10/05/2013 7:50PM

Belmont Park: Havana holds on to win Champagne Stakes

Tom Keyser
Havana (right), with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard, wins the Champagne Stakes by a neck over Honor Code.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Todd Pletcher continued his mastery of the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes, and he hopes to continue his recent string of success in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in four weeks.

Havana, stretching out from a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race at Saratoga to a one-mile stakes against a quality field of 2-year-olds, held off a late charge from Honor Code to win the $500,000 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park by a neck. The win earned Havana a fees-paid berth to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.

It was the fifth win in the Champagne and the third in the last four years for Pletcher. His two most recent Champagne winners, Shanghai Bobby (2012) and Uncle Mo (2010), went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and be crowned champion 2-year-old.

Pletcher said Havana definitely will go on to the Juvenile, a race in which he also might run We Miss Artie, who won Saturday’s Grade 1 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, another Win and You’re In race.

Havana, a son of Dunkirk, had earned the highest Beyer Speed Figure (102) of any juvenile this year when he won at Saratoga on Aug. 23. In the Champagne, he was going up against Strong Mandate, who won the Grade 1 Hopeful by nearly 10 lengths, and Honor Code, a good-looking maiden winner going seven furlongs at Saratoga.

In the Champagne, Havana broke alertly under Irad Ortiz Jr., who said he had to use his horse a little bit early to hold his position. He wound up dueling with Debt Ceiling through a half-mile in 45.54 seconds.

At the five-sixteenths pole, Debt Ceiling stopped, and Havana found himself with a three-length lead that he maintained into the stretch.

Meanwhile, Ride On Curlin, under Alex Solis, and Honor Code, under Javier Castellano, were at the back of the pack and were moving in tandem approaching the quarter pole.

Ride On Curlin was inside of Honor Code and spun him eight wide into the stretch.

As Havana began to tire, Honor Code was outfinishing Ride On Curlin but couldn’t catch Havana, who covered the mile in 1:35.81 and returned $7.20.

Honor Code finished 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Ride On Curlin, who was followed by Casiguapo, Intense Holiday, Long On Value, Strong Mandate, and Grand Arrival. Debt Ceiling was eased.

“He found himself suddenly three in front at the quarter pole, and I could see [Honor Code] revving up,” Pletcher said. “I knew he had a big run from Saratoga. I was hoping we’d have enough to hold on.

“We knew we were asking a lot of him, but we were doing it because we liked him a lot,” Pletcher added.

Ortiz said Havana got tired, but “because I had to use him early.”

Honor Code had won his maiden race from 22 lengths off the pace in the slop. He was about eight lengths off the pace Saturday before coming with a furious finish.

“I thought it was an awfully big effort for a horse of his type that is just learning and is kind of lazy the first part of it until you do ask him,” Shug McGaughey, the trainer of Honor Code, said. “Once we get him going around two turns and a little bit more racing, he’ll get himself a little more adapted into the race and go from there. I don’t want to change his style of running if that’s what he wants to do.”

McGaughey said he would leave the decision about running in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile up to the owners, but he offered the Grade 2 Remsen, a two-turn 1 1/8-mile race at Aqueduct on Nov. 30, as an option.

Strong Mandate, who broke on top, finished seventh, with no plausible excuse. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said jockey Jose Ortiz told him he didn’t handle Belmont as well as he did Saratoga. Lukas added, “I’m grasping at straws here a little bit. I don’t really have the answer.”

Lukas said Strong Mandate would “definitely” go to the Breeders’ Cup.

“He’s too good a horse not to,” Lukas said.

