(Code of Honor before this year’s KY Derby / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said Code of Honor will more than likely bypass the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy presented by NYRA Bets in favor of training up to the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 24.

Owned by William S. Farish, Code of Honor was a recent winner of the Grade 3 Dwyer, following his second-place result in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.

“I haven’t decided, still on the fence,” McGaughey said. “He’s made great progress here in the last few days and I’m probably leaning more towards the Travers as opposed to running in both, just to give him more time in between races.”

The Dwyer was a second graded stakes victory for Code of Honor, who took the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park on March 2 before finishing third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby to Maximum Security.

The chestnut colt is by Noble Mission and out of the graded stakes winning Dixie Union broodmare Reunited.

McGaughey has won the Travers three times with Easy Goer (1989), Rhythm (1990) and Coronado’s Quest (1998).

Argonne and Rinaldi stepping up for Bond

H. James Bond is looking to continue his productive year with possible candidates for next week’s stakes races on the grass: Rinaldi in Wednesday’s $150,000 Cab Calloway Stakes as part of the New York Stallion Stakes Series for 3-year-olds and Argonne in the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green for older horses on July 27.

Rinaldi, owned by the Bond Racing Stable, has raced well over the turf in his short career that started in early June, including a win as a maiden in the Spectacular Bid Division of the New York Stallion Stakes Series. The gelding stalked pacesetter Thorny Tale before holding off a challenge from favorite Funny Guy.

Bond bought Rinaldi as a weanling for just $5,000 at the Saratoga Fasig-Tipton Sale in Fall 2016. After his win in the Spectacular Bid, Rinaldi has earned $91,140. Rinaldi is also a half-brother to Hollinger, a winner of 5-of-27 races for $712,211 in earnings.

“He got squeezed terribly leaving the starting gate in his first start. He didn’t get a clean break,” Bond said. “He’s doing well after his work the other day. He’s got a real good pedigree. He has been rewarding so far.”

Argonne, owned by William Clifton Jr., has made significant improvement in 2019. This year, the 4-year-old has been perfect in all three starts from the maiden division through the allowance conditions.

He has also been versatile in his running style while stretching out, including his last win leading from start to finish at the Bowling Green distance of 1 3/8 miles.

“This is going to be a step up in class,” Bond said. “He’s got the win pattern now. Hopefully, he can carry that into this race. He has matured. He’s a big horse at 17 hands. Those big horses take time to mature and put it all together. He’s matured into a man.”

In addition to winning Thursday’s opening race with William Clifton Jr.’s Zealous, Bond won 17-of-68 races at Aqueduct, Belmont, Gulfstream Park, and Saratoga while keeping his private stable base on Gridley Street.

The 62-year-old Bond, who has been training for more than 35 years with 1,131 victories, attributes his recent success to his wife Tina and his sons Kevin and Ryan.

“We had to get off the duck quick,” Bond said about getting his first win at Saratoga this season. “It’s all good. Mr. Clifton is the one who keeps us going. He keeps giving us these horses and giving them time off to freshen up so that we can get them right and get them ready. Great owners make great horses.

“We would like to have more powerful stock, but we are rebuilding,” Bond added. “Both sons are doing a great job. Kevin has the Belmont division. Ryan has Florida and Saratoga. It’s nice to have three people looking over the horses rather than one person. It’s the best of all worlds.”

Sky of Hook rebounding well; Not That Brady set for New York Derby

Conditioner Rudy Rodriguez said E.V. Racing Stable’s juvenile colt Sky of Hook has emerged from his victory in the inaugural running of the Rick Violette on Wednesday in good order and would keep all options open.

The Tapiture colt won his debut by a neck besting fellow New York-breds on May 10 at Belmont and followed up with another dramatic late finish, capturing the Rick Violette in the final jumps to win by a nose over a sloppy main track.

“He came back well. So far, so good,” said Rodriguez. “He looks happy and ate up all his feed last night. We’ll aim to keep him against fellow New York-breds [$200,000 Funny Cide, August 23] but you never know. We’ll talk to the owners and if he continues to do well and they want to take a shot against the big guns [Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special, August 10].”

