He may be the biggest sleeper of all the serious Kentucky Derby favorites, the one currently sailing under most Derby list radars. But you lose track of Honor A.P. at your own peril, which is why he’s in peril of winning Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby.
It’s some dangerously fast company to keep. Dating to 1935, the year after Santa Anita Park opened, the Santa Anita Derby is the West Coast’s prime key to the Kentucky Derby. Win this race and you’re not only guaranteed 100 Derby points and a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate, but a healthy amount of respect from all corners of the racing compass.
Win this race and you join a winner’s roll that includes 10 horses who won both the Santa Anita and Kentucky derbys. In Honor A.P.’s case, he’d join a winner’s roll that includes his grandsire – the legendary A.P. Indy.
Yes, the pedigree is strong in this one. Honor A.P.’s sire, Honor Code, earned $2.5 million and won three Grade 1 stakes races in 2015. His dam, Hollywood Story, penned a storied career that included more than $1 million in earnings and multiple graded stakes victories of her own. You may have heard of Honor A.P.’s great-grandsire: 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.
So yes, the bloodlines are replete with speed, stamina and power.
Future Odds Quietly Tumbled from 50/1 Last Fall
With Honor A.P., who currently sits at +1,050 on Circa Sports’ Derby Futures board and 10/1 at William Hill, that isn’t the question. He has the stamina and the pedigree to cover the 1 1/8 miles. He has the ability to run with his more heralded Derby equine brethren, clearly displayed by his 101 and 105 Equibase Speed Figures.
What Honor A.P. doesn’t have is experience. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, trainer John Shirreffs had to give his prized 3-year-old a longer shelf life than he intended. He’s run only three races: two being maiden special weights. The third was the Santa Anita Derby prep – the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes in early March.
More than his six-furlong, runner-up debut at Del Mar against a loaded field that included race-winner Ginobli, along with Taishan and Tizamagician. And more than his 5 ¼-length, maiden-breaking win two months later at Santa Anita, the San Felipe showed what Honor A.P. is capable of.
Honor A.P. Showed His Grit vs. Authentic in Round 1
Honor A.P. took on undefeated, in-form Authentic and chased Bob Baffert’s wondercolt all the way down the stretch. Authentic’s 2 ¼-length victory showed his form. Yet it also showed that Honor A.P. and his pace-pressing style could keep up with one of the country’s best. With Authentic setting the pace throughout the race, Honor A.P. used the far turn as a slingshot, catapulting alongside Authentic at the top of the stretch, before Baffert’s charge pulled away midstretch.
All this happened with a foot injury nobody outside of Shirreffs’ camp and jockey Mike Smith knew about. Smith told XBTV’s Millie Ball that Honor A.P went into the San Felipe “probably 75 to 80 percent, if that.”
That’s apparently in Honor A.P.’s rear-view mirror. Smith worked him out last Saturday, breezing five furlongs in 1:00.2. The breeze satisfied both Shirreffs and Smith that rust won’t be a factor for a horse who’s raced once in 7 ½ months.
Smith Thinks Honor A.P. has Another Gear
“Although I wasn’t able to pass him that day, at least I got to him and then when Authentic drew off, that’s’ about the time Honor A.P. was getting tired,” Smith told Ball. “So with that race under our belt and the way he’s training now, hopefully we’ll have that passing gear to get on by him this time around.”
Now, it’s a matter of Honor A.P. getting his considerable potential to catch his pedigree. When that happens, you won’t be able to miss Honor A.P. on any radar.