Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders: California Code

Kentucky Derby 2014 contender California Chrome put together a complete performance in the Grade II San Felipe and has now won three straight in romping fashion at Santa Anita. The wire job winner earned a lofty 107 BSF and the CA-bred might be the best of the sophomore speed horses. He might go to the SA Derby next. There is talk about training up to the first Saturday in May.

California Chrome

California Chrome joins the list after a sharp wire job win in the San Felipe – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Midnight Hawk did not have the best break and was forced to chase California Chrome from the outset. He was run into the ground but never gave up and finished well clear of the rest. He probably has distance limitations but I want to see what he can do when he puts it all together mentally and physically.

Kristo rallied to finish a non-threatening 3rd in the San Felipe, his first start since landing the place in the Sham Stakes on Jan. 11, and only his second start in more than four months. He tried rating tactics on Saturday and it was a schooling experience at the very least. He is earning Derby points but needs to step up his game and fast.

Schoolofhardrocks was a well-beaten 4th in the San Felipe. He has talent but was thrown to the wolves off a long layoff in his second lifetime start. I would like to see him work his way through the allowance ranks and return to graded company later this year.

Another Derby prep…another wire job winner. Add Ring Weekend to the speed list after going all the way in the Tampa Bay Derby for Graham Motion. The improving, gelded son of Tapit has won two straight and earned a 94 BSF for his victory on Saturday. Sam Davis hero Vinceremos was 2nd best for Todd Pletcher, with Surfing U S A (Todd Pletcher) and Conquest Titan (Mark Casse) rounding out the top four.

Honor Code made his much anticipated two turn allowance return at the Gulf on March 12 but Social Inclusion stole his thunder in the compact field.

Speed rules in 8.5f races at Gulfstream and Social Inclusion had no problem making an easy lead from the rail. He ran fast throughout, setting a new track record and earning a 111 BSF. The promising son of Pioneerof The Nile could end up in the Florida Derby and would definitely impact the pace in that affair. He was unraced as a juvenile but is quickly making up for lost time with back-to-back facile wins. He does not have the seasoning to handle ten furlongs on the first Saturday in May and is yet another in a long line of quality speed horses in the sophomore division.

It was an inconclusive effort for Honor Code but he was lucky to participate in a legitimately run two turn race with only five entrants. This race had no Derby points attached and was an obvious stepping stone to much bigger things. The talented late runner was forced to chase the pace on Wednesday and was never going to catch the runaway winner. He was miles best of the rest and figures to move way up in his final Derby prep. If you like this one, do not abandon ship. Shug knows what it takes to win the Derby and understands that an 8.5f allowance race in mid-March is a means to an end.

Kendall’s Boy worked for the first time since flopping in the Southwest Stakes. He went 4f in :48 (4/73) at Fair Grounds on March 9.

Misconnect, an original “elite eleven” member dropped due to inactivity, is back on the worktab. He went an easy 3f in :38.60 (3/3) at Crupi’s New Castle Farm on March 14. He obviously won’t join the Triple Crown chase but is worth following later this year.

Add another to the ever growing IR. First it was Shared Belief (foot injury), followed by Indianapolis (cough), Havana (quarter crack), and Bayern (foot bruise). Last Saturday, Top Billing came out of a workout with a cracked cannon bone in his right front and is off the Triple Crown trail.

Each week that goes by, we add more potential quality speed to the first Saturday in May. Wildcat Red & General A Rod, Samraat, Uncle Sigh, and In Trouble, plus Albano, California Chrome, Midnight Hawk, Tapiture, Ring Weekend, Social Inclusion, and a handful of others like to run on or very near the lead…something has to give!

This week’s big Derby prep is the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes from Oaklawn Park, which features a rematch of 1-2 Southwest finishers Tapiture and Strong Mandate.

Listen to my analysis of the San Felipe Stakes on the Fast Track radio show Saturday morning (10am ET).

Click on the names of each horse below (Top 5) to view their Horse Racing Nation profile page, which includes pedigree information, results, and video.

