Code of Honor will control his own destiny when he faces four others in Saturday’s $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park.
With Maximum Security unlikely to race again this season and with his own possible Breeders’ Cup participation similarly uncertain, Code of Honor’s primary opportunity to enhance his championship credentials in the champion three-year-0ld male race will be in the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup at Belmont Park, a “Win & You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep for the Classic (G1).
Code of Honor enters off two dominating wins in the Dwyer (G3) and Travers (G1), the latter over Tacitus, the multiple Grade 2 winner who aims to snap a case of seconditis dating back to the Belmont S. (G1) in June.
“I think it’s a good spot for him. It’s a small field so hopefully the speed will show a little bit,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “We’ll just let him run his race. He came out of the Travers fine and he’s coming back a month off of that effort but he seems to be doing really well. I think he’ll run his race, and we’ll see if he’s good enough. There are some nice horses in the field but if he goes over there and runs his race I think they’ll know he’s in there.”
One of those nice ones is Preservationist, the Suburban (G2) and Woodward (G1) winner whose early foot makes him a potential danger to lead throughout. He’s the lone track-and-distance winner in the field, having earned a 116 BRIS Speed rating for his Suburban score on July 6.
Vino Rosso, a son of two-time Gold Cup winner Curlin, won the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) two back and was a distant third in the Whitney (G1) when last seen in early August.
The first of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge preps on Saturday is the $300,000 Vosburgh (G1), which Imperial Hint will be heavily favored to win for the second straight year.
Subsequently third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Churchill Downs, Imperial Hint will look to stamp his ticket to the Santa Anita renewal on November 2 here following a demolition of his rivals, including Mitole, in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) at Saratoga.
“He’s come out of the Vanderbilt great and been training up to the Vosburgh in good form,” trainer Luis Carvajal Jr. said. “The timing of this race works perfect for us. He really gives his all. He gives 100 percent every time he runs, so we try to space his races out.”
Firenze Fire was only fourth in the Vanderbilt but ran an improved second in the Forego (G1) to Mitole last out. He’s three-for-four at Belmont, his only flub coming in Mitole’s Met Mile (G1) in June. Promises Fulfilled has been inconsistent this year, but was a dominating scorer of the John A. Nerud (G2) over the Belmont strip in July.