Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways from the October Festival of Racing on Saturday at Belmont Park:
NO COMPARISON: Trainer Chad Brown warns against comparing Complexity, a commanding front-end winner of the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne Stakes for jockey Jose Ortiz, to Good Magic, a stalker who took second in the Champagne last year and went on to become the first maiden to capture the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with Ortiz aboard. “With Good Magic’s pedigree and style, we were really looking forward to getting around two turns,” Brown said. “This horse, we’re not quite sure he can handle two turns, so it’s a different situation this year. But both horses are really talented.”
COMPELLING COMPARISON: Honor Code and Code of Honor, both conditioned by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, enjoyed identical starts in their career. Honor Code, sired by A.P. Indy, won his debut before a runner-up finish in the Champagne in 2013, just as Code of Honor, a Noble Mission colt, has done this year. In 2013, McGaughey elected to bypass the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with Honor Code and instead successfully targeted the Remsen Stakes. Although McGaughey did not rule out the Juvenile on Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs for Code of Honor, he sounds as though he is leaning toward the Remsen, on Dec. 1 at Aqueduct. “Going a mile and an eighth, if he gets away good, I think they might all be trying to catch him,” McGaughey said. He can only hope the similarities continue. Honor Code earned Grade 1 victories in the Metropolitan Handicap and Whitney Stakes as a 4-year-old.
SETTLING IN: Chad Brown is inclined to dismiss Wow Cat’s first two starts in the United States after she ruled the Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame Stakes by 3 ¼ lengths. After going 8 for 8 in Chile in 2017, she had placed second in the Grade 3 Shuvee Stakes on July 29 at Saratoga and ran third there in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes, finishing 10 lengths behind Abel Tasman. “I don’t think she cared that much for Saratoga, in hindsight,” Brown said. “She never trained great once I got her up there. She trained okay.” Ortiz is excited about what the future might hold for Wow Cat. “She’s getting better and better,” he said. “I think she’s a really special mare.”
SUCCESS STORY: Not many stories in racing are better than the rise of Divine Miss Grey, claimed by trainer Danny Gargan for $16,000 as a 3-year-old at Gulfstream Park in March 2017. She produced a solid second-place finish in the Beldame in her first crack at Grade 1 company. “I couldn’t be prouder of her,” Gargan said. “To finish second in a Grade 1 with a sixteen claimer, I mean, it’s such a blessing. She’s such a class horse.” The daughter of Divine Park is showing signs that she is learning to rate, a very encouraging development for Gargan. “If she can take it to a dimension where she can sit off [the pace], I think we’re going to end up winning a big race at one stage with her,” he said.
PERFECT PREP: Trainer Christophe Clement could not have been happier as New York-bred Disco Partner coasted to a 4 ½-length victory in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational. He needed only a vigorous hand ride from jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. to get the job done in this prep for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. “Irad was not too hard on him, which is great,” Clement said, adding, “I don’t like to have too hard of a race before the Breeders’ Cup, so I was very happy with the performance.”