To Honor and Serve was expected to be one of the top 3-year-olds of 2011 when the season started. It took him more than nine months, but the Bernardini colt has finally lived up to that billing.
With Jose Lezcano aboard, To Honor and Serve made a sweeping move past pacesetter Rush Now at the five-sixteenths pole and cruised to a dominating 2 1/4-length victory in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO) Sept. 24 at Parx Racing. It was the first stakes win for the bay colt since he bagged the Nashua and Remsen (both gr. II) consecutively last fall at Aqueduct.
Sent off as the 8-5 favorite, To Honor and Serve easily held off a belated rally by Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Ruler On Ice, who was 3 1/2 lengths in front of third-place Rattlesnake Bridge. The final time for nine furlongs on the fast dirt track was 1:47.34, which was a new stakes record and not far off the track record set in 1974 by Selari Sprint.
The winner is trained by Bill Mott and owned by Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation. Out of the Deputy Minister mare Pilfer, he was bred in Kentucky by Twin Creeks Farm, Larry Byer, and Rancho San Miguel. Mott won the Pennsylvania Derby for the second time.
Rush Now gave To Honor and Serve a perfect target to run at, setting a solid pace under Kendrick Carmouche while posting splits of :23.29, :46.62, and 1:10.22. The favorite stalked comfortably in second, with Norman Asbjornson and Isn't he Perfect running in tandem behind them. Rattlesnake Bridge joined the fray around the final turn, but by that time To Honor and Serve had already begun his easy foray to the front and looked every bit like the winner when they turned for home.
Rattlesnake Bridge flattened out a bit when To Honor and Serve hit the eighth-pole with a commanding five-length advantage, and only a late run from Ruler On Ice made Lezcano keep the leader to task until the wire.
To Honor and Serve won for the second straight start. He was coming off an 8 1/4-length romp in an Aug. 26 optional claimer at Saratoga, which followed a disappointing attempt in the Aug. 1 Amsterdam (gr. II), a 6 1/2-furlong sprint that served as his comeback after a four-month layoff. The colt missed time with a strained suspensory ligament that was diagnosed after a third-place finish in the April 3 Florida Derby (gr. I).
A run in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs could be next for him.
Now 5-1-2 from nine starts, To Honor and Serve has earned $996,340. He was bought by Live Oak Plantation for $575,000 at the Keeneland September 2009 yearling sale. Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, consigned the colt.
To Honor and Serve paid $5.20, $3.60, and $2.40. Ruler On Ice returned $5.40 and $3, and filled out a $32.40 exacta (7-1). The trifecta (7-1-9) was worth $56.40.
One race earlier in the $250,000 Gallant Bob Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters, Royal Currier set a track record in an 18-1 upset.
Ridden by Stewart Elliott for trainer Patricia Farro, Royal Currier pulled away for a 3 3/4-length victory, covering the six furlongs in 1:07.51. The previous track record was set in 2009 by Indian Way in 1:07.61.
The gelded son of Red Bullet is owned by MAT Stables and was bred in Florida by Adena Springs.