Sweet Adjustment: When Code of Honor lagged in fourth in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes on Jan. 5 at Gulfstream, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey decided to ask more of the son of Noble Mission in his training. Code of Honor produced a bullet work on Feb. 5 at Payson Park when he zipped four furlongs in 48 seconds and another bullet on Feb. 25 at Payson Park, this time clocking 49.60 for the four furlongs. That led to an impressive victory by three-quarters of a length in the Fountain of Youth. “He was doing good with what we were putting into him, so we kept doing it and we felt like he was going to come down here and run well,” said a relieved McGaughey.
Excited Runner-Up: Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable appear to have a serious runner on their hands after Bourbon War, urged by jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., launched a sustained rally from the back of the pack to nab second in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth. Excited trainer Mark Hennig believes that performance sets up his colt well for the 1 1/8-mile Xpressbet Florida Derby on March 30. “We get to run to the second wire next time,” Hennig said. “Hopefully, that changes the result.” Hennig said the April 6 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct also merits consideration, but he is inclined to remain at Gulfstream Park. “He seems to like it here, so right now I don’t see any reason to change anything,” Hennig noted.
No Hiding Disappointment: The story of Hidden Scroll underscores how special it was that Bob Baffert-trained Justify, unraced at age 2, swept the Triple Crown last year despite not starting his career until Feb. 18 for Juddmonte Farms. Hidden Scroll, also owned by Juddmonte, dominated his debut by 14 lengths on Jan. 26 at Gulfstream, but showed he was not quite ready for prime time when he set a hot pace for jockey Joel Rosario only to weaken to fourth as the top choice in the Fountain of Youth. “It makes you wonder, ‘Should we have chosen an easier spot?’ “ Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said. “Obviously, we wanted to find out some things about him, and we found out we were not ready for this. Asked whether he will keep Hidden Scroll on the Kentucky Derby trail, he replied, “I think we’ve got to have a real look at it now.”
Champion Fizzles: Jaywalk, commanding winner of last fall’s Tito’s Handmade Vodka Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Eclipse Award recipient as 2018’s best 2-year-old filly, came up surprisingly short in her seasonal bow when fourth in the $200,000 Davona Dale Stakes. “I thought she was tight enough,” said trainer John Servis. “Obviously, she wasn’t.” Servis is unsure whether he will stick to his original plan of starting Jaywalk in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes on April 6 at Keeneland, mentioning the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks on March 30 as a possible prep for the ultimate goal, the May 3 Kentucky Oaks. “We’ll be fine,” Servis said. “We’ve still got a few months until May.”
Stepping Up: Trainer Chad Brown is thinking big after Cambier Parc, making only her third career start, captured the $150,000 Herecomesthebride Stakes by three-quarters of a length. Brown said he will set the July 6 Belmont Oaks Invitational at his home base of Belmont Park as her primary target. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro had broken her maiden by four lengths on Jan. 2. “She’s learned a lot with more experience and maturity. She’s a horse we’ve always liked and she’s been looking better as she’s gotten older,” Brown said. He said of the Belmont Oaks, “I think she’ll stay a mile and a quarter. How we get there, I’m not sure.” Rest assured, the winner of the Eclipse Award each of the last three years as the top trainer will sort it out.