Grade II winner Honor Code is unlikely to contest the Feb. 22 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey told the Lexington Herald-Leader Jan. 29.
Honor Code, impressive over eventual Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) winner Cairo Prince when taking the Nov. 30 Remsen (gr. II) by a nose, was targeting the Fountain of Youth for his 2014 debut. He had his first work of the season Jan. 18, three furlongs in :38.10 at Payson Park in South Florida, but suffered what McGaughey called "a minor setback."
"I had a little bit of a setback with him and lost about 10 days of training with him so chances are he won't make the Fountain of Youth," McGaughey told the Herald-Leader when reached by phone Jan. 29. "Maybe it will be something in New York like the (grade III) Gotham (at Aqueduct Racetrack March 1) or something like that as we go along but I won't make the Fountain of Youth with him."
McGaughey, who won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) last year with Orb, said he wouldn't declare Honor Code off the road to the Derby just yet.
"We had a little setback. He'll go back to the track on Friday (Jan. 31)," McGaughey told the Gulfstream Park publicity office. "He bruised up his back ankles a little bit. I think he'll be fine. I wasn't sure about what was the matter with him. Now I think we have it pinpointed."
The bay ridgling by A.P. Indy runs for Lane's End Racing and breeder Dell Ridge Farm.
"I don't think he lost a whole lot (training wise) but I don't think I can have him ready to run in three weeks," the trainer told the Herald Leader. "I told everyone that with Orb last year, everything went right. We developed him the right way, he didn't get a bruised foot or anything, everything went right. We'll just have to see if everything goes right here. I don't think he (Honor Code) is out of the picture yet."
McGaughey could have a replacement runner in the Curlin colt Top Billing, who impressively took a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Jan. 25 for William S. Farish and E.J. Hudson Jr. The Fountain of Youth is under consideration for his next start.
"I've been really impressed with him," McGaughey told the Herald-Leader. "I was at Payson Park yesterday morning and thought it was kind of incredible how well he's coming out of his races. I don't know where I'll run him next, I'll let him tell me. The Fountain of Youth is obviously the next stop down here but I'll have to figure that out."