The last-to-first running style in horse racing is one of the most stressful yet exciting styles for those who enjoy the sport. Nothing gets adrenaline pumping more than watching a horse go from twenty lengths behind a field to closing in on leaders as the wire nears. From 2013-2015, a dark bay by the name of Honor Code was keeping hearts pounding by doing just that.
Honor Code was born on March 1st, 2011. The pressure was high from the time he took his first breaths at Dell Ridge Farm. Honor Code was one of just twenty-five foals from the last crop of the noble A.P. Indy and the world hoped to see one of these twenty-five foals succeed on the track to honor their sire. With a pedigree as strong as the one Honor Code boasted, it looked like he could be the one.
Honor Code’s sire A.P. Indy has been as sensational at stud as he was on the track. His breeding to Serena’s Cat to produce Honor Code was very well thought out as mares with Mr.Prospector in their pedigree have been known to pair very well with A.P. Indy. Serena’s Cat has also been proven to be an excellent producer. One of her weanlings sold for $3,000,000 at the Keeneland November sale in 2014 and another sold for $2,600,000 at Keeneland November in 2015. The A.P. Indy x Serena’s Cat pairing brought incredible bloodlines down to their colt, allowing Honor Code to boast both a strong sire and an incredible female line.
When Honor Code was a yearling, he was purchased by Lane's End Farm. They sent him to trainer Shug McGaughey and, according to the Breeders' Cup World Championships' website, Shug called him the most remarkable A.P. Indy horse he had ever seen. Honor Code trained well and made his debut on August 31st, 2013, at Saratoga in a seven furlong maiden special weight. Here he broke well from post six before dropping back twenty-two lengths behind the other horses. Around the final turn, Honor Code could be seen on the rail, second to last and determined to change that. He romped through the slop to snatch a sensational four and a half length win.
A huge jump in class was made for Honor Code’s second start; he would be running in the Gr.1 Champagne Stakes to make a name for himself as a two-year old and potentially put himself on the path for the 2014 Kentucky Derby. In this race, Honor Code again fell far behind horses. At the top of the stretch, Honor Code was swung eight wide and began to make his move, charging down the track but unable to beat Havana to the wire, losing by a nose. He made his final start of the season in the Gr.2 Remsen Stakes, breaking from post four and this time sitting mid pack as they went down the backstretch. As they neared the final turn, Honor Code moved up to match pacesetter Master Lightning. Down the stretch, Honor Code and Cairo Prince battled, both fighting hard and ultimately ending in Honor Code putting his nose on the wire first. This race proved that Honor Code could win from both behind and the front.
Honor Code’s first start as a three-year old was made on March 12th, 2014, in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park. Slight bruising in his ankles in February caused him to have a late start to the year and his connections hoped that this race would get Honor Code back into the swing of things. Despite being difficult to load into the gate, Honor Code broke fairly well. He ended up being swung very wide around the first turn, running second to last and not being allowed to drop too far back. As they went around the final turn, Honor Code began to pass horses and charged toward the leader, Social Inclusion. Unfortunately, Honor Code was unable to give a good kick in the stretch and finished a clear second best, ten lengths behind Social Inclusion.
After that race, Shug McGaughey began prepping his horse for the Gr.1 Wood Memorial. Everyone hoped that Honor Code would be able to win the Kentucky Derby for his sire, however it would be that fate would not allow it. After a workout at Gulfstream Park later that March, it was discovered that Honor Code had a tear in a suspensory ligament. The injury would heal, but it would take Honor Code off of the derby trail.
After recovering for most of the 2014 season, Honor Code made a return to the track on November 22nd in an Allowance Optional Claiming at Aqueduct. In this start, he seemed to be returning to his come from behind style of running. He sat ten lengths off the lead on the backstretch, leaving just enough energy to squeeze past horses and win by one length.
In 2015, Honor Code made his debut in the Gr.2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, facing strong horses such as Private Zone. He broke inward from post one and settled far back while Private Zone and Valid battled up front. Mimicking his maiden debut at Saratoga, Honor Code swept around horses as the field rounded the final turn. He bounded down the middle of the stretch, gaining on his foes with every stride. Just feet from the wire, Honor Code stuck his neck in front to win his four-year old debut.
Hopes were high for Honor Code after that start, so he was entered into the Gr.2 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs. Like his last start, Honor Code settled in the back. This time, however, he just wasn’t able to catch the leaders and finished a disappointing but fast-closing fifth. On June 6th at Belmont Park, Honor Code was set to run in the Gr.1 Met Mile. It was a day heavily focused on American Pharoah’s bid for the Triple Crown, but many racing fans eagerly waited to see if Honor Code still had “it” in him. He answered their wonder by sitting more than eleven lengths back and then running into Private Zone’s speedy early fractions, shocking the crowd with a three and three-fourths length win. He ran a 112 Beyer, the third highest for races up to a mile that year.
After his sensational performance, Honor Code was set to run in the Gr.1 Whitney Stakes. He broke from post one and sat eleven lengths off the pace being set by Liam’s Map. At the top of the stretch, a dirt covered Honor Code could be seen charging past horses on the rail and drawing nearer to Liam’s Map with every stride. In the last few seconds of the race, Honor Code exploded with speed, winning over Liam’s Map by a head. By winning, Honor Code became just the ninth horse in history to win both the Met Mile and the Whitney in the same season.
Two months later, Honor Code brought home a third place finish in the Gr.2 Kelso Handicap after brushing the gate at the start. Afterwards, the decision was made to enter Honor Code into the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a race dominated by American Pharoah’s chance at becoming the first horse to capture the Grand Slam of horse racing. Trainer Shug McGaughey thought that Honor Code came out of the Kelso training fantastically and believed he looked better than he ever had. His connections hoped that Honor Code would be able to use his late kick to steal the race.
Hundreds of thousands of people tuned in to watch the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Halloween of 2015. Honor Code broke from post nine, running close to the screams of racing fans. He sat thirteen lengths off of American Pharoah’s lead and, at the top of the stretch, attempted to use his strong kick. He began picking off horses but was no match for the royalty of Pharoah, finishing a hard earned third. His performance in that race helped gain him the title Champion Older Male for 2015.
The race marked the end of his career on the track. Honor Code retired to Lane’s End Farm with a record of 11:6-2-2 and with earnings of $2,518,260. At Lane’s End, Honor Code is stalled next to his sire. Lane’s End hope that Honor Code can continue to pass along his sire’s legacy as a “breed-shaper”. He stood at stud for the first time in 2016 and his first two-year olds will begin making their debut this year. He currently stands for $40,000.
Honor Code was and continues to be a fan favorite. He enchanted racing fans with his striking coat color and his fascinating running style. Those who loved him eagerly await to see his progeny begin running. While fans and breeders look to see him prove himself as a sire, Honor Code relaxes in retirement, enjoying all that Lane’s End Farm has to offer.
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