Updated: Sep 3, 2019
On March 1st, 2011, Dell Ridge Farm delivered a foal of royal descent. He was picture perfect - a dark bay with four white socks and a beautiful blaze. His pedigree was impeccable. His dam, Serena’s Cat, was a granddaughter of the great mare Serena’s Song. To top it all off, he was just one of 25 foals born from the last crop of the legendary A.P. Indy.
Lane’s End Farm, the home of A.P. Indy, visited Dell Ridge Farm in 2012 to have a look at yearlings they may like to purchase. They were smitten with the young colt and managed to form a partnership with Dell Ridge to race him. He was named Honor Code.
Two-Year Old Season
Claude “Shug” McGaughey was the lucky trainer to have Honor Code added to his barn in 2013. The colt quickly flashed his ability in his maiden debut at Saratoga Race Course. Heavy rains left the track sloppy and Honor Code would have to prove himself as a mudder in order to win.
It looked grim for him on the backstretch. He was trailing 22 lengths behind the field. But to the disbelief of everyone with enough courage to brave the rain that day at Saratoga, Honor Code flew up the rail and pulled away to win by 4 ½ lengths.
Honor Code’s connections were so happy with the result that they put him into the Gr.1 Champagne Stakes in October. Again, he trailed far behind the field. He was swept eight wide on the far turn, leaving him with just too much ground to make up. He finished second by a head. Had the race been just a step longer, Honor Code would have won it.
Trainer Shug McGaughey was proud of his horse. According to BloodHorse he said, "I thought it was an awfully big effort for a horse of his type who is just learning and is kind of lazy in the first part until you do ask him."
The colt was steered away from the Gr.1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and instead was entered into the Gr.2 Remsen Stakes. There Honor Code showed both guts and versatility. The pace was so brutally slow that Honor Code was sitting in second as they went down the backstretch. At the top of the stretch, he hooked up with Cairo Prince and the two battled hard past the grandstands. Cairo Prince began to pull away, but Honor Code showed his full heart by coming back to place his nostril on the wire first.
Three-Year Old Season
The victory capped off a great two-year old season. Hopes were high for Honor Code the following year. He looked like a fantastic 2014 Kentucky Derby candidate. He was targeting a seasonal debut in the Gr.2 Fountain Of Youth, but was forced to bypass the race when bruised ankles kept him out of training for 10 days.
Honor Code returned to the racetrack in March, shipping down to GulfStream Park for an Allowance race. It was to serve as an easy return to the track before a potential start in the Florida Derby. He finished second.
A few days later it was found that Honor Code had suffered a tear in his right hind upper suspensory. The injury took him off of the Triple Crown trail and out of the races in general for 8 months. He finally made his return with an easy victory in an allowance race at Aqueduct.
Four-Year Old Season
2015 Honor Code was strong. He was fierce competition for any horse who faced him. He first proved it when he mowed down his foes in the Gr.2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.
He then ran an uncharacteristic 5th place finish in the Gr.2 Alysheba. It was a head scratcher for many of his fans and backers. How could a horse this good with a good trip fail to even hit the board? According to BloodHorse, jockey Jaivier Castellano blamed it on the surface. "Unfortunately, the track is kind of loose a little bit and horses have to like it,” Castellano explained. “I don't think he liked it very much today."
Honor Code proved the loss a fluke when he soared past his highly-regarded foes in the Gr.1 Metropolitan Handicap to win by 4 ½ lengths. Those who doubted Honor Code enough to have him leave the starting gates that day at 7-1 odds were surely shaking their heads. The real deal Honor Code was back.
The next time Honor Code left the starting gates, he was at odds of 3-1 in the Gr.1 Whitney Stakes. There he barreled down the stretch, closing the five-length advantage Liam’s Map had on him with just a furlong left in the race. He put his nose on the wire first, making him just the ninth horse in history to win both the Met Mile and Whitney Stakes in the same year.
He made his next start in the Gr.2 Kelso Handicap. The field was moving slowly down the backstretch, but the favored Honor Code was at the back. There simply wasn’t enough pace for Honor Code to show his signature closing kick. He was still able to plod down the middle of the stretch to close ground, but was unable to get to the wire above third place.
Honor Code made the final start of the year in the Gr.1 Breeders’ Cup Classic. It was the same race that 2015 Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah would be saying his farewells in. While all eyes were on American Pharoah, Honor Code galloped with his head low at the back of the pack. At the top of the stretch, he swept past horses to finish third.
It was the last race of his career. He concluded his time as a racehorse with a record of 11:6-2-2 and over $2.5 million in earnings.
Retirement and Stud Career
Honor Code now lives at Lane’s End Farm. He is turned out 16-18 hours a day, enjoying the lifestyle that retirement offers. When he’s done in his paddock, he is returns to his stall next to his legendary sire. Honor Code is a reflection of his sire; he spends some time eyeing the tour groups from his stall and then turns around to gaze out of his window. A.P. Indy does the same.
Honor Code has all eyes in the breeding world on him. His sire is now pensioned and the racing world is looking for one more great son of A.P. Indy to carry on his legacy in the breeding shed.
Things are looking good for Honor Code so far. He has adjusted to his life as a stallion like a pro. The mares he breeds have been foaling fillies and colts stamped with their sire’s signature look - lots of chrome. One of his yearlings sold for as much as $850k.
So far, Honor Code has had two winners - Night Code and A Girl Like Me. His record will surely improve. Until then, Lane’s End Farm waits anxiously to see if their royal stallion will be as great as his sire.
Author - Kaeli Bartholomew: I run Champions of the Track as a way to spread the love of horse racing through writing, photography, and videography. The best way to increase the popularity and respect for this sport is by sharing stories and memories! Thank you for joining me on my mission to save and grow the sport of horse racing.
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(BloodHorse links in article)