A major stakes with implications on the champion three-year-old race was once again decided in the stewards’ room on Saturday and the beneficiary was Code of Honor, who was elevated to first on the disqualification of older rival Vino Rosso in the $734,250 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park.
Vino Rosso led throughout in the 1 1/4-mile test, but was ruled to have significantly bumped his younger rival several times while attempting to maintain his lead in the stretch. Vino Rosso crossed the wire first by a nose after a thrilling battle, but an inquiry and an objection lodged by Code of Honor’s jockey, John Velazquez, reversed the order of finish. The final time was 2:00.30 over a fast track.
“Honestly, he came out and bumped my horse on me,” Velazquez said. “I had put the head in front of him and he bumped him. It kind of got my horse off balance for the second time when he bumped him. And now he puts the head in front of me and I’m trying to get back in front him and he beats me by a head or a nose or whatever it is.
“It was a perfect trip, no complaints at all. Just when we got to the eighth pole, he bumped me a little bit, just enough to get my horse off balance.”
It was the first disqualification of a winner in the Gold Cup in 92 years. In 1927, Chance Play was placed first after the demotion of Brown Bud.
A homebred racing for Will Farish and trained by Shug McGaughey, Code of Honor returned $6 as the 2-1 second choice. Tacitus finished four lengths behind in third, with 9-5 favorite Preservationist in fourth. Olympic Village trailed throughout.
The Gold Cup was a “Win & You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep for the November 2 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita, a race Code of Honor’s connections have been rather non-committal about pursuing as a year-end goal. The December 7 Cigar Mile (G1), over a mile at Aqueduct, might be an alternative target.
“That’s up in the air,” said Farish in regard to the Classic. “This horse needs a little vacation, but on the other hand, he comes out of his races well and that is certainly a possibility.”
The Gold Cup win marks the fourth graded score of the year for Code of Honor, who previously landed the Fountain of Youth (G2), Dwyer (G3), and Travers (G1), the latter by a convincing three-length margin. A dull fourth in his season opener, the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man, Code of Honor was also third to Maximum Security in the Florida Derby (G1) and was elevated from third to second after Maximum Security’s history-making disqualification in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
The three-year-old championship race now appears to come down to Code of Honor and Maximum Security, though the latter is uncertain to run again this year after being withdrawn from the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) earlier this month due to illness.
Code of Honor is by Noble Mission and out of Grade 3 winner Reunited, by Dixie Union. The Kentucky-bred’s mark now stands at 9-5-2-1, $2,298,320.