A lot to like about Honor Code ($3.60) and his win in the Remsen on Saturday; that despite the face that he earned a TimeformUS speed figure of just 90, some 18 points below what he earned, with an extremely troubled trip, for his narrow loss in the Champagne. For one thing, the son of AP Indy was able to adapt to the extremely slow pace after closely from well back in his first two starts. Many times, we’ll see a horse taken out of his game in that manner flatten out at the end. Not only did he not do so, but Honor Code showed grit and courage battling back on the inside after looking beaten in deep stretch; and doing so in a blazing sub-12 second final furlong as well.
Our figure maker, Craig Milkowski, commented on Twitter that it was a “VERY tough race to do figures for with ridiculous pace,” (quarter splits of 25 4/5 / 26 4/5 /24 4/5 / 23 3/5 / final furlong in 11 4/5) and assigned the top figure, of 92, to third place finisher Wicked Strong, who was gaining on the two leaders at the end while, according to the race chart, erratically shying from the stick through the lane a bit green. (And I’ll put in a plug for 4th place finisher Intense Holiday, who was, in turn, bothered by Wicked Strong erratically shying from the stick.)
The NYRA press release referred to the race as a “peculiar thriller” due to the slow pace and fast finish. And I saw the race compared, quite unflatteringly, to a harness race. Indeed, the second quarter, run in 26 4/5, would certainly qualify as such. However, to me, this race was a lot more sensible and ‘normal’ then many if not most races we see run on dirt in this country. I mean, what’s wrong with horses starting off slowly and actually closing fast? Isn’t that what a neutral observer might expect? We don’t see Olympic milers sprinting out of the starting blocks, and then staggering home exhausted. When Tom Durkin said that they were “flying past the 1/8th pole,” they were actually doing so for a change! By contrast, we have the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, in which they ran the first half in 45 1/5 and the next in 51 1/5. I personally find that to be peculiar, even though it’s far more the norm on dirt. But we sure love our speed in this country. We’ve seen the reaction when important main track stakes switched to synthetic surfaces generate this kind of pace scenario.
Palace got a TFUS speed figure of 107 for winning the Fall Highweight Handicap at the Big A on Thanksgiving day. But don’t expect to see that figure on his running line next time he runs. He carried 129 pounds in this race, and will no doubt be in lighter next time. We adjust past speed figures in the running lines based on the weight the horse is carrying in today’s race. To be perfectly honest, I don’t agree with that approach. To me, the figure is the figure, and the handicapper needs to make his/her own adjustments to those figures based on today’s conditions. So, no, we don’t agree on everything here. But honest disagreements are what this game is all about.