Larry Jones has been high on Honest Man ever since the late-blooming colt made his first start last fall as a 3-year-old. In fact, when the son of Unbridled's Song first came into his barn, Jones told co-owner Rick Porter, “I think this one is wanting to take Hard Spun’s place.”
Now, after an impressive victory in last month’s Philip Iselin Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth Park, Jones has visions on sending Honest Man to Santa Anita to take on the world’s best Oct. 25 in the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). On Sept. 27, Honest Man will tell Jones if he is ready for prime time, as he makes what could be his final Breeders’ Cup prep in the $350,000 Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) at Turfway Park. He will take on five rivals in the 1 1/8-mile test on Polytrack. It is one of four graded stakes on the Kentucky Cup Day of Champions card.
“He has to show me that he likes the synthetic course,” said Jones, who saddled Hard Spun to a Kentucky Cup Classic victory over Street Sense a year ago. “I have been very pleased with how he is training on the Tapeta at Fair Hill. He really cruises over it. So we’re expecting a big effort here. He’s a very talented horse.”
Honest Man, a $700,000 yearling purchase who is co-owned by Porter’s Fox Hill Farm and WinStar Farm, has been very consistent in his career while posting a 6-1-1 record from 10 lifetime starts. But Jones said the dark bay colt has just recently shown signs of becoming a world-class racehorse.
“We always knew he had talent,” Jones said. “But it was just a matter of him stepping up to the plate and showing it in stakes races. At one time, I think he got a little intimidated against some of the better horses. But he proved in his last race that he's getting beyond that. He beat some pretty classy horses in (the Iselin), including Grasshopper.
“We’ll see how he handles this surface, but I do think he deserves a shot at bigger and better things.”
Honest Man, who was bred in Kentucky by Racehorse Management and is out of the Known Fact mare Oath, placed third in his only other graded stakes try July 5 in the Salvator Mile Handicap (gr. III) at Monmouth. The 5-2 third choice on the morning-line, he will break from the rail and carry a co-high weight of 120 pounds with Terry Thompson aboard.
On paper, the major obstacles for Honest Man are Zanjero and Stream Cat, the only other graded stakes winners in the field.
Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Zanjero garnered his first win in four tries this season when taking the West Virginia Governor’s Stakes at Mountaineer Aug. 2. Last year’s West Virginia Derby (gr. III) and Indiana Derby (gr. II) winner, who also finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), placed second in a pair of grade III events at Lone Star earlier this season after being given six months off due to a long 3-year-old campaign.
“We were looking for a good race for him,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “He’s a nice horse and this looked like a good spot to run him. He travels well and has run well in a lot of different circumstances.”
Zanjero has run twice on Polytrack, both times at Keeneland. The son of Cherokee Run broke his maiden there as a 2-year-old and was third, beaten only a neck in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) last April. Shaun Bridgmohan rides the 9-5 morning-line favorite.
Stream Cat (2-1) returns to the Classic after finishing third by 4 1/2 lengths a year ago. The Rusty Arnold trainee has raced twice this season, including a victory in the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT), July 12 on the turf. The 5-year-old Black Minnaloushe gelding was sixth but only 4 1/2 lengths back in the Arlington Million (gr. IT) last month.
As a 2-year-old, Stream Cat won the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III) at Turfway.
“He’s doing great,” said Arnold, who trains for Fab Oak Stable, Bobby Hurley and John Goldthorp. “He likes the Polytrack and has run well at Turfway, so we’re expecting a big race from him.”
Julien Leparoux gets the mount.
$350,000 Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II, Race 10, 6:02 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Polytrack)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Honest Man (KY), 120, Terry J. Thompson
2. Zanjero (KY), 118, Shaun Bridgmohan
3. Extreme Supreme (KY), 118, Otto Thorwarth
4. Yate's Black Cat (KY), 118, Miguel Mena
5. Canela (KY), 118, Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.
6. Stream Cat (KY), 120, Julien R. Leparoux