(Code of Honor / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has the Grade 1, $3 million Pegasus World Cup on January 23 at Gulfstream Park in mind for W.S. Farish homebred Code of Honor, who joined the conditioner’s winter division at Payson Park in Indiantown, Florida after a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Clark on Friday at Churchill Downs.

The 4-year-old son of Noble Mission was sixth early on, made steady progress throughout the race and launched a four-wide move at the three-sixteenths pole, but came up a length shy of Bodexpress.

“I thought he ran fine,” McGaughey said. “I was disappointed he didn’t win, but once he got freed up the other horse jumped away from him and we just couldn’t catch him. He’s at Payson Park this morning and we’ll point for the Pegasus.”

A winner of his 2020 debut in the Grade 3 Westchester going a one-turn 1 1/16-miles at Belmont Park, Code of Honor was third in the Grade 1 Runhappy Met Mile on July 4 and second in the Grade 2 Kelso on October 3, both at Belmont. As a 3-year-old, Code of Honor won the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers and was elevated to first in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Through a record of 15-6-4-2, Code of Honor has amassed $2,644,360 in lifetime earnings.

McGaughey also said Allen Stable’s homebred North Dakota could target the 1 3/16-mile Grade 1, $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational on January 23 at Gulfstream.

North Dakota tracked 14 lengths off the pace before launching a devastating stretch run to get up in the final jumps to secure a half-length triumph in the Grade 3 Red Smith on November 21 on the Big A turf, while registering a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure.

The 4-year-old Medaglia d’Oro colt, a half-brother to prolific stallion War Front, broke his maiden on March 25 over the turf at Tampa Bay Downs before defeating winners over the Oldsmar oval.

“I think he has a lot of upside,” McGaughey said. “It looks like he’s just learning how to run. Not sure where I want to run him next, maybe the Pegasus Turf. I wish it were a little farther, that would suit him better, but we’ll see.”

North Dakota is also a half-sibling to graded stakes winners Teammate, Ecclesiastic and black-type producing mare Gracie Square, whose daughter by Tapit, Mrs. Danvers, won the nine-furlong Grade 3 Comely in front-running fashion under Jose Ortiz on Friday at the Big A for McGaughey.

Also an Allen homebred, Mrs. Danvers broke her maiden last August at Saratoga and came back off 10 months rest to finish second going 6 ½ furlongs in a Belmont Park allowance on June 20. She did not find the winner’s circle until her fifth start this season going a one-turn mile on October 25 over Big Sandy ahead of the Comely.

“Some of her races here earlier, she just looked like she didn’t want to win,” McGaughey said. “She trained really, really well off her last race. She had a great work galloping out going into the race. I didn’t know what was going to happen, with 3-year-old fillies going a mile and an eighth most of them for the first time. Jose rode a good race.”

Pletcher satisfied with Central Park winner Never Surprised

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he was happy with the performance from Repole Stable’s Never Surprised, who made a big jump up in class in a short period of time with a wire-to-wire win that garnered an 89 Beyer in the $100,000 Central Park at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The 2-year-old son of second crop sire Constitution broke his maiden on November 8 going six furlongs over the outer turf at the Big A before stretching out to 1 1/16 miles on the good inner turf on Saturday.

Pletcher said he was asking quite a bit out of his rising star but was pleased to see him handle the task.

“I thought he ran really well,” Pletcher said. “We were running back in 20 days off an impressive maiden win going from short to long, maiden to stake and firm to soft. We threw a lot at him in a short period of time and he passed the test. It was an impressive race from him.”

Pletcher said Never Surprised will ship to his Florida division at Palm Beach Downs, where the conditioner is primarily based during the winter months and receive a freshening before deciding a next move.

“It’s encouraging what he can potentially do moving forward,” Pletcher said. “He came out of it in good order. We’ll send him down to Florida and give him a bit of a breather and take things from there.”

Purchased for $200,000 from last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Never Surprised is out of the unraced Tiznow mare Tiz Dixie.

