The outcome of the March 2 Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park was a bit surprising as odds-on favorite Hidden Scroll gave way to the stretch punch of Code of Honor, who had been sent off at 9-1. The winner was no upset, as the results point to connections with decades of experience in all aspects of the Thoroughbred breeding and racing industries—guys who certainly know a thing or two about how this whole game works.
However, it’s surprising how few times they’ve found themselves making their way to the saddling paddock at Churchill Downs for the feature race on the first Saturday in May.
Owner William S. Farish, who bred Code of Honor at his Lane’s End Farm near Versailles, Ky., was in the winner’s circle plenty of times from 1992 to 2001 as he served as chairman of the board for Churchill Downs Inc. However, he wasn’t lifting the prized gold trophy.
As an owner, Farish has only had three runners in the Kentucky Derby: Nostalgia, who ran 13th behind Seattle Slew way back in 1977; Parade Ground, who was sixth in 1998 for Farish and Stephen C. Hilbert; and Came Home in 2002 (sixth) for Farish and partners John Toffan, Trudy McCaffery, and John Goodman.
Farish co-bred A.P. Indy, one of the most influential sires the game has seen. However, A.P. Indy was scratched the morning of the 1992 Derby. The son of Seattle Slew later won the Belmont Stakes (G1), and Farish and co-breeder W.S. Kilroy bought back into the colt later in the season.
He also co-bred Charismatic and Lemon Drop Kid, who added their own Triple Crown of sorts in 1999 by combining to win the Kentucky Derby (G1), Preakness Stakes (G1), and Belmont.
Farish is no stranger to classics, however. His Bee Bee Bee got him jump-started in the business 47 years ago when the Maryland-bred son of Better Bee—Paula, by Nizami, won the 1972 Preakness Stakes over Derby winner Riva Ridge.
As master of Lane’s End Farm, Farish would build the legend of his Central Kentucky layout while standing Derby winners Spend a Buck (1985) and Alysheba (1987) after their retirement.
“In thinking back, we had a couple of horses that we had in mind for the Derby, but also being very much involved with Churchill Downs for so long, I was more into selling those types of horses,” Farish said. “We all would love to win the Derby. We’re certainly considering it a little differently than we did back then. Code of Honor is a very interesting horse; this was a big step.”
In Code of Honor he has a colt by one of his stallions, Noble Mission, out of Reunited, a mare he bred by Lane’s End stallion Dixie Union.
On the training side, Shug McGaughey has seemingly done it all. A member of the Hall of Fame since 2004, he has a Derby win—Orb won the Run for the Roses in 2013 for Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney III—and has had his fair share of wins while training a few horses a year for Farish—2015 champion older male Honor Code for one, but has not actually started that many horses in the Derby.
McGaughey doubled up in his first Derby experience. Pine Circle was sixth in 1984 while Vanlandingham finished 16. The latter returned to be champion older male the following year. Seeking the Gold ran seventh in 1988 while Easy Goer and Awe Inspiring were a respective second and third in 1989.
Not wanting to crash the party without a legitimate shot of winning, McGaughey didn’t run a horse in the Derby again until 2002 when Saarland ran 10th as the co-second choice. Orb has been his only runner since.
The Fountain of Youth, a longtime prep race on the road to the Kentucky Derby, is but one step in the journey. The road ahead is fraught with peril.
“He’s taken such a big step; if all stays well, we’ll run him one more time, and if we’re happy with him, we’ll give it a shot,” Farish said. “The Derby means a great deal to all of us.”