Honor Code likely to miss Fountain of Youth

Honor Code, winner of the Grade II Remsen Stakes last November, will likely not make his seasonal bow in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 22 as planned after  bruising up his back ankles, according to Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.

“I had a little bit of a setback with him and lost about 10 days of training with him so chances are he won’t make the Fountain of Youth,” McGaughey said when reached by cell phone Wednesday morning. “Maybe it will be something in New York like the (Grade III) Gotham (at Aqueduct March 1) or something like that as we go along but I won’t make the Fountain of Youth with him.”

Honor Code had his first work on the year on January 18, going three furlongs in 38.10 at Payson Park Training Center in Florida, but had been absent from the tab since.

“I don’t think he lost a whole lot (training wise) but I don’t think I can have him ready to run in three weeks,” McGaughey added. “He’ll go back to the track on Friday and see how he goes.”

McGaughey had everything go his way on the Kentucky Derby trail last year when he guided Orb through the major prep wins in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby en route to his sublime triumph in the first leg of the Triple Crown. McGaughey reiterated how much that experience showed him that everything has to go just so leading up to the first Saturday in May, but he still isn’t about to count the talented Honor Code out of contention.

“I told everyone that with Orb last year, everything went right,” McGaughey said. “We developed him the right way, he didn’t get a bruised foot or anything, everything went right. We’ll just have to see if everything goes right here. I don’t think he (Honor Code) is out of the picture yet.”

Softening the blow slightly is the fact McGaughey  has another well regarded sophomore in Top Billing. The son of Curlin invoked many comparisons to Orb when he rallied from off the pace to win a 1 1/16-miles allowance by a widening 2 3/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park this past Saturday.

McGaughey said Wednesday he still had no firm plans where Top Billing would run next but that the Fountain of Youth is under consideration.

“I’ve been really impressed with him,” McGaughey said. “I was at Payson Park yesterday morning and thought it was kind of incredible how well he’s coming out of his races. I don’t know where I’ll run him next, I’ll let him tell me. The Fountain of Youth is obviously the next stop down here but I’ll have to figure that out.”