Rodriguez also said Zayat Stables’ Majid, recent winner of the Easy Goer, remained in good form following a fifth-place finish after making his graded stakes debut in the Grade 3 Dwyer last out on July 6 at Belmont.

“He’s back home at Belmont” said Rodriguez. “We wanted to freshen him up for a few weeks before bringing him back into training. Right now, he’s ready to start galloping and breezing again. We took a chance in the Dwyer and were considering maybe the Jim Dandy, but we’ll back off of him for now and regroup.”

At Finger Lakes on Saturday, Rodriguez will be represented in the New York Derby by Not That Brady for owner Michael Imperio. A son of Big Brown, the sophomore broke his maiden in his fourth career start in December at Aqueduct before going on to capture the Damon Runyon on New Year’s Eve at Aqueduct.

Not That Brady finished a game second after setting the pace in the Grade 3 Withers before following up with an eighth-place finish in the Grade 3 Gotham and a fifth-place running in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets.

Most recently, Not That Brady finishing second in an allowance race on June 27 at Belmont. Following the New York Derby, he could start next at the Spa later in the meet.

“Hopefully, this race will give us a good indication of what to do with him going forward,” said Rodriguez. “Depending on the outcome, maybe we’ll take a chance on the Travers or we may point to the [$250,000] Albany for New York-breds [August 23.]”

Pacific Gale looking to blow away competition in G2 Honorable Miss

Tobey Morton’s Pacific Gale is training forwardly heading into the Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss Handicap for Wednesday, July 24, trainer John Kimmel said. The race will be drawn on Friday.

Pacific Gale, fourth last out in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses Invitational on June 7 at Belmont Park, will be cutting back to the Honorable Miss’s distance of six furlongs and will pick up the services of jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. for the first time.

“Right now, she’s sitting on go,” Kimmel said. “She’ll have a new pilot with Irad. I just think she didn’t run her A race the last time. But I think coming into this race, she’s doing really well.”

On Wednesday, Pacific Gale recorded her second four-furlong breeze on Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track since shipping from Belmont Park earlier this month, stopping the clock in 50.94 seconds.

“She’s doing really well. It’s looking like six or seven horses now and I guess Mia Mischief will be the probable,” Kimmel said. “I think it’s time. She’s been knocking on the door.”

The 4-year-old Flat Out mare has registered a pair of runner-up efforts in graded stakes in her four starts this year, including a second to Come Dancing in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Distaff on April 5 at Aqueduct Racetrack, earning a personal-best 98 Beer Speed Figure. She earned a 94 for her hard-closing second, by a neck, to Heavenhasmynikki in the 6 ½-furlong Grade 3 Vagrancy on May 11 at Belmont.

Among the listed probables for the Honorable Miss are Mia Mischief, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen; Chalon; Dawn the Destroyer; Honey Bunny; and Ours to Run.

Chester and Mary Broman’s Mr. Buff will make his next start in a stakes at Saratoga, with Kimmel saying the $100,000 Evan Shipman for New York-breds on August 7 remaining the targeted spot as a pathway to the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on August 31.

Kimmel said the 5-year-old three-time stakes winner could possibly run in the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on August 3 under the right circumstances.

“We’ll nominate him for the Whitney, but it’s either the Evan Shipman to the Woodward or the Whitney, if it all falls apart,” Kimmel said. “But he’s doing excellent.”

The Evan Shipman is contested at 1 1/8 miles, will be the same distance as the Jazil, which he won by 5 ¼ lengths on January 26 at the Big A. Since winning the Alex M. Robb in his return to stakes company in December, Mr. Buff has won three times in five starts and finished third once, where he ran behind Giant Expectations and Pat on the Back in the Commentator on May 27 at Belmont, following a ninth-place effort in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on March 23 at Fair Grounds.

The Friend or Foe gelding is coming off a 6 ¼-length score in the Saginaw on June 30 at Belmont, earning a 100 Beyer in drawing away for the 1 1/6-mile route on Big Sandy.

Casse targeting Amsterdam with Super Comet, Strike Silver

Trainer Mark Casse will saddle two John Oxley color bearers for the Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam, set for July 28, with Strike Silver and Super Comet.

