Let's revel in two spectacular Whitney performances
by Laura Pugh
Who would have thought a horse that has such a thrilling style would cause such debate after such a heroic effort? Of course, I'm talking about Honor Code and his thrilling Whitney (G1) victory, and yes, I'm being completely sarcastic.
Honor Code was the topic of discussion as soon as it was known that the Whitney would be his destination. Several critics stood fast by their claim that the son of A.P. Indy was simply an explosive closing sprinter and that his devastating late kick would not be as potent at longer distances. They maintained that belief even though the ridgling had won the Remsen (G2) at nine furlongs as a juvenile. Despite the fact his last two-turn race, the Alysheba (G2) didn't look impressive, he still closed the final five-sixteenths in :29 and change and his final sixteenth in an unbelievable :5.50.
In the Whitney, Honor Code once again defied his doubters, snatching glory from the front-running Liam's Map two strides before the wire. Liam's Map ran an incredible race in defeat. Fractions of :22.79, :46, 1.09.72, and 1.34.66 left his competition reeling. To give an accurate idea of how hot the pace was, the horses that were second, third, and fourth at the half finished third to last, second to last, and last, while he cleared the field by 4 1/2lengths turning into the stretch.
These torrid fractions left Honor Code more than 19 lengths behind at the half, and even with a big middle move between that and the three-eighths, he was still left with 12 lengths to make up. From between the half and quarter-pole, Honor Code made up seven lengths, running that quarter in a blistering :22.49. From the quarter-pole to the eighth pole, he made up an additional 7 1/2 lengths, running that split in :23.71. That means he ran an internal half-mile in :46.20.
Despite that huge middle move he was still more than four lengths behind Liam's Map as they passed the eighth pole. Middle moves like that often leave closers sapped of energy by the time they reach the stretch, causing them to flatten out. Honor Code did not do that and continued his bid, closing his final eighth in :12.42, propelling him past his rival by a neck.
There are times that two horses, in the same race, run two spectacular efforts. Efforts that could be described as too good to lose, but more often than not, one does. The unlucky loser was Liam's Map in this case. Those who feel he ran a great race are correct. To keep going after those types of fractions is nothing short of fantastic, but conceding that does not mean we need to understate the performance by Honor Code.
To imply that Honor Code only took advantage of a smoldering pace is completely wrong. As noted, he ran some very explosive fractions after a half-mile had already been completed. He ran an incredible internal split of :22.49 and followed that with another of :23.71 -- which was run on a turn. After that he continued his progression with a final split of :12.42. To make that large of a middle move and then continue it, making up over 19 lengths in the process to catch a loose leader, is nothing short of amazing.
I understand everyone has their favorites, but that shouldn't mean you tear down one effort to lift another. Let us acknowledge the incredible effort by both Liam's Map and Honor Code. Let's give them both their due credit and revel in the spectacular performance they gave us.