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders

1. HONOR CODE (A.P. Indy – Serena’s Cat, by Storm Cat) Honor Code horse silks

Trainer: Shug McGaughey – Owner: Lane’s End Racing & Dell Ridge Farm

Derby Points (14)

Comments: Shug’s late runner remains on top after an inconclusive distant place finish in his allowance return. Last year’s Remsen hero owns a strong late punch and I want to see what he can do when he sits back and makes a run in the graded ranks next time.

2. STRONG MANDATE (Tiznow – Clear Mandate, by Deputy Minister) Strong Mandate silks

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas – Owner: Baker & Mack

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:03.60 (10/17) at Oaklawn Park on March 6.

Derby Points (6)

Comments: Finished 5th in his Saratoga bow. He smartly graduated at 6.5f second time out and cruised in the G1 Hopeful at 7f (mud, sealed) on Sept. 2. He never got untracked in 7th place Champagne puzzler and shot to the front from the outside post and finished an improved 3rd in the BC Juvenile. He raced wide throughout and finished a clear 2nd in his sophomore bow, losing nothing in defeat in the G3 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 17.

3. CAIRO PRINCE (Pioneerof The Nile – Holy Bubbette, by Holy Bull)Cairo Prince silks

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin – Owner: Godolphin Stable

Latest Workout: 4f in 49.45 (34/73) at Palm Meadows on March 8. “It was just what we ordered and wanted to see,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He looked great doing it, and we’re on course for the race. The reason we backed up and went slower is because we can’t go 59 and four every week or there will be not much left of him. We were real happy with the work. He’s doing great.”

Derby Points (14)

Comments: Won his first two races including the G2 Nashua and just missed to Honor Code in the slow early/fast late Remsen. He dominated the G2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25. He is training up to the Florida Derby (March 29). A majority interest in Cairo Prince was sold to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s Darley operation. He will remain with McLaughlin but run in the colors of Godolphin Stable.

4. CANDY BOY (Candy Ride – She’s an Eleven, by In Excess) Candy Boy silks

Trainer: John Sadler – Owner: C R K Stable

Latest Workout: 5f in :59.40 (2/57) at Santa Anita on March 14.

Derby Points (10)

Comments: Got good late in his juvenile season, romping in a BHP maiden route and finishing 2nd to Shared Belief in the G1 CashCall Futurity. He started his 3yo season in fine fashion with a professional tally in the G2 Robert Lewis Stakes. The SA Derby is his next scheduled start.

5. TAPITURE (Tapit – Free Spin, by Olympio) Tapiture horse silks

Trainer: Steve Asmussen – Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC.

Latest Workout: 4f in :50.20 (12/27) at Oaklawn Park on March 10.

Derby Points (22)

Comments: Lost his first three starts including a show finish in G3 Iroquois. Put it all together in last two starts with sharp graded wins in the Kentucky Jockey Club and Southwest Stakes. The Rebel is next on his docket.

6. CALIFORNIA CHROME (Lucky Pulpit – Love the Chase, by Not for Love) california chrome silks

Trainer:  Art Sherman – Owner: Coburn or Martin

Derby Points (50)

Comments: 5-for-9 lifetime including three straight romps at Santa Anita. The overachieving CA-bred ran them off their feet in the G2 San Felipe (107 BSF) and will either run in the SA Derby or train up to the Kentucky Derby. He is a great Cinderella story and will try to overcome his modest breeding on May 3.   

7. MIDNIGHT HAWK (Midnight Lute – Miss Wineshine, by Wolf Power) Midnight Hawk silks

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Mike Pegram

Derby Points (32)

Comments: Ran his record to 2-for-2 in a prominent throughout G3 Sham triumph (blinkers off). He was a bit rank early and settled for the show in the G2 Robert Lewis Stakes and was clearly second best in the San Felipe. He continues to rack up Derby points but still needs to develop mentally.

8. GOLD HAWK (Empire Maker – Caressing, by Honour and Glory) Gold Hawk silks

Trainer: Steve Asmussen – Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01 (3/21) at Fair Grounds on March 10

Derby Points (2)

Comments: Debut stalk and pounce tally at Churchill Downs Nov. 30. Found his best stride late in a good looking entry level route win at Fair Grounds 12-27. He finished an okay 3rd in the Lecomte and basically ran the same race (even 5th of 14) in the Risen Star on Feb. 22. He seems to be losing focus and I would like to see him add blinkers for the LA Derby.