A dark bay son of Violence, Strike Silver was a recent fourth, beaten 1 ½ lengths at 31-1 odds in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens at Belmont Park, which was his first start on the main track since a runner-up effort in last summer’s Grade 2 Sanford. A first-out maiden winner over the Churchill Downs main track last June, Strike Wilver won his stakes debut over the turf at Keeneland in the Indian Summer.

“I was pleased, he ran hard,” Casse said of Strike Silver’s Woody Stephens run. “He’s kind of a funny horse, he’s tough to get a good gauge on. Super Comet trains like a really good horse, Strike Silver trains like he’s just OK but he does run hard.”

Super Comet is slated to make his stakes debut in the Amsterdam and has won both of his two career starts, both of which took place over the Churchill Downs main track. After a first out graduation on June 2 by 4 ¾ lengths going seven furlongs, he shortened up to 6 ½ furlongs and bested a field of 10 at the Louisville oval, including stakes winner Classy John and graded stakes placed Market King.

The homebred son of Super Saver out of graded stakes placed Sky Dreamer takes the logical next step up in class in the Amsterdam.

“I thought his maiden win was really impressive because he got away a little slow,” Casse said. “He was running seven eighths, which is always difficult for a first time starter, but he kind of had to rush up and he was wide and I figured he might flatten out a little bit and run third or fourth, but he took off which was amazing. I came back and ran him a little quicker than I would like two and a half weeks, especially off of that effort, but it aligned well with the Amsterdam, so I already had that race in mind. Hopefully, his biggest race is his next one.”

Casse said perhaps his career debut took a little bit out of the horse, but that he was simply good enough to wheel back and win after 2 ½ weeks.

“I think it did a little bit but he’s just so good that he came back and did it again,” Casse said. “I knew it was a little risky but for timing I wanted to do it.”

Lexitonian possible for G1 H. Allen Jerkens

From Arlington to Laurel, trainer Jack Sisterson enjoyed a highly successful weekend with stakes winners at both ovals. He sent out Lexitonian to a stakes victory at the latter with a win in the Concern over Grade 1-winner Mind Control.

Following the effort, which garnered am 84 Beyer Speed Figure, Sisterson is considering the Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens presented by Runhappy for the Calumet Farm homebred Speightstown chestnut.

“I definitely have that race in mind,” Sisterson said. “I potentially could stretch him out at some point as well.”

Lexitonian made his first start of the year on Kentucky Derby day against allowance company, finished fifth. He then spun back in two weeks to win the Grade 2 Chick Lang at 17-1 odds before running 10th in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens on June 8.

Sisterson admitted that racing three times in five weeks was asking quite a bit out of the horse.

“Timing wise it caught up with him,” he said. “He trained well out of the Woody Stephens and we wanted to put him in a softer spot to get some confidence back in him. Jerry O’Dwyer looked after him for us when he was at Laurel. We changed tactics an hour before the race, On paper in looked like there wasn’t much speed in the race and give credit to [jockey] Sheldon [Russell] for adapting to those tactics.”

Vexatious, second in the Grade 3 Modesty at Arlington Park, could ship to Saratoga and race over the main track in the $100,000 Summer Colony on August 18.

The well-bred daughter of Giant’s Causeway and full sister to graded stakes producing sire Creative Cause and graded stakes winner Destin is graded stakes placed on dirt when finishing third in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks and Grade 3 Fantasy during her sophomore campaign. She also was fourth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks in 2017.

Her last eight starts came on turf, including a win in the Grade 3 Dowager at Keeneland via disqualification.

“She trains exceptional over the main track at Keeneland and ran well in the Kentucky Oaks a couple of years back,” Sisterson said. “I figured we could give her a shot on dirt. Timing wise, it gives us plenty of time to get over the race at Arlington.”

Sisterson also stated that the Grade 1, $850,000 Sword Dancer on August 24 is among the options for Grade 3 Arlington Handicap winner Bandua, who is also under consideration for the Grade 1, $1 million Arlington Million and the Grade 2, $250,000 Del Mar Handicap on August 17.

Admission Office to re-open following slight break; targeting later Saratoga date after skipping Bowling Green

Amerman Racing’s Admission Office will skip the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green on July 27 at Saratoga but could return later in the summer meet, trainer Brian Lynch said.

