saturday’s $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Code of Honor receiving an automatic berth in the Classic at Santa Anita Park this November.
Vino Rosso broke on top and set the opening pace while Tacitus and the 9/5 favorite Preservationist kept closest watch, though Code of Honor sat just behind them. The group posted quick opening fractions of :24.02, :47.73, and 1:11.63 while the field’s fifth and final runner, Olympic Village, trailed well back.
Vino Rosso and Tacitus raced in-step through the far turn, with Code of Honor and Preservationist doing the same just behind. Off the turn, Tacitus gave in, but Code of Honor launched a strong rally to put himself at Vino Rosso’s throat latch.
Near the 1/8 pole, Vino Rosso drifted out and bumped into Code of Honor, then the two again touched moments later. A third brush occurred near the 1/16 pole, but both colts were completely game and continued running strongly, just noses apart.
In the shadow of the wire, Vino Rosso inched ahead just far enough to put his snout down first. The Todd Pletcher trainee completed the 1 1/4-mile event over the fast main track in a final time of 2:00.30.
Shortly after the race was complete, the stewards displayed the inquiry sign, which was followed shortly thereafter by a rider’s objection from John Velazquez (aboard Code of Honor) against Vino Rosso and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. Following a review of the stretch run, the stewards unanimously agreed to disqualify Vino Rosso from first to second, placing the Shug McGaughey-trained Code of Honor in the winner’s circle.
“Honestly, he came out and bumped my horse on me,” said Velazquez, who had ridden Vino Rosso in each of his 13 prior starts. “I had put the head in front and (Vino Rosso) bumped him. It kind of got my horse off balance for the second time when (Vino Rosso) bumped him, and now he puts the head in front of me, and I’m trying to get back in front of him, and he beats me by a head or a nose or whatever it is.”
Tacitus faded to third, 4 lengths behind the front-runners, to earn his fourth consecutive graded stakes placing without a win. Preservationist was 1 length behind him in fourth, while Olympic Village never factored into the running before completing the order of finish.
Code of Honor’s win was his third straight, having taken the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga after winning the local Dwyer Stakes (G3). The Dwyer was his first start since being elevated to second in the Kentucky Derby (G1), where the original winner Maximum Security was disqualified due to interference.
The 3-year-old son of Noble Mission now sports a record of 9-5-2-1 with $2,298,320 earned for owner/breeder W. S. Farish, head of Lane’s End Farm.
“I thought maybe Johnny had to move a little sooner than he wanted to, just because Tacitus and Preservationist weren’t able to put the pressure on Vino Rosso,” McGaughey said. “I thought we had him at every jump and (Vino Rosso) kind of came out. I knew he had come out, but I didn’t know they bumped because my view was watching sideways. When I saw the head-on (camera angle), then they threw the objection and inquiry, I thought there was a good chance they’d make a change. Johnny told me they got us twice pretty good.”
Code of Honor returned $6 to win, $3.30 to place, and $2.20 to show. Vino Rosso brought back $4.70 to place and $2.80 to show, while Tacitus paid $2.30 to show.