9. GALA AWARD (Bernardini – Wilshew, by Carson City) Gala Award silks

Trainer:  Todd Pletcher – Owner: Michael B. Tabor, Derrick Smith and Susan Magnier

Comments: Runner-up in 8.5f turf route bow at the Gulf Dec. 7 and earned his diploma at that same course/distance second time out Jan. 20. Smartly captured the G3 Palm Beach Stakes at 9f March 1 and is living up to his hefty $1.55 million purchase price. He will likely try to qualify for the Kentucky Derby in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

10. KRISTO (Distorted Humor – Capote’s Crown, by Capote) Kristo silks

Trainer: John Sadler – Owner: Hronis Racing LLC.

Derby Points (14)

Comments: Finished 2nd in his first two sprint starts and stretched out at Santa Anita and romped by almost 7-lengths on Oct. 31. He fought Midnight Hawk throughout in the G3 Sham and was clearly second best, and ended up a distant 3rd (California Chrome & Midnight Hawk 1-2) in the San Felipe.

11. BAYERN (Offlee Wild – Alittlebitearly, by Thunder Gulch) bayern silks

Trainer: Bob Baffert – Owner: Kaleem Sham

Latest Workout: 5f in :59.80 (18/65) at Santa Anita on March 3.

Comments: Followed up a good looking debut 7f win on Jan. 4 with a commanding allowance route score Feb. 13 (both at Santa Anita). A foot bruise knocked him out of the San Felipe Stakes. Baffert said he is considering both the Santa Anita Derby and the Arkansas Derby for his final Derby prep.

Pedigree Spotlight Revisited: Honor Code

Honor Code’s sire A.P. Indy won the G1 Hollywood Futurity in 1991 to end his juvenile season. In 1992, he captured the G2 San Rafael, G1 SA Derby, G2 Peter Pan, and G1 Belmont Stakes. He wrapped up his stellar career with a victory in the G1 BC Classic. As a sire, he was responsible for well over 100 stakes winners.

A.P. Indy is a son of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, out of Secretariat mare Weekend Surprise. She was also the dam of 1990 Preakness winner Summer Squall.

honor code pedigree

Honor Code’s dam Serena’s Cat (Storm Cat – Serena’s Tune, by Mr. Prospector) went 4-for-12 in 2005-07 and won the Klassy Briefcase Stakes at Monmouth in ’07. She is also the dam of Grade II turf winner Noble Tune.

Grade I winner Storm Cat (Storm Bird – Terlinga, by Secretariat) captured 4 of 8 lifetime starts and was 2nd in the 1985 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at the Big A. The legendary stallion stood for 20 years and sired more than 100 graded stakes winners. He died in 2013 at age 30 and is buried at Overbrook Farm.

Storm Cat’s sire Storm Bird (Northern Dancer) was a European champion. He sired 63 stakes winners (Summer Squall, Bluebird) before his death in 2004 at age 26.

Serena’s Tune (Mr. Prospector – Serena’s Song, by Rahy), foaled in 1998, was a stakes winner at age 3 and 4. The late mare was a half-sister to graded and/or group winners Grand Reward, Harlington, and Sophisticat.

Mr. Prospector (by Raise a Native) won 7 of 14 starts including the Whirlaway and Gravesend Handicaps in 1974.

Legendary “Sire of sires” Mr. Prospector is one of the most influential horses in the history of thoroughbred racing, siring 181 stakes winners (47 Grade 1 or Group I winners) and 16 champions.

Hall of Famer Serena’s Song (Rahy – Imagining, by Northfields) won 13 Grade I races and was Champion U.S. 3YO Filly in 1995.

Honor Code ran three quality races during his productive juvenile campaign including a graded win at nine panels. He shook off the rust in his allowance comeback and should be ready to resume graded success in his final Derby prep. He should continue to develop for patient trainer Shug McGaughey and ten furlongs should be well within reach on the first Saturday in May.

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