“He had a bit of a setback,” Lynch said. “I wasn’t completely ruling him out, but then we had the setback. It’s nothing major. We’ll get him there this weekend. We’ll scrap the Bowling Green and move on to the next one and get back on target for it.

“He’s going to be up there to run in one of those spots,” he added. “I just lost a little bit of time with him. We’ll get him up to Saratoga over the weekend.”

Admission Office has never finished off the board in seven career starts, going 3-3-1, including a third-place finish last out in the Grade 2 Wise Dan on June 15 at Churchill Downs that earned him a personal-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure.

That built on his previous high of a 95 Beyer when he ran second, a half-length behind Catholic Boy, in the Grade 2 Dixie on May 18 at Pimlico. The 4-year-old Point of Entry colt won two of his first three starts before ending his juvenile campaign with a runner-up effort in the Bald Eagle Derby on September 29 at Laurel Park.

Lynch took over the training duties from Chad Brown for his sophomore year, which Admission Office started by beating graded stakes-winner Instilled Regard by a neck in a one-mile allowance race on April 4 at Keeneland before his back-to-back placings against graded stakes company.

“He’s a really nice horse and he’s getting better,” Lynch said. “The more experience he gets; I think we’ll have a major league contender to enjoy.”

Award Winner, also owned by Amerman Racing, will be looking to build on his runner-up stakes debut effort in the Grade 3 Kent on July 6 at Delaware Park by pointing towards the Grade 2, $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame on Friday, August 2 at Saratoga.

A son of Ghostzapper, Award Winner broke his maiden at second asking on December 15 at Gulfstream Park. After defeating allowance company on May 19 at Churchill, the 3-year-old stayed just off the speed and dug in along the rail to challenge Eons in the final jumps, falling short by a neck in the 1 1/8-mile route on firm turf. He will be cutting back to the Hall of Fame’s one-mile distance, where he’s won in his only attempt.

“We’re excited to see how he does,” Lynch said. “We have a few 2-year-olds and a few New York-breds for later in the meet, so we’re looking forward to seeing how they do.”

Award Winner is a half-brother to multiple Grade 1-winner Oscar Performance.

Hog Creek Hustle to train up to G1 H. Allen Jerkens

After scoring her first Grade 1 win as a trainer when saddling Hog Creek Hustle to victory in the Woody Stephens at Belmont Park, trainer Vickie Foley will likely await the Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial presented by Runhappy on August 24.

The 3-year-old Overanalyze dark bay owned by Something Special Racing was nominated to the Grade 2 $200,000 Amsterdam on July 28, a prep for the Allen Jerkens.

“We’re going to wait for the Allen Jerkens,” Foley said from her Kentucky base. “It’s just too much hauling up there and back. Having to bring him back in 30 days and it’s also hot. He’s doing fine, but I would rather just wait.”

Hog Creek Hustle is a three time winner of nine career starts. He was a first out graduate over the main track at Ellis Park last August before defeating winners at Churchill Downs two starts later. After racing in all three of Fair Grounds’ preps on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, he raced in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile, where he was second beaten 5 ¼ lengths to Mr. Money.

Rice hoping for Big Apple Double with Blindwillie McTell; Voodoo Song pointing for Fasig-Tipton Lure

With three wins from nine starters at the Saratoga stand so far, conditioner Linda Rice is hoping to continue her good start.

Jerold Zaro’s 3-year-old New York-bred Posse gelding Blindwillie McTell will look to capture the second leg of the Big Apple Triple, stretching out to 1 1/16 miles for the New York Derby this Saturday at Finger Lakes.

After capturing the New York Stallion Stakes Series Great White Way last December at Aqueduct, Blindwillie McTell went on to capture the Rego Park in January at the Big A followed with a second-place finish in the NYSSS Times Square on April 20. In his most recent start, he bested a field of eight going seven furlongs to win the Mike Lee for New York-breds by two lengths.

“We’re going to give him a shot at Finger Lakes and see how it goes,” said Rice. “It’s exciting and a great series to compete in for 3-year-old New York-breds. Depending on how things go, we’ll point him towards the final leg, the Albany, on August 10.”

