The 4-year-old ridgling from the final crop of A.P. Indy registered his second straight major victory in New York. Honor Code won the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) June 6 at Belmont Park. He's owned by Lane's End Racing and Dell Ridge Farm.
The Whitney is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) Oct. 31 at Keeneland.
Honor Code, as he often does, dropped well off the pace early in the Whitney as Liam's Map jumped to the front and ended up with an uncontested lead. That may have been the result of the fractions; the speedy 4-year-old Unbridled's Song colt went :22.79 for the opening quarter-mile, :46 for the half-mile, and a sharp 1:09.72 for six furlongs.
Liam's Map was tracked by Moreno and Noble Bird for more than six furlongs, and though it appeared the pace would take its toll on the leader, it didn't. He opened up into the stretch, and after one mile in 1:34.66, the rallying Honor Code appeared to be the only foe with a chance.
Even the connections of Honor Code had some doubt he could catch the front-runner, but he did in the shadow of the wire. Honor Code nailed Liam's Map by a neck. Tonalist, the slight favorite, was 2 1/2 lengths back in third, followed by Wicked Strong .
The final time for the distance was a strong 1:47.82 on a fast track.
"I don't have anything to do on my horse; that's his style," Castellano said. "At the three-eighths pole I felt like he was going to go to the leader, but at the quarter pole he didn't kick off. I had to use him a little bit. When he got to the eighth pole, he switched leads at the right place at the right time."
The Whitney drew a field of 10 that was reduced to nine with the scratch of Coach Inge. The field was considered one of the best assembled this year.
"It's incredible because of the field, which had seven grade I winners," said Bill Farish of Lane's End. "Liam's Map ran his eyeballs out, and it didn't look like he was backing up at all. I didn't think (Honor Code) would catch him, but he just gobbles up ground so much."
Farish said he's not sure about the next race for Honor Code, who this year has won the grade I Metropolitan Handicap at the one-turn-mile distance and the Whitney at 1 1/8 miles around two turns.
"This race has been the goal since the Met Mile," Farish said. "I'm also glad he put to rest any doubts about him (racing well) around two turns. There couldn't help but be questions in our mind about it."
McGaughey was both happy and relieved—on a few fronts.
"I thought with the early fractions they might back up a little bit," he said. "But I misjudged it and (at the sixteenth pole), I looked up and said, 'Oh, man.' It was a spectacular race by a spectacular horse.
"People have always held him in high regard, but they wondered if he could run around two turns. He has got some quirks about him, so the question was whether he could overcome them. I guess he answered all that today."
Todd Pletcher, who trains Liam's Map, was impressed with his horse's race as well as the victory by Honor Code.
"I could see Honor Code was coming, so I knew it would be really close until the finish," Pletcher said. He ran unbelievably well, setting those fractions to start and being there to the end. He just couldn't hold off a really good horse."
Honor Code now has six wins and two seconds in eight starts.