Come-From-Behind Horses May Most Miss Moreno

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In some ways it’s appropriate that in the final start of grade I winner Moreno’s career, Honor Code rallied from 19¼ lengths back to win the $1.25 million Whitney Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 8 at Saratoga Race Course.

Blessed with brilliant speed that carried him to victory in a pair of $1.5 million races: last year’s Whitney Stakes and this year’s Charles Town Classic Stakes (gr. II), Moreno most assuredly could deliver a front-running win at the highest levels. While those victories will be his legacy, I’ll also remember how many of Moreno’s races the past three seasons were won by late runners. With other early runners trying to keep pace with Southern Equine Stable homebred Moreno in races since his maiden win in 2013, many of those races would set up for closing-style runners.

Starting with his gate-to-wire maiden special weight victory June 8, 2013 at Belmont Park, let’s look at the final 20 starts of Moreno’s career. He won four of those efforts, with the one-mile maiden race, the 1 1/8-mile 2013 Dwyer Stakes (gr. II), and last year’s 1 1/8-mile Whitney coming in gate-to-wire fashion. In this year’s Charles Town Classic, Moreno scored the only victory of his career when trailing at any point of call as he tracked longshot Warrioroftheroses through a half-mile before taking over and carrying his speed to victory in that 1 1/8-mile race.

Moreno wins 2014 Whitney Stakes -- Coglianese Photos

Among the 16 races he didn’t win, Moreno didn’t fire in two of those efforts—never racing first or second at any point of call. In the remaining races, the Ghostzapper gelding raced first or second at some point of call in each of those 14 races, 11 of which were won from off the pace. Through a half-mile in those 14 races, the average racing position of the winner was 6.1 while trailing an average 6.6 lengths.

Some of the memorable rallies among these 14 races include Honor Code’s Whitney, which was the largest rally in terms of lengths-behind through a half-mile; Imperative’s 26-1 upset in the 2014 Charles Town Classic when he raced fifth of seven early; Revolutionary’s Pimlico Special Stakes (gr. II) win last year, when he raced last of nine and 13¼ lengths off the pace through a half-mile. Amazingly, Revolutionary was 30½ lengths out through a quarter-mile of that race while Moreno pressed Valid.

Other memorable rallies? Zivo won last year’s Suburban Handicap (gr. II) after racing last of 11, 11 lengths back. Tonalist won last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (gr. I) after racing ninth through a half-mile, 9 ½ lengths off the pace. Will Take Charge rallied from fifth in winning both the 2013 the Travers Stakes (gr. I) and Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II).

Only three horses have raced close to Moreno early and emerged with victories during this stretch. Palace Malice raced 1½ lengths behind Moreno in the 2013 Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) through a half-mile set by Moreno in :47.48. Palace Malice would win while Moreno finished third. Itsmyluckyday tracked early leader Moreno through a half-mile in :47.41, one length off that pace, before winning last year’s Woodward Stakes (gr. I). This year Moreno dueled with Big Cazanova early in the Californian Stakes (gr. II), with winner Catch a Flight just two lengths back in third.

While Liam’s Map led at every early point of call in the Whitney, he was pressed through six furlongs by Moreno, going a quarter-mile in :22.79, a half-mile in :46, and six furlongs in 1:09.72. A couple of days after the Whitney, where Moreno faded to eighth, trainer Eric Guillot announced the 5-year-old gelding’s retirement.

"When it's that time, it's that time," Guillot said. "When they can't compete at that levelhe's been too good to us to gamble and get him hurt. He's too good of a horse to not do right by him. He's too good of a horse to run him into the ground."

The retirement means Moreno won’t be making a third straight start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). Last year Moreno didn’t fire, racing in fifth or sixth early after being bumped at the start, before fading to last of 14. In 2013 Moreno led through a half-mile in :46.36 before fading to 10th. Mucho Macho Man raced fifth through a half-mile and would rally to a nose victory over Will Take Charge, who was ninth through a half-mile.

Automatic Bids Earned through Breeders' Cup Challenge Races 

Whitney Runners Register Top Speed Figures: If any doubts remained about the quality of this year’s $1.25 million Whitney which saw Honor Code rally from 19¼ lengths back to catch Liam’s Map in the final strides, this week’s Equibase speed figures should eliminate those remaining concerns.

A race that boasted seven grade I winners among its nine starters proved to be the best handicap race offered so far this year as the top four finishers registered the four highest Equibase Speed Figures of the week. Honor Code, who entered off a Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) victory in which he registered a personal-best 122 figure, improved on that in his Whitney win, registering a 126.

Honor Code and Liam's Map (inside) both earned high speed figures in Whitney  -- Coglianese Photos

Runner-up Liam’s Map, who opened a 4½-length lead in the stretch of the 1 1/8-mile race after blazing a half-mile in :46, also was credited with a 126 after coming up a neck short. Classic winner Tonalist finished 1¾ lengths behind the winner in third, and earned a 123; and grade I winner Wicked Strong was fourth, six lengths out, earning a 117.

The highest speed figure earned by a non-Whitney horse this week was registered by Godolphin Racing’s Bay of Plenty, who secured his first stakes win in the $100,000 Alydar Stakes Aug. 9 at Saratoga.

Honor Code, from the final crop of A.P. Indy, is just the ninth horse to win the Met Mile and the Whitney in the same season, joining Tizway, 2011; In Excess, 1991; Criminal Type, 1990; Carry Back, 1962; Kelso, 1961; Tom Fool, 1953; Devil Diver, 1944; and Equipoise, 1932. The first six horses to complete the sweep (Equipoise through Criminal Type) are all in the Racing Hall of Fame.

Leading Sires of 2015 Breeders' Cup Challenge Winners 

The Whitney was the lone Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race of the week, with Honor Code becoming the first horse this year to win two of the Challenge races. The Whitney win ensures him a spot in the Classic and his Met Mile win ensures a Dirt Mile (gr. I) slot.

Automatic Bids by State or Country

Arlington Park’s races will be in the spotlight this weekend as the Beverly D. Stakes (gr. I) is a “Win and You’re In,” race to the Filly and Mare Turf while the Arlington Million (gr. I) awards a spot in the Longines Turf (gr. I).

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