Sometimes you have too much story for one story. Especially, when a horse like Honor Code wins the Whitney in the last jump and especially when it’s midnight and your deadline has long since past. When my brother hovered in the doorway of my office Saturday night/Sunday morning and said, “Come on, Ernest,” I knew I needed to land the plane. But it’s tricky, when you want to land a full plane.
Shug McGaughey, Will Farish and Javier Castellano had filled the plane. McGaughey checked on his filly in the Waya, stopped in the paddock, then walked to the big screen, talking all the time about the journey with Honor Code.
Javier Castellano walked from the winner’s circle to the jocks’ room, stepping around autograph seekers, photo hounds and high-five seekers, we talked about the race. Then we walked from the jocks’ room to the paddock before the finale, talking about the horse. Castellano stopped in the paddock as the horses began to circle, so long I was worried Castellano’s trainer for the last, Jeremiah Englehart, was going to come and grab him by the collar of his silks.
Will Farish walked through the crowd after the Waya and stopped near the hot dog stand to talk. Just us. The longtime owner leaned forward and talked about what Honor Code means to him. I asked him to put perspective on it, at this time of his career in racing. He went back to Bee Bee Bee in 1972.
By the time I got back to my office, I had three new files and a lot of dictation to do.
Before I started writing the feature – which wound up at 1,160 words – I had 1,440 words of quotes. Just quotes, about Honor Code’s personality, his style, his enormity.
Here is some of what I didn’t use yesterday.
Castellano on his running style: “He’s a quiet horse, a laid back horse. He’s just a focused horse, he’s a smart horse. He does everything the right way in the post parade. It’s just his style, every horse has a different style and that is his. When he gets into his stride, when he gets into his rhythm, nobody can stop him. He sets his sights on the other horse, absolutely. He sees him and goes after him.”
McGaughey on watching the race: “I knew they went in :22, :46, I was hoping they would go a little faster than :46. He looked like, to me, that he was getting over the ground fine. It was just a matter of whether he would close or not, I felt like that the horse in front would come back to us but he didn’t come back quite as much as I thought he would. When he shook loose at the eighth pole, I said, ‘uh oh.’ In fact, I was looking at the wrong finish line, I thought he got beat a neck and then I look up and he won.”
Farish on watching the race: “It doesn’t get any better than that, to finish the way he did, I just didn’t think he had any chance in getting there but that’s the horse that he is, he has so much guts to him. He’s always had that kick, so I knew he was going to put in a good run, but I was hoping we were going to be second, but then he put that move in that very few horses can do. How do you ever expect a horse to do what he does? To put in that kind of kick, against the best, this was a tough race, the Met was a tough race. Now what happens?”
McGaughey on his morning antics: “I asked Mr. Farish in the paddock where he thought he was getting it, is it Storm Cat. He said he looked back in his pedigree and that’s all he could come up with. I remember when Storm Flag Flying was a 2-year-old, I used to walk the fence over in the grandstand when she was training, worrying about what hell she was going to do. With him, I haven’t been that worried about it.”
McGaughey on his first race (a last-to-first charge here two years ago): “Mr. Farish kept saying he’s an A.P. Indy, he doesn’t need to run early. I said, ‘Listen, he’s going to get himself ready to run. I’m not going to get him ready to run, but he’s going to get himself ready to run.’ Johnny worked him out of the gate one morning, he kind of asked him a little bit and he went in :59 and something, it was a pretty good work, especially for me. When he ran, at the half-mile pole, I was starting to think of excuses, ‘Thank God, it’s sloppy, at least I can use that as an excuse.’ “
Castellano on his first race: “His first race here, I rode the horse that finished second, at the sixteenth pole, I said, ‘I’m a cinch, nobody can beat me.’ Then here comes Johnny V., vaaarrrrroooooom. I said, ‘What a horse. That horse is going to be a Breeders’ Cup horse. A Derby horse.’ Now he proves he’s a great horse.”