It was 1989 when trainer Shug McGaughey got his first Travers Stakes(G1) Victory with future Hall of Fame horse EASY GOER. So, it was only fitting that on the 30-year anniversary of that accomplishment, the Hall of Fame conditioner (Shug) Won the 150th renewal of the Midsummer Derby on Saturday with CODE OF HONOR.
Away in good order from the two-hole, on a picture perfect Saratoga summer day, CODE OF HONOR was kept in check near the back of the field by rider John Velazquez, sitting chilly in 9th place. While 2-1 favorite TACITUS, 3-1 second-choice MUCHO GUSTO, and Jim Dandy(G2) Winner TAX rushed to the front of the pack.
TACITUS, most recently 2nd in the Jim Dandy, won the battle for control on the lead, Haskell Invitational(G1) runner-up MUCHO GUSTO was keeping him honest from a close-up second with TAX perched to their outside in 3rd through a sharp :23.11 opening quarter.
Running two-wide, CODE OF HONOR maintained his position back off the pace as MUCHO GUSTO got a head in front of TACITUS through a half in :47.26. TACITUS re-engaged with the California shipper and the pair went head-to-head with TAX keeping a watchful eye in 3rd place, as they went through three-quarters in 1:11.21.
Expertly handled by John Velazquez, CODE OF HONOR made an eye-catching move approaching the far turn, charging up the outside to put himself in contention. The top two continued to slug it out around the bend with TACITUS two-wide and MUCHO GUSTO four-wide leaving the rail open for OWENDALE, but he dropped anchor a couple of furlongs later.
Neither of the two on the lead proved to be a match for CODE OF HONOR, who came roaring down the lane, inhaling his competitors with ease, and powering clear for a dominant three-length score.
It was the fourth Travers Win for Shug McGaughey, who captured the 1990 renewal with RHYTHM and the 1998 edition with CORONADO’S QUEST, in addition to his 1989 Victory with EASY GOER.
It was John Velazquez’s second Win in the Midsummer Derby, having captured the 2005 version with FLOWER ALLEY. The Victory was also the third of the day for the veteran, Hall of Fame rider.
The Spa’s final week of racing for this season resumes Wednesday.