Elmont, N.Y. — In the most impressive performance on the Belmont Stakes undercard, Honor Code surged to a 3-length victory in the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park.
Trained by Lexington native Shug McGaughey, the 4-year-old stormed past pacesetter Private Zone for his fifth win in eight starts.
"I was a little concerned with how far back we were, but he kicked today and the speed came back to him," McGaughey said. "I saw the fractions, but I was also watching Tonalist because I knew if he kicks that (the speed will come back to him, too. We just kicked harder today."
It was McGaughey's first win in the Met Mile.
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"It means a lot," said McGaughey, who has won more than 1,800 career races including the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and nine Breeders' Cup events. "It's a race I've held in high esteem for a long time. I've just been beat in it a couple times. This is a big thrill for me."
Honor Code was considered a Triple Crown contender last year until an injury knocked him out of the series. He made only two starts in 2014.
With the turn of the calendar, Honor Code has emerged as a leader in the older horse division.
He started the campaign with a victory in the Gulfstream Park Handicap in March before a running a dull fifth in the Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Honor Code ($16.20) was back on his game for the Met Mile, dropping far back as usual before roaring home.
The time was a quick 1:33.18 with Javier Castellano riding.
"I just wanted to take my time, and it paid off in the end," Castellano said. "I saved all the ground, and forget about it, when I pushed the button he took off and gave me a beautiful stride. By the eighth pole I passed all the horses and it was over."
Tonalist, winner of last year's Belmont Stakes to deny California Chrome the Triple Crown, closed to get second but was no match for the winner. Private Zone held on for third.
Bayern, last year's Breeders' Cup Classic winner trained by Bob Baffert, finished last.
The loss was the first for Tonalist in five career tries at Belmont Park. That includes wins in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup, Grade II Peter Pan and Grade III Westchester.
"I changed to the eastern style of racing by making him very sharp," trainer Christophe Clement said. "Looking back, maybe it was a mistake. In the meantime, the winner was very impressive. We live to fight another day."
■ Wedding Toast was the 5-length winner in the $1 million Ogden Phipps Stakes for older fillies and mares.
It was the biggest — and richest — career win for the 5-year-old trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and ridden by Jose Lezcano.
The victory guaranteed Wedding Toast an expenses-paid entry into the Breeders' Cup Distaff in October at Keeneland.
Wedding Toast paid $6.30 to win.
Untapable, the 3-5 favorite and last season's champion 3-year-old filly, barely held off House Rules for second.
■ Helwan, a 4-year-old colt, was euthanized after suffering a broken bone in his left front foot during the running of the Jaipur Invitational.
According to the New York Racing Association, Helwan was pulled up with about 31/2 furlongs to go in the 6-furlong race on the turf with the injury. He was euthanized on the track, behind a screen to keep the tens of thousands of fans from viewing the unpleasant scene.
The injury was to the left cannon bone, NYRA said.
Jockey Jose L. Ortiz was uninjured. He jumped off the horse and walked off the track.
Helwan, bred in France, was in his first race in the United States. The trainer is Chad Brown; the owner Al Shaqab Racing.
■ Trainer Todd Pletcher won back-to-back stakes with Curalina and Coach Inge.
Curalina was the 7-1 upset winner of the $750,000 Acorn Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Making only her fourth start, Curalina edged By the Moon by a neck for her third victory.
John Velazquez rode both Curalina ($16.40) and Coach Inge ($7.90).
Shook Up, the runner-up in the Kentucky Oaks, finished last and left the track in the equine ambulance with an inflatable cast on her right front leg.
■ Tepin ($11.20) extended her winning streak to three with a three-quarters of a length win in the $700,000 Just A Game Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf.