Welcome to Horse Racing Nation’s Kentucky Derby Daily, which will each day leading up to the May 4 race at Churchill Downs detail all the news and notes related to contenders in one convenient space.
Shug McGaughey had heads turning earlier this month at Gulfstream Park when his 9-1 shot Code of Honor caught the much-hyped Hidden Scroll to win the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby 2019 starting gate.
While McGaughey saw Code of Honor as “kind of an easy winner” that day, the son of Noble Mission didn’t receive morning line favoritism Wednesday when the Florida Derby (G1) field of 11 drew.
Hidden Scroll’s the 5-2 top choice with Code of Honor 3-1.
“He was pretty overlooked in the Fountain of Youth,” McGaughey said. “I think that if that’s the way it is this coming Saturday, I think he’ll probably make some people feel kind of funny.”
McGaughey, of course, speaks from experience. In 2013, the Hall of Fame trainer watched Orb gallop to a half-length victory in the Fountain of Youth, win the Florida Derby and then take the Kentucky Derby.
“Orb, after his two wins down here, I was very confident, especially the way he trained afterwards that he was going to run a good race in the Derby,” said the trainer, who’s drawing parallels between that run and Code of Honor’s potential.
“If we are to run good here on Saturday, and he comes out and trains well, I would go to Louisville thinking that he should run really well,” McGaughey added.
Code of Honor, who currently sits third on the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard with 54, behind Louisiana Derby (G2) winner By My Standards and Risen Star (G2) hero War of Will, first hit the map on Aug. 18, winning his debut race in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Saratoga. On Oct. 6, W.S. Farish’s homebred clipped second in the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park.
“I don’t think he’s the type of horse that needs to take a certain track with him,” McGaughey said. “If we get lucky and run well here on Saturday, I sure look forward to (the weeks) until the Kentucky Derby.”
McGaughey likes the idea of dialing up to 1 1/8 miles on Saturday, where the trainer thinks, “it’s going to help us even more and I think there will be a better pace.”
John Velazquez will again be aboard Code of Honor on Saturday seeking his sixth Florida Derby win, the most of any jockey. The pair last paired March 16 in a five-furlong breeze at the Payson Park Training Center. He went the distance in 1:01 and galloped out a sixth furlong in 1:13.45.
“I think if everybody’s patient enough, he’ll run as far as we need him to run,” said McGaughey, who has to wait until until Saturday for Code of Honor to prove it.
For more on Saturday’s major prep, read over Matt Shifman’s full-field Florida Derby analysis, odds and suggested picks.
Mucho Gusto, beaten as the Sunland Derby (G3) favorite, might not be done on the Derby trail. Trainer Bob Baffert discussed with us what’s next for him and how his other hopefuls are doing.
Faced with a tough decision, jockey Jon Court — who could become the Kentucky Derby’s oldest rider on record — has chosen his Arkansas Derby (G1) horse.
Trainer Richard Mandella admits it: He has Derby fever. In the latest batch of Santa Anita stable notes, he ran down what’s next for Omaha Beach and Extra Hope.
In case you missed it…
Tuesday’s Derby Daily report highlighted a jockey change for Improbable as he heads into the Arkansas Derby.