SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – William Farish and his family will be in Saratoga this week to watch two colts he owns participate in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers Stakes. It was not supposed to be that way.
Farish put both Code of Honor and Highest Honors through the auction ring as yearlings at Keeneland in September 2017, but neither horse brought the reserve placed on them. The bidding on Code of Honor, a son of first-year stallion Noble Mission, topped out at $70,000. Meanwhile, Highest Honors, a son of the hot stallion Tapit, brought a last bid of $750,000.
“We value the colts and try to put a reserve two-thirds of where we think they’re valued,” Bill Farish Jr. said. “Occasionally, we get it wrong. Sometimes we sell them after the sale if someone’s willing to get to the number we want. For whatever reason, the market didn’t like them as much as we did.”
If they could talk, Code of Honor and Highest Honors might say, “How do you like me now?”
Code of Honor, trained by Shug McGaughey, is a multiple graded stakes winner with $1.2 million in earnings. Highest Honors, trained by Chad Brown, is 2 for 3, including a victory in the Curlin Stakes, and is developing into an exciting prospect.
Farish Jr. said Code of Honor “was always a nice type, a little smaller than some of the crop and a little slower to mature. That could have added” to people being hesitant to spend a lot of money on him.
“People like to see a nice, big finished yearling at the sale, and he was still maturing at that point,” Farish added.
Code of Honor was sent to McGaughey with some hype, but it wasn’t until a workout here last summer that McGaughey thought he might have a runner.
“The way he galloped out was a little bit different than some of the ones that had been around here lately,” McGaughey said.
Code of Honor debuted at Saratoga last August, winning a six-furlong race by 1 1/2 lengths. He then finished second in the Grade 1 Champagne after stumbling badly at the break. Code of Honor was pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but was scratched the morning of the race with a temperature.
In his 3-year-old debut, Code of Honor finished a dull fourth in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes. It was after that race that McGaughey started training Code of Honor more vigorously. It paid off with a win in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth.
“He likes training. You wouldn’t think a little horse like him would, but he’s so efficient in what he does,” McGaughey said.
Following a third-place in the Florida Derby in which he was compromised by a lack of pace, Code of Honor went to the Kentucky Derby as a live longshot. At the top of the stretch, Code of Honor slipped through an opening along the rail and was right alongside Maximum Security. When Maximum Security came back over after bearing out, Code of Honor got a bit intimidated, according to jockey John Velazquez. He continued on to finish third, before being elevated to second following the disqualification of Maximum Security from first.
Farish Jr. said either Code of Honor was intimidated “or he didn’t want the mile and a quarter. That’s what we have to wait and see in the Travers. He ran a huge race. We were thrilled with his effort.”
McGaughey made the conscious decision to skip the remainder of the Triple Crown and point to a summer campaign. Step one in the plan worked out perfectly as Code of Honor ran a very strong mile, wining the Grade 3 Dwyer by 3 1/4 lengths. McGaughey then skipped the Jim Dandy to prepare for the Travers.
“I think dad would have done the same thing,” Farish Jr. said. “It’s so tough to stay on [Triple Crown schedule] with a young 3-year-old unless there’s a real reason to do it. Especially this horse, who’s just maturing in front of our eyes and continuing to do better and better, grow and fill out.”
Highest Honors was close to his debut at the Belmont fall meet but suffered a chip in his ankle in an early September workout. He did not make it to the races until April 20 at Keeneland, where he finished a troubled-trip second in a 6 1/2-furlong race. He won a maiden race June 1 at Belmont before scoring a 1 1/2-length victory in the Curlin on July 26.
“He’s always been one of our favorites of the crop,” Brown said. “He’s come a long way fast and only a really talented horse can do that, and he’s very talented, I believe.”
Said Farish Jr., “Chad texted us back in February that this was his Travers horse. It’s hard to believe. I don’t know if he’ll be ready for this big a step up. It’s only his fourth start.”
The Farishes are due some good fortune in the Travers. In 2007, Grasshopper was beaten a head by Street Sense. The following year, Mambo in Seattle was beaten a nose by Colonel John.
“This is a race dad has always wanted to win, obviously everybody feels that way,” Farish Jr. said. “It’s incredible for him, at this point, to have two runners he owns 100 percent of. It’s so rare as it’s usually a partnership of some kind that we have. We know it’s a one-off, we’re hoping it happens with either one.”
This story was originally published on DRF.com.