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TrackNotes: Codes Of Honor

Boy Oh Boy!

Candy-store like that on Friday, how on earth can Saturday fulfill? Well, sometimes luck hits you in the face, helped along by the congregation of the finest the endeavor has to offer, in this case both equine and human.

Travers Day yesterday had everything. See something say something, corporate blunders exposed, pictures say a thousand words and don't sneeze, horses run fast, and quite a number of people appreciate it.

After Code of Honor, under an exquisite ride by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, won the 149th Travers Stakes (Grade I, three years old, 10 furlongs, 1-1/4 miles, $1,250,000) by three in an awesome as-you-please manner, TV host Laffit Pincay III stated, "(Claude) Shug McGaughey is such a popular guy among these guys that when he wins a big race, they all win a big race."

It was McGaughey's fourth Travers win, his first since Coronado's Quest with Mike Smith in 1998. "That's too long," he Southern-drawled in the Winners Circle. He also won it back-to-back with the great Easy Goer in 1989 and Rhythm in 1990. He's also trained Personal Ensign, Lure, Point of Entry, Orb, Seeking the Gold and Honor Code.

Code of Honor paid $10.80, $5.20 and $3.80, with an exacta of $18.50 for one dollar. Tacitus Placed by three and Mucho Gusto took Show a half length behind Place. Not insignificantly, Code of Honor broke his maiden in his very first race right here at Saratoga. He was foaled in May 2016, so it was five months after he officially became a three-year-old before he actually became a three-year-old.

Johnny V. was modest. "Today I made sure, when I got him out in the clear, he responded and I'm glad for him," Velazquez told Maggie Wolfendale on the ride back. One of the most beautiful things you will ever see, Code' was smeared in dirt, his white forehead blaze nearly hidden and Johnny V. was brown dirt in his face and shin leggings. They both didn't care.

We were hanging on what Tacitus and Jose Ortiz did or were going to do. Danny Gargan, Tax's trainer out in the 12-hole, bitched for days about the post and petulantly vowed he and Irad Ortiz would send Tax right out of the gate. TV analyst and Hall of Fame Jockey Gary Stevens called BS and he was right. Irad became part of the race, but he was feeling things out more than anything. Tax finished seventh.

Meanwhile, Jose reluctantly took the lead on Tacitus, and what kind of bad karma must he have been sending to the horse. Into the clubhouse turn, all Jose was doing was head-turning to his right to see where Tax, or anybody else, was.

Stevens described. "I think the blinkers will come off. I don't think Jose sent him to the lead, I think (Tacitus) just pulled him to the lead. I saw (Ortiz) look three times to his right and you could tell he didn't want to be on the lead."

Even when we're tired of it, we still have to pay attention to Tacitus.

Before the race even gated, WAIT, we've got breaking news from Maggie down on the track!

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Fox used Terry Bradshaw to proudly and rightly introduce and marvel that Fox had the Travers coverage. Bradshaw is a quarterhorse guy. As if it was . . . something . . . Fox erected huge signs and placed them on the turf course right inside the rail of the dirt Travers. Wolfendale reported that Javier Castellano pointed out the signs and clued them that the horses might get spooked. "Those signs are NEVER there, there's never ANYTHING there. The horses wouldn't expect that." Wolfendale said. "Javier told them."

He was right. I've seen horses lose races, or worse, by being spooked by the tire tracks of the starting gate. Horses prone to that use shadow rolls, those white sheep fleece fashion statements on their noses. Think these jockeys aren't sharp as razors?

* * * * *

The Travers was a great race because it was exciting and answered a lot of question. But the Personal Ensign Stakes (Grade I, fillies and mares three and up, nine furlongs, 1-1/8 miles, $700,000) two races earlier was the best race of the day.

Oh, SISTER!

Now the finest filly in the land, Midnight Bisou, daughter of Midnight Lute, out of the Repent mare Diva Delite, showed in the photo, no cheesecake, that she is destination watching, so go.

Showing determination she couldn't explain even if she could talk, 'Bisou got the final inch by sheer momentum she had struggled and paid for furlongs earlier.

Elate? That girl showed all the drive her pappy, Medaglia d'Oro, displayed to get me to love him. Elate even went off favored at 4-5.

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Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith summed it up. "I've ridden some real good fillies in my time and this one's catchin' up real fast."

Um, who? Azeri, Royal Delta, Stardom Bound, Inside Information, Songbird. Just one more. Zenyatta. The biggest diva of them all.

The chart called it outfooted. But 'Bisou was last on the first turn. He must have had a lot of fun, but on the top of the turn, Smith told her it's time to go to work. She consumed a few others, spun out five or six wide into the stretch. Midnight Bisou displayed a gear at the sixteenth pole, and you'da thunk here she goes, race over.

But Elate seen her duty and she done it, eyeballing 'Bisou and answering "No." As if taunting, 'Bisou drew up cozy next to Elate and it was on. Smith only suggesting the whip to keep 'Bisou's head straight, Jose Ortiz race rode, pumping Elate's neck and head and nose to get the head bob he knew he needed.

I thought it was Elate, and dead heat goes through your mind, but that's why they have the photo.

Not that it doesn't enter your mind, but the moment screamed "take on the boys! (Breeders' Cup) Classic!" We'll just watch Midnight Bisou with best wishes and kindly ask if she might let us watch her run again.

I Western Unioned the city desk and declared the rest of the day would be gravy, the Personal Ensign was so good.

* * * * *

We had some justice exacted upon some humans yesterday, but the horse still paid a price and if it lines up just right, a couple horseshoes to the foreheads of these people in stereo would be ultimate payback.

Shancelot, a son of Shanghai Bobby, came into the H. Allen Jerkens (Grade I, three year olds, seven furlongs, $500,000) three-for-three in his young career. He's fast, really fast.

Last out, in the Grade II Amsterdam, 6.5 furlongs July 28 at Saratoga, he wrested the lead early and never looked back.

Let's name names. Trainer Jorge Navarro and jockey Emisael Jaramillo, owners Ivan Rodriguez, Michelle Crawford and Albert Crawford.

In the Amsterdam, the horse had a 14-length lead at the eight pole, but Jaramillo didn't look behind him, he kept beating that horse and rode him out after the wire another furlong at least.

Saturday, retired jockey Richard Migliore, who made many bones here in Chicago, said a few things. From a handicapping perspective, he said Shancelot could easily bounce yesterday because he was ridden so hard. For no reason.

"That horse was being punished (in the Amsterdam) for running so fast," Migliore said. "They don't like that and you're sending the wrong message to the horse."

Lo and behold, Shancelot, being the quality horse he is, carbon copied the Amsterdam and took a strong lead Saturday. Clear by lengths, Jaramillo started beating that horse. He hit him at least 11 times I counted. In one sequence, he hit him BOOM . . . BOOM . . . BOOMBOOM. He hit that horse AFTER he crossed the wire.

I don't care if there's a rule to cover it or not. Jaramillo should be fined (YEAH, the grand total $1,100) and suspended for general abuse. Navarro should also be disciplined, such as that is in racing.

I've seen Jaramillo before. He's a hack riding for a hack trainer. They both get along at tracks nobody pays any attention to. This was only Jaramillo's third ride at Saratoga this season and there's a reason for that. He rides in the underbelly of Monmouth and Gulfstream.

I only wish Migliore and Stevens would have said more. First, excoriate Jaramillo and then go to the jocks' room and see if you can teach him.

Velazquez wove an exquisite tapestry of beauty in his rides Saturday.

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Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Nov 19, 2019