January 25, 2021

State of Honor, Salty breeze at Churchill Downs for Kentucky Derby, Oaks

State of Honor ran second in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, January 7, 2017 (c) Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography

State of Honor breezed a half-mile in :49.80 over Churchill Downs’ fast main track on Sunday in preparation for the May 6 Kentucky Derby (G1). It was the first official move for the Mark Casse trainee since he ran second in the Florida Derby (G1) on April 1.

State of Honor, with exercise rider E.J. Bowler in the irons, posted splits of :12 and :24.40 before galloping out five furlongs in 1:02.

“We really just wanted to get a solid maintenance-work in him before something more serious next week,” assistant trainer Norman Casse said. “State of Honor is a tremendous work horse so we will probably keep breezing him by himself.”

State of Honor began his career over Woodbine’s synthetic Tapeta, finishing third in the Victoria Stakes before going unplaced in his next three races. The bay son of To Honor and Serve broke his maiden by 4 3/4 lengths last October 19 and closed out 2016 with a runner-up effort in the Coronation Futurity on November 13.

State of Honor tried dirt fort the first time when shipping to the United States for his sophomore debut. He just missed by a head in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes on January 7 at Gulfstream Park; ran third and second, respectively, in Tampa Bay Downs’ Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) and Tampa Bay Derby (G2); and recorded his runner-up placing in the Florida Derby last out.

“Horses that are primarily based on the synthetic track need time to acclimate to the dirt surface,” Casse said. “We really thought State of Honor was a true dirt horse after his first breeze at Palm Meadows (on December 9). We have been treating every race in his three-year-old campaign as a steppingstone to the first Saturday in May, and he has improved in each start.”

State of Honor currently sits in 11th on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 62 total points.

Stablemate and Kentucky Oaks (G1) contender Salty also breezed at Churchill Downs on Sunday. The Quality Road filly clocked a half-mile in :48 in her first work since romping by 4 1/4 lengths in the April 1 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).

Salty had exercise rider Janelle Castonguay aboard and breezed in company with multiple Grade 2-placed stakes winner Mississippi Delta. The duo went in :12.20 and :24.40 before galloping out five furlongs in 1:01.

“We have always been very high on Salty,” Casse said. “She’s extremely talented and could not have gone better over the Churchill surface. We knew she liked the surface as a two-year-old but it gives you confidence to see her enjoying it even more as we prep for the Oaks.”

Salty made her racing debut under the tutelage of trainer Ian Wilkes on February 4 at Gulfstream Park, just missing in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight. She broke her maiden for her current connections a month later and captured her stakes bow in the Gulfstream Park Oaks to earn a shot at the May 5 Kentucky Oaks.

The bay filly sits in sixth on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard with 100 points, but will be a late nominee to the race.

In other Kentucky Derby news, Battle of Midway worked four furlongs in :48.40 over Santa Anita Park’s fast main track on Sunday. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer called the Smart Strike colt’s move under Edgar Rodriguez “a maintenance work.”

Battle of Midway boasts 40 points, thanks to his half-length second in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) last out, and sits in 17th on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard.