Code of Honor

Code of Honor wins Fountain of Youth Stakes (Coglianese Photos/Leslie Martin)

Now that the Kentucky Derby prep races are complete, it’s safe to say morning training sessions have moved to the forefront of everyone’s attention as the Derby draws nearer.

I haven’t seen anything in the various workouts and gallops to strongly shift my opinions of the top contenders, but that could change over the next week or so, as the 20 Derby candidates wrap up their serious preparations for the first Saturday in May. In the meantime, here’s how my Kentucky Derby Top 10 stacks up….

  1. Omaha Beach (#1 last week)

He’s dealing with a quarter crack and had the patch replaced April 21, which caused a flurry of concern among racing fans, but this is old news to some extent, since Omaha Beach originally suffered the crack in February and has won two graded stakes since then. I’m inclined to view this as nothing to worry about, but we’ll learn more over the next 12 days.

  1. Game Winner (#2 last week)

The juvenile champion looked sharp when he worked five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 April 20 at Santa Anita Park. He pounced on his workmate around the far turn and pulled away down the homestretch. He continued past the wire in powerful fashion and seems to be progressing well as the Derby approaches.

  1. Roadster (#3 last week)

On the same day Game Winner worked five furlongs, Roadster went six from the  gate in 1:13 3/5 and continued on past the finish line for another quarter-mile. It was a big move from a lightly raced colt, and a work that he probably needed, because he’s been on an accelerated racing and training schedule after he dealt with quarter cracks during the winter.

  1. Maximum Security (#4 last week)

There doesn’t appear to be a ton of early speed in this Kentucky Derby field, and that should bode well for Maximum Security, who looms as the only true frontrunner in the race. He added to his easy work tab at Palm Meadows by breezing three furlongs in :42 flat April 21, though this was actually just a small portion of a quick gallop over a longer distance.

  1. Improbable (#5 last week)

Just nine days after he finished second in the Arkansas Derby (G2), Improbable worked a half-mile in :48 flat (out to five furlongs in 1:01 2/5) April 22 at Churchill Downs. After shaking things up by working Improbable in company and with blinkers before the Arkansas Derby, trainer Bob Baffert reset Monday and worked Improbable alone and without headgear.

  1. Tacitus (#6 last week)

Tacitus didn’t do much in his first workout at Churchill Downs, though he’s never been particularly eye-catching in the mornings. Working a half-mile in company with the 6-year-old turf horse Ballagh Rocks, Tacitus posted modest fractions of :13.40, :25.80 and :38.40, crossed the wire in :50 flat for a half-mile, and continued past the wire for five furlongs in 1:02 4/5 and six furlongs in 1:15 4/5.

  1. Anothertwistafate (#7 last week)

It appears increasingly likely Anothertwistafate will be excluded from the Derby field, but I’ll stubbornly keep him in my top 10. Nothing went his way in the Lexington Stakes (G3). He spent most of the race boxed in behind horses while racing over a dead rail, but he still posted a career-best Beyer speed figure while clocking the final sixteenth in just over 6 seconds. This colt could be poised for a huge move forward in the Kentucky Derby if he can draw in and stay out of traffic.

  1. Code of Honor (#9 last week)

Out at Keeneland on a quiet Saturday morning, Code of Honor breezed five furlongs over a sloppy track in 1:01 flat, which pleased trainer Shug McGaughey and rider John Velazquez. Code of Honor looked smooth and focused down the homestretch and casually continued past the wire for six furlongs in 1:13 3/5 and seven furlongs in 1:27 flat. From all appearances Code of Honor is thriving at Keeneland.

  1. By My Standards (#8 last week)

He’s starting to gain momentum as a Kentucky Derby “wiseguy horse,” especially after he worked six furlongs in 1:12 4/5 April 22. By My Standards was as steady as could be while posting fractions of :12 2/5, :24 2/5, :36 2/5, :48 3/5, and 1:00 1/5. He was a little headstrong early on, but settled down once he got going and continued past the wire to clock seven furlongs in 1:26 flat.

  1. Spinoff (unranked last week)

Trainer Todd Pletcher has elected to keep Spinoff at Palm Beach Downs in Florida for the time being, where the colt worked five furlongs in :59.99 April 19. He went in company with the 4-year-old Wooderson and seemed to go slightly better while posting a solid time, though Spinoff’s stablemates Last Judgment and Cutting Humor (the latter Kentucky Derby-bound) were in action on the same morning and clocked the distance two-fifths of a second faster.