Trainer Chuck Simon does not have to search far in looking for a horse that compares with the rising star in his barn, Requiem Stable's contender Strength and Honor, a contender in Saturday's Aristides Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs."When I worked for Allen Jerkens we had a horse named Kelly Kip, a really fast horse who won a lot of stakes races," said Simon. "(Strength and Honor) doesn't have the raw speed that he had, but I think he's as talented."Strength and Honor underscored that speed on June 9 when the 4-year-old son of Carson City worked five furlongs in :57.80, a rare move below the :58 barrier on the Churchill Downs track. Strength and Honor has overcome several obstacles to get to the Aristides, which will mark his stakes debut after six career starts. But Simon loves the way the colt is coming up to the Aristides."He had knee surgery as a 2-year-old," he said. "He's had throat surgery. Last year at Saratoga he kicked a wall and hurt his hock, so he's a bit of project. But he's got ability and he's got talent, and that's what you need. If they've got no talent, you can't make them go faster than they can go."Strength and Honor had a three-race winning streak snapped by Aristides rival Twilight Road in a May 23 allowance race, a race he could have ducked in favor of a run against lesser foes."The reason I did that was to try to let him face horses that could really run," Simon said. "He has just dominated the lower level allowance horses and when a horse faces competition that can run with them for the first time, sometimes they have an adverse reaction to it. I thought he ran good."Given the fact that Strength and Honor was facing considerably tougher competition than he had faced and that he carried top weight of 122, giving the more accomplished and experienced Twilight Road six pounds, Simon believes Strength and Honor will benefit considerably from that strong prep in Saturday's Aristides.
"I've got a hundred excuses for him last time, but this was the race we've been pointing for since January," said Simon. "I wouldn't trade places at this moment with anybody."