(Code of Honor prior to the 2019 KY Derby  / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the NYRA Media Team:

• Addition of Mucho Gusto brings prospective G1 Travers field to 12

• Chess Chief picks up HOF jockey Mike Smith for G1 Runhappy Travers

• Martin Chuan to ride Everfast in Runhappy Travers

• Mandatory payout of Empire 6 returns $12K

W.S. Farish’s homebred Code of Honor, a chestnut son of Noble Mission, posted his final workout in preparation for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on Monday morning on the Oklahoma training track.

Hall of Fame conditioner Shug McGaughey, in search of his fourth Travers win after previously winning with Easy Goer in 1989, Rhythm in 1990 and Coronado’s Quest in 1998, said he was impressed by Code of Honor’s effort.

“We just wanted to get a handy half-mile into him, just a blow out,” said McGaughey. “I thought it went excellent. He went in 49 and 2 and galloped out really well, which he always does. It was a pretty exciting work for me and I’m looking forward to Saturday.”

A winner at first asking last August at Saratoga, Code of Honor followed up with a rallying second in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont. He began his sophomore campaign on the Kentucky Derby trail at Gulfstream Park, finishing fourth in the Mucho Macho Man before a driving three-quarter length score in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth.

After a troubled third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, Code of Honor loomed large in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby advancing along the rail through the final turn to take the lead with a quarter-mile to run, where he was impeded by Maximum Security before re-rallying to finish third. The disqualification of Maximum Security elevated Code of Honor to second, with Travers rival Tacitus, winner of the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets, placed third.

“We had a very good trip until we got to the quarter-pole and then Maximum Security bore out and we kind of eased up in there, and when he came back over I thought he intimidated us a little bit,” said McGaughey. “At that time, he was still mentally and physically immature. I don’t know that it cost us the race by any means, but I think it cost him a little bit when he came back over and tightened it up on him down on the rail.”

Freshened up following the Derby effort, Code of Honor returned with renewed vigor on July 6 at Belmont to win the Grade 3 Dwyer with an eventful last-to-first rush under Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez.

“I knew, unless we won the Derby, that I wasn’t going to run him back in the Preakness or the Belmont. I knew where the Dwyer was and that’s where I wanted to start him back,” said McGaughey. “There again, he did everything right between the Derby and the Dwyer and I would have been awfully disappointed if he didn’t run well. But, he did run well and he showed me some things that day that I hadn’t seen before when he had to switch course a little bit. When he was making his move and it didn’t seem to bother him, I was very pleased with what I saw.”

McGaughey said Code of Honor has continued to improve out of the Dwyer.

“He’s had time between races now and he’s done everything right. I can’t see that his last race [the Dwyer], which was back in the first part of July, took anything out of him. I think he’s done nothing but move forward,” said McGaughey.

The post-position draw for the Travers is set for 6 p.m. on Tuesday from the Adelphi Hotel in downtown Saratoga, with a prospective field of 12 including, Chess Chief [Dallas Stewart, Mike Smith], Code of Honor [McGaughey, Velazquez], Endorsed [Kiaran McLaughlin, Joel Rosario], Everfast [Dale Romans, Martin Chuan], Highest Honors [Chad Brown, Luis Saez], Laughing Fox [Steve Asmussen, Ricardo Santana, Jr.], Looking At Bikinis [Brown, Javier Castellano], Mucho Gusto [Bob Baffert, Joe Talamo], Owendale [Brad Cox, Florent Geroux], Scars Are Cool [Stanley Hough, Tyler Gaffalione], Tacitus [Bill Mott, Jose Ortiz], Tax [Danny Gargan, Irad Ortiz, Jr.].

McGaughey said he isn’t too concerned with which post his star pupil lands at Tuesday’s draw.

“They’re going to start at the eighth pole or so and we’ll be back anyway, so I don’t think it makes any difference,” said McGaughey. “If you get the ‘1’ you save ground, if you get the ’12’, I think we’d like to make our run on the outside anyway, so it’s not anything that will worry me.”

On Sunday at Saratoga, McGaughey saddled maiden winner Mrs. Danvers to a visually impressive 1 1/4-length score under Joel Rosario, covering 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.85 on the main track labeled fast.

The well-related Mrs. Danvers, by Tapit out of the Pulpit mare Gracie Square, is a homebred for Allen Stable. Her second dam, Starry Dreamer, produced multiple graded-stakes winners War Front, Teammate and Ecclesiastic.

Third after lunging at the start in her July 19 debut at Saratoga, Mrs. Danvers showed a strong stretch kick on Sunday to reel in the well-regarded Finite, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen.

“We’ve always liked what we saw in her,” said McGaughey. “Her first race was a good race. She missed the break, and still it looked like she was going to win, but Joel said when he pulled her out she kind of got lost a little bit. Yesterday, she broke well and laid back good, and when she made her run, I think she beat a pretty nice filly. She finished really well and that’s what we thought she would do. I was very pleased with what I saw.

