Notes & Quotes From the G1 Travers Stakes: Code of Honor

(Code of Honor wins the G1 Travers Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga / Photo by Chelsea Durand & Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Trainer Shug McGaughey won his first Travers in 21 years and joined a select group of Hall of Fame conditioners with his fourth “Mid-Summer Derby” triumph when Code of Honor made a strong move to the outside around the final turn and picked off six rivals en route to a three-length victory in the 150th renewal of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

The sesquicentennial iteration of the Travers, highlighting a packed seven-stakes card that featured six Grade 1s, saw McGaughey saddle his first Travers winner since Coronado’s Quest in 1998 and fourth overall, joining Elliott Burch (four) and Winbert F. “Bert” Mulholland (five) as the only trainers with four or more Travers wins.

Trainer Shug McGaughey — Code of Honor (1st):

“It doesn’t get old, but it can’t take that long again,” said McGaughey, who won his first Travers 30 years ago with Easy Goer and also won in 1990 with Rhythm. “He’s been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde horse. Today, he put it all together. He trained really well. The Dwyer was a really good race, so we were hoping we were going to see what we saw.”

In a wide-open 3-year-old division that saw three different winners of the Classics, and now with Code of Honor taking the Travers, McGaughey said Code of Honor continues to make a strong case to be considered the top of the division.

“The way he won today, you have to put him up there with them. We’ll see what happens,” McGaughey said.

Code of Honor improved to 4-2-1 in eight starts.

Jockey John Velazquez — Code of Honor:

“I never had any doubts about distance as a problem, just him putting his mind to running,” said Velazquez, who notched his second Travers win and first since Flower Alley in 2005. “Today, I made sure, when I got him out to the clear, he responded right away, so I was very happy for him. Obviously, we’ve been looking for this kind of performance for a long time. He’s a late foal, not really knowing what to do [even though he’s] run some really big races. He’s never really put it together until today.”

Trainer Bill Mott — Tacitus (2nd):

Juddmonte Farms’ Tacitus, placed third in the Kentucky Derby, logged a third consecutive runner-up effort. By finishing a half-length clear of Mucho Gusto, he added to his hard-running second in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes on June 8 and the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, both presented by NYRA Bets.

Tacitus won the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets in April at Aqueduct Racetrack and has finished first or second in six of his eight starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.

“We made the choice beforehand to go ahead and try and get him in the race, let him break and if they want to try to outrun you, make them work for it a little bit,” Mott said.

“Our horse was just there. He got the rail trip. We thought when Mucho Gusto kind of went, you’d have thought he’d have come over to the fence but he stayed out, so that gave us the rail on the second turn. Hey, the winner came running.”

Mott also saddled Elate, who ran second by a nose to Midnight Bisou two races prior in the Grade 1, $700,000 Personal Ensign presented by Lia Infiniti in a thrilling stretch-drive duel.

“The horses ran good. When the day is over, I don’t think we really have any excuses,” Mott said “My horses both were second, one by maybe a hair and the other was a good second. No excuses. Looking back, I don’t know what else we could have done.”

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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