Rice said Saratoga favorite Voodoo Song has come out of the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple in good order after finishing a subpar eighth and would next point for the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure on Saturday, August 3.

“He came out of his race well,” said Rice. “He’s been tucked up and I’m really happy with him.”

Most notably known for his four wins in four starts at the Spa in 2017, the 5-year-old son of English Channel for owner Barry Schwartz also flourished at Saratoga last year, capturing the Grade 1 Fourstardave.

“I discussed with Barry and he agrees this horse flourishes with a little bit more frequency,” said Rice.

Holiday Disguise for Lady Sheila Stable, who won the Dancin Renee last out on June 15 at Belmont Park, will next point for the $100,000 Union Avenue on Thursday, August 15. Her half-sister Midnight Disguise, who finished third in the Dancin Renee for owners Dr. William B. Taylor & Dr. Joan M. Taylor, will be given a break and return to racing in the fall.

Rice reported graded-stakes winner Nicodemus, who was vanned off after taking a bad step in the Grade 2 John A. Nerud on July 6 at Belmont, was sent for a full scope following the race and would receive some time off.

New York-bred filly Newly Minted,who is entered in the New York Oaks on Saturday at Finger Lakes, would also be kept in consideration for the $200,000 Fleet Indian on August 23, and 6-year-old New York-bred Vincentofor owner Vince Scuderi would point for the $100,000 Evan Shipman for New York-breds on August 7 after winning back-to-back allowance races at Belmont on June 20 and Opening Day at Saratoga on July 11.

The Rookie Report: Winchell debuts well-bred Munnings filly on Friday afternoon

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Finite is a close relative to some of her owner’s best runners and will look to display a winning effort in her first career start against seven other juveniles in Friday’s fifth race, a six-furlong maiden sprint, at the Spa.

Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Finite is by Munnings out of the two-time stakes-winning Tapit broodmare Remit, who is a full-sister to five-time graded stakes winner Tapiture, who currently is the second-leading first crop sire in terms of overall wins. Finite is also a half-sister to stakes winner Reride.

Finite spent some time at El Primero Training Center in Laredo, Texas, which is operated by Asmussen’s parents.

“She is supposed to be pretty fast, that’s what they tell me down in Texas,” said Winchell’s Racing and Bloodstock Manager David Fiske. “They liked her down there and has been pretty well regarded all along. She was well liked by everyone. She has always been good looking. If you think you have a good horse and you take it to New York, they’ll let you know whether it is or not. I think she’ll run well. She’s bred to come out early. We expect her to run well.”

Finite spent the former part of the summer alongside Asmussen’s Keeneland string and trained over the Lexington oval before coming to Saratoga, where she has recorded two breezes. Most recently, Finite worked three furlongs in 37 seconds flat on July 14.

Finite will be piloted by Ricardo Santana, Jr.

McGaughey will saddle a well-bred first time starter for Allen Stable in Friday’s loaded maiden race in Mrs.Danvers. The gray or roan daughter of Tapit is out of the unraced Awesome Again broodmare Gracie Square, who is a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 producing stallion War Front.

The well-bred juvenile filly wintered in Ocala, Florida at Niall Brennan Training Center before making her way up to Keeneland and, eventually Saratoga where she recently recorded a half-mile work in 50.60 seconds.

“She’s more Tapit than she is War Front by far, but I do like her. She’s just aggressive,” McGaughey said.

Joel Rosario has the call aboard Mrs. Danvers.

Making a surface and an equipment change for trainer Wesley Ward is Kiawah Sunset who makes her main track debut for owners Alastar Thoroughbred Company, Michael Valdez, Wilson Sisk and Mrs. Paul Shanahan.

The bay Uncle Mo filly was a $300,000 purchase at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale, and is out of the Storm Cat broodmare Celebrity Cat, who also produced graded stakes winner on turf Uncle Benny.

The third dam is graded stakes placed black type producer To the Hunt, who produced Grade 1 winning grand dam Starrer and three-time Grade 1 winner Stellar Jayne.

Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride Kiawah Sunset.

Friday’s fifth race is scheduled for 3:28 p.m.