Pletcher also saddled first-out maiden winner Spirit Maker in Saturday’s fourth race going 1 1/16 miles over the inner turf for juveniles.

The son of Empire Maker, who earned a 60 Beyer, is owned by The Estate of Paul Pompa, Jr. in partnership with WinStar Farm.

“He’s going to be a part of the Paul Pompa estate dispersal in January, so we aren’t quite sure regarding the next step with him,” said Pletcher.

The Estate of Paul Pompa, Jr., who passed away in October, also own Saturday’s Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship winner Turned Aside, who is trained by Linda Rice. The family of the late owner was in the winner’s circle for both races.

“He was a terrific man and a great person to train for,” Pletcher said of Pompa. “We were all deeply saddened by his loss. It was emotional to see his family there and it was great that they had a couple of wins.”

Bon Raison and True Timber post last works at Keeneland before G1 Cigar Mile

Trainer Jack Sisterson saw his two expected entrants for Saturday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Cigar Mile register their final workouts yesterday at Keeneland, with Bon Raison and True Timber each working five furlongs on the main track. The duo breezed with different workmates.

Calumet Farm’s Bon Raison will be looking to rebound from a 10th-place finish last out in the six-furlong Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 7 at Keeneland. He will be running at one mile for the first time in seven starts, dating to the second race of his 5-year-old campaign when against optional claimers under then-trainer Michael Tannuzzo on January 31.

True Timber, also owned by Calumet Farm, was third in last year’s edition of the Cigar Mile, earning a 101 Beyer Speed Figure for his blacktype effort in a race won by Maximum Security. The 6-year-old son of Mineshaft will be looking for his first win of 2020 but has hit the board three times in four starts since Sisterson took over the training duties from Kiaran McLaughlin, who retired to become a jockey agent.

Bon Raison recorded a bullet 59.20 seconds yesterday, the fastest of a group of 18, while True Timber went in 1:01.40.

“Both worked very well at Keeneland yesterday and went five-eighths, they didn’t go in company together,” Sisterson said. “They did everything we asked them to and more. We don’t typically train them hard, but I wanted to get a good work in them leading up to the Cigar Mile. We are stretching them out to a mile and wanted to get a little air into the lungs and they both worked well within themselves and cooled out great.”

True Timber is slated to have the services of jockey Kendrick Carmouche for the Cigar Mile, which will feature its 32nd edition as the headliner of four graded stakes over the Big A main track on Saturday that will also include the Grade 2, $150,000 Remsen for juveniles, the $150,000 Demoiselle for 2-year-old fillies, and the Grade 3, $100,000 Go for Wand for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.

Bon Raison will have the services of jockey Jorge Vargas, Jr. It will mark his first start at Aqueduct since running third in the Grade 3 Tom Fool going six furlongs on March 7.

Forza Di Oro earns 101 Beyer in G3 Discovery score

Don Alberto Stable homebred Forza Di Oro made the grade in style in Saturday’s nine-furlong Grade 3 Discovery for sophomores at the Big A, with a 3 3/4-length score over multiple stakes winner Monday Morning Qb that garnered a career-best 101 Beyer.

“I thought it was a very good effort. I’m very pleased with him,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.

By Speightstown and out of the Hard Spun mare Filare l’Oro, Forza Di Oro graduated at second asking at 1 1/16-miles in October 2019 at Belmont Park before an off-the-board effort in the Grade 2 Remsen in December 2019, which the chestnut exited requiring some time off.

He returned in October off a significant layoff to win a first-level allowance over older horses traveling 1 1/16-miles on Big Sandy.

Mott said the nine-furlong Pegasus World Cup Invitational on January 23 at Gulfstream could be a possible next spot for Forza Di Oro.

“Naturally, it’s on the schedule so we’d have to have a look at it,” said Mott. “That would take some conversations with the owners to decide on that, but it’s something that might come up.”

Mott has a pair of probable starters for graded races next weekend at the Big A, with Godolphin homebred Speaker’s Corner for the Grade 2 Remsen and Juddmonte Farms’ Millefeuille in the Grade 2 Demoiselle.