“We stretched her out a little bit yesterday from five and a half to six and a half,” added McGaughey. “I think the farther we go the better she’ll go, as long as she learns how to settle,”

McGaughey said the Grade 1, $400,000 Frizette, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” challenge series race offering a berth in the Juvenile Fillies, is a potential target for Mrs. Danvers. The Frizette, a one-turn mile on Big Sandy, is set for October 6 at Belmont Park.

“We’ll see how she comes out of this race and take a look from there. The one race that’s on the schedule is the Frizette,” said McGaughey. “The one-turn would probably suit her pretty really but I’m not really big on throwing them to the wolves really quick, but that might be something I have to do.”

(Bob Baffert will ship Mucho Gusto to Saratoga for G1 Travers / Photo by Gene McLean)

Addition of Mucho Gusto brings prospective G1 Travers field to 12

Bob Baffert will have a horse in the $1.25 million Runhappy Travers, after all.

The Hall of Fame trainer said Monday that Mucho Gusto, runner-up in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 20, will run in the Travers on Saturday at Saratoga.

“He came out of the Haskell really well, and he breezed this morning [at Del Mar], and went really well, really strong,” said Baffert. “When they work like that, I like to run them the next week.”

Owned by Michael Lund Petersen, Mucho Gusto worked five furlongs in 59.20 seconds, the fastest of 39 workers at the distance. Baffert said Mucho Gusto will be shipped on Tuesday, and that his assistant Jimmy Barnes will be at the race.

The 3-year-old son of Mucho Macho Man will be ridden by Joe Talamo.

Mucho Gusto won a pair of Grade 3 events at Santa Anita Park, the Laz Barerra and the Affirmed in his two previous starts before the Haskell, where he finished 1 ¼ lengths behind the winner, Maximum Security. He’s hit the board in all eight career races, including three wins, a second and a third in 2019. The chestnut colt has career earnings of $630,800.

“With that work, he punched his own ticket to the Travers,” said Baffert. “We think he’s ready to do something big.”

Late last week, Baffert withdrew 2018 Eclipse Award champion 2-year-old Game Winner from Travers consideration after the colt came down with a virus.

Mucho Gusto will be the 10th Travers starter for Baffert, who has previously won the “Mid-Summer Derby” with Point Given in 2001, Arrogate in 2016 and West Coast in 2017. His 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah finished second to Keen Ice.

Chess Chief picks up HOF jockey Mike Smith for G1 Runhappy Travers

Chess Chief, a Virginia-bred son of Into Mischief, posted a bullet breeze at Churchill Downs on Monday, covering four furlongs in 48 flat working in company with allowance winner Twelfth Labour.

Stewart said the work went well and that he had landed Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, a four-time Travers winner, to ride on Saturday.

“He worked great. They worked head-and-head together,” said Stewart. “Mike Smith is going to ride him in the Travers.”

Trained by Dallas Stewart for the Estate of James Coleman, Jr., Chess Chief will step into Grade 1 company for the first time in the Travers.

Chess Chief graduated at fifth asking on March 19 at Fair Grounds when making his first start around two turns. The improving bay, an April foal, was sent to the nine-furlong Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland out of the maiden score and ran fifth at odds of 85-1.

Most recently, Chess Chief has tackled the talented Mr. Money, a multiple graded-stakes winner on a four-race win streak, finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Indiana Derby and second, last out, in the nine-furlong Grade 3 West Virginia Derby, where he earned a career-best 90 Beyer Speed Figure.

“He ran pretty good the other day and hopefully he’s getting better with age,” said Stewart. “His races are getting better and he’s by Into Mischief, who is hot as a firecracker.”

Stewart said the recent departure of Maximum Security and Game Winner from the Travers, as well as the added distance on offer, provided the impetus to enter the late-blooming colt in the “Mid-Summer Derby.”

“He ran big going a mile and an eighth and I thought a mile and a quarter would suit him,” said Stewart. “It’s a big race and a couple of the heavy favorites aren’t going, so we’re giving it a shot.

“He’s a mid-pack horse and comes on with a finish,” added Stewart. “They say this race might be lacking a little pace, but we’ll see what happens.”

(Trainer Dale Romans / Photo Courtesy of Churchill Downs)

Martin Chuan to ride Everfast in Runhappy Travers

Martin Chuan, a 24-year-old Peruvian jockey who has been riding this summer at Ellis Park, will be aboard Preakness runner-up Everfast in Saturday’s Grade 1 Runhappy Travers, trainer Dale Romans said Monday morning.

A multiple Group 1 winner in his home country, Chuan is 5-4-4 from 24 starts at Ellis Park this year, with four winners for Romans and one for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

“I think he’s an excellent rider; he’s the king of South America,” said Romans, whose son, Jacob, is holding Chuan’s book. “I think he’s going to be on par with the Ortiz brothers someday. He’s intelligent, well-grounded … I think he can really ride and I know I’ll get 100 percent effort with a horse who’ll be a bit of a price.”

Chuan has won more than 1,200 races in his home country, said his agent. Last year, he rode briefly at Ellis, winning two races from 15 starts, before returning to Lima, where he is the country’s leading rider. Prior to that, he rode once at Churchill Downs in 2017 and once at Turfway Park in 2013, finishing off the board in both races.