Well liked Kentucky horse trainer Shug McGaughey won his first Kentucky Derby last year as Orb took the roses. He apparently liked the experience so much that he’s doubling down this year.
Horse racing observers suggest that McGaughey has a pair of legitimate contenders in the 2014 Kentucky Derby. As always, the Derby prep road is long and fraught with peril and horses that look great in February and March often don’t even start the race on the first Saturday in May, let alone contend for a win. That being said, McGaughey’s two top contenders are solidly in the mix at this stage of the game.
Honor Code and Top Billing are McGaughey’s 2014 prospects and both are in the top tier of most serious derby contender lists. Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form ’s national handicapper, has one of the most respected lists of this type and he lists McGaughey’s entries as a co-second choices at a projected 6-1 betting odds respectively.
Both horses have plenty of potential but a few questions. Honor Code had the more impressive resume as a two year old. He won the Remsen Stakes and took second in the Champagne Stakes but has yet to make his 3 year old debut and won’t for several more weeks. With the disclaimer that the proper Derby prep strategy is up for serious debate now there’s some concern that Honor Code is making his 2014 debut too late in the year for a serious run at the Kentucky Derby and could be better suited for one of the later Triple Crown races.
Top Billing might not have had as impressive of a 2013 two year old campaign as his stablemate but is likely a more legitimate contender at this point for no other reason than he’s been fairly active as a three year old. He’ll be making his third start of the 2014 campaign in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park this weekend.
For his part, McGaughey is currently publicly optimistic about the chances of both horses. He says that he really wants a return victory in the Kentucky Derby and he’s confident that one of the two will be able to get him there.