Honor Code, winner of the Grade II Remsen Stakes last November, probably will not make his season debut in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 22 as planned after bruising up his back ankles, according to Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.
"I had a little bit of a setback with him and lost about 10 days of training with him so chances are he won't make the Fountain of Youth," McGaughey said Wednesday. "Maybe it will be something in New York like the (Grade III) Gotham (at Aqueduct on March 1) or something like that as we go along, but I won't make the Fountain of Youth with him."
Honor Code had his first workout of the year on Jan. 18, going 3 furlongs in 38.10 seconds at Payson Park Training Center in Florida, but has been absent from the tab since.
"I don't think he lost a whole lot (training-wise), but I don't think I can have him ready to run in three weeks," McGaughey added. "He'll go back to the track on Friday and see how he goes."
McGaughey had everything go his way on the Kentucky Derby trail last year when he guided Orb through major prep wins in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby en route to his triumph in the first leg of the Triple Crown. McGaughey reiterated how much that experience showed him that everything has to go just so leading up to the first Saturday in May.
"I told everyone that with Orb last year, everything went right," McGaughey said. "We developed him the right way, he didn't get a bruised foot or anything, everything went right. We'll just have to see if everything goes right here. I don't think he (Honor Code) is out of the picture yet."
Softening the blow is the fact McGaughey has another well-regarded sophomore in Top Billing. The son of Curlin invoked many comparisons to Orb when he rallied from off the pace to win a 11⁄16-mile allowance by a widening 23/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park last Saturday.
McGaughey said Wednesday he still has no firm plans where Top Billing will run next but that the Fountain of Youth is under consideration.
"I've been really impressed with him," McGaughey said. "I was at Payson Park yesterday morning and thought it was kind of incredible how well he's coming out of his races. I don't know where I'll run him next, I'll let him tell me. The Fountain of Youth is obviously the next stop down here but I'll have to figure that out."
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.