04/29/2012 12:12PM

Thoughts on To Honor and Serve, Endorsement

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It’s difficult getting a word in about anything other than the Kentucky Derby right now, especially with the big day less than a week away. But To Honor and Serve’s victory in the Westchester at Belmont and Endorsement’s win in the Texas Mile at Lone Star were performances Saturday that shouldn’t be allowed to fall through the cracks.

To Honor and Serve’s score was expected considering he was 3-5 in an abbreviated Westchester field of only four after three were scratched off the program. Nevertheless, this was the first time after three previous unsuccessful attempts that To Honor and Serve won fresh, which might be a strong signal that the 4-year-old version of this colt is even better than the high class version we saw before. And To Honor and Serve didn’t merely win, he scored with complete authority while being well in hand through the final furlong.

The Westchester sets To Honor and Serve up perfectly for next month’s Met Mile, which has been his early-season target since he won the Cigar Mile last Thanksgiving weekend. But it will be interesting to see what path To Honor and Serve’s campaign takes after the Met Mile.

Although he won the Remsen at 2 and the Pennsylvania Derby last fall going nine furlongs, there might be some question about To Honor and Serve’s suitability to a mile and a quarter, which means that maybe the Breeders’ Cup Classic might not be the best year-end fit for him (he finished a tired seventh in last year’s Classic). Of course, that doesn’t preclude To Honor and Serve from targeting such nine furlong races at Saratoga as the Whitney and Woodward because they are certainly races well worth winning on their own. And big efforts in events like that could easily change the perception of his distance capabilities. But if the thinking is that To Honor and Serve might be a better match for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile than the Classic, then no one should be surprised if his summer and early fall campaign takes on a more unconventional look. Either way, this is a very good horse.

The Texas Mile was Endorsement’s second career stakes victory, and it was one that was a long time coming. Two years ago, Endorsement was so impressive winning the Sunland Derby in fast time off only a maiden win that he was a popular wise guy pick for that year’s Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, Endorsement never got a chance to show if all that support was justified. He was sidelined before that Derby by a fracture and was away 21 months before he returned late last year at Gulfstream, where he turned in three good efforts before his return to the stakes ranks Saturday.

Endorsement was solid on Saturday as he won going away from the sharp Southern California shipper Canonize, and you would have to think that with the rust just now coming off after such a long period of inactivity, Endorsement has another forward move in him. In any case, Endorsement’s connections have already said that their horse will target one of the big Saratoga races, so one thing he must do now is maintain health. That’s always a concern, but it might be more so in this instance. After all, Endorsement does have a 21 month gap in his record, he was off almost three months before the Texas Mile (that clearly didn’t matter), and indications are he will pretty much lie low until the big summer action.