Shug McGaughey will see Code of Honor headline a five-runner field in the Grade 2, $150,000 Kelso Handicap on Saturday at Belmont Park.
The Kelso is one of five graded races on Saturday’s card which includes the Grade 1, $250,000 Belmont Derby Invitational.
Code Of Honor joins Mo Don’t No, Stan The Man, Endorsed and Complexity in the line-up over a one-turn mile on the main track at Belmont.
Code Of Honor enjoyed a stellar campaign as a three-year-old in 2019. He was second to Country House in the Kentucky Derby and then landed a brace of Grade 1 wins via the Travers Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Saratoga and Belmont respectively.
The latter came after a hard-nosed duel with Vino Rosso that saw Code Of Honor pass the post in second spot only to be awarded the race after an inquiry.
He’s had three starts this year, making a winning return in the Grade 3 Westchester at Belmont and, most recently, finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga in August.
He was five lengths in arrears of Improbable in the Whitney, with that rival grasping another Grade 1 via the Awesome Again at Santa Anita on Saturday last.
McGaughey, who won the 1993 Kelso with Hall of Famer Lure, says he eased off Code Of Honor after the Whitney but he’s not in full work and looking good.
“He’s doing really well and has trained well into this,” said McGaughey. “After the Whitney I had to start over with him, so this is the restart. I don’t want to run him a mile and a quarter after I backed off on him.”
Code Of Honor has drawn gate five and will have Javier Castellano in the plate, with regular pilot John Velazquez engaged elsewhere as he partner Authentic in the Preakness at Pimlico.
Endorsed, meanwhile, was a stubborn second behind Code Of Honor in the Westchester and, after posting seventh in the Grade 1 Metropolitan on his next start, comes into the Kelso having finished second-best behind Spinoff in the restricted nine-furlong Alydar on August 9th at Saratoga.
His trainer Bill Mott, in search of his first Kelso win, feels a drop in distance will be a help for Endorsed under Junior Alvarado.
“I think the one-turn mile is good for him,” said Mott. “I think that he’s effective from a mile to a mile and a quarter, but he seemed to run real good here in the one-turn mile and a sixteenth in the Westchester.”