Darnell Brockington More than 1 year ago
Honor Code if he Is good enough will race just as many times before the Derby as Uncle Mo did. People will say something great about Shug and bad talk Todd in the same sentence. I get it that ppl hate it when someone does good year after year after year we start to rout against them. People may post there dislike for Todd but they dont put there $ where there heart is I'll bet my kids college $ on it.....
Darnell Brockington More than 1 year ago
People say that SHUG don't run his horses the way that Todd may. That's because of his long time owner the Phipps they dont race for the $. But even the Phipps take there shots with young horses when they think they have a good one. If Shug had many owners to train for and had 2,3,4,5 young horse he to would run them as Todd does because each owner has there own dream, ideas and what if? Both trainers are "hall" worthy for each good horse they train there are a few bad ones they race also. I watch Shug for years run many horses above there level in trying to get a Grade 1 victory. People only see the present or what they want to see. If POS would had lose to RD by double length what would they had said about Todd??? Now they all over him because they thinking about resting her!!!!!!! Man yall cant have it both ways when it comes to great trainers. Where was the ppl that get on Todd when one of his horses get hurt when Point of Entry got hurt in a race that had the same condition they pull out of at CD on Derby day?
Mark More than 1 year ago
Timurlenk Timurlenk More than 1 year ago
Havana is the best 2 yo in the country. Bey against him at your own risk.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Will do
Daniel Alvarado More than 1 year ago
Honor Code, WOW! If this horse stays healthy next year (knock on wood), look out. Loved Havana too, very gutsy performance...2 very promising and good looking colts. However based on their connections, one will probably to be battling for 3yr honors next year, while the other will be lucky to make it to the Derby starting gate...I'll let you guess who's who.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Johnny V. HONOR CODE OR HAVANA. SHUG 198 STARTS TODD 691 STARTS BUSINESS DECISION. SAME DECISION AS DERBY, VERRAZANO OR ORB. Joel said. "thanks for letting me win my first derby, I thought I was going to have to ride Vyjack. You are the best Johnny V" "Now how bout you letting me have Honor Code old now buddy you wouldn't want to make your Daddy Mad."
Walter More than 1 year ago
Maybe Shug can send him to the Hollywood Futurity? He can win it like his daddy did. That race seems to be kind to closers & it's a G1. Who cares about Derby points? He will get those next year
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Dont see how you get -1 for that Walter. BC JUV fanatics I guess +1
Larry Kaufman More than 1 year ago
honor code might be shug's best horse on dirt since easy goer. he is so far ahead of orb at this point. if johnny v is smart he sticks with honor code, havana will not win past 1 1/16
tony zag More than 1 year ago
Sy Bonem, for the first time, I can agree with you!
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
I don't see the point of running ANY two year old in BC JUVENILE. There's no Derby points. The no lasix rule could lead to catastrophic lung problems IF they bleed.,scarring,pneumonia, LOSS of breathing capacity. You win you win Juvenile ECLIPSE for breeding. But what's more important LONGEVITY or one race wonder? Honor Code has the perfect style for classic distances. Bred for them too. PATIENCE!! Let Pletcher win his Juvenile and Derby preps. This colt is serious. Old Schiller trainers run young prospects a couple times then farm em until they grow. Mentally giving them the experience of racing but not burning them out for the coveted CROWN races. Hard when the $$$ so good and colt in form. If BC allowed lasix I would run one more to settle who is best colt. But to me the risk isn't worth it. This colt. IS FOR REAL! Havana seems just another speed freak Pletcher trainee. He can afford to burn em up with his stable size. Not that its right.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
I thought last year they gave 10 points to winner. I Totally agree with you i would love to see some owner and trainer of the winner of fruntrunner and champagne do it once, and not use injury as an excuse. Never got this race, I keeping giving people the stats they keep giving me-1. 87 triple crown races only 4 2yo eclipse winners. Street Sense and timber county only winner of juvenile to scores a victory in a triple crown race. From 1971-1983 6 horses went on to win Tc race after winning 2yo eclipse, some of those bad boys won Triple Crown. Big Win Now usually gets you Big Disappointment at three.
Sy Bonem More than 1 year ago
Honor Code is no ordinary horse. He is the most impressive looking individual I've seen in a long time. Should he stay healthy, he will be a handful to deal with for any 3 yr. old. He reminds me a lot of A.P. Indy.
Chris More than 1 year ago
Couldnt agree anymore.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Mirror Image of his dad.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Indy stamps 'em.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
One of my all time favorites. I still go back and watch some of his races.
flash gordon More than 1 year ago
Does he run with his head down like daddy?
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
He does actually.