Stallion Review: Honor Code
By Roberta Smoodin
I fell in love with Honor Code the first time I saw him race. Such a handsome horse, both masculine and elegant, with that magnificent head and eye, and that determined running style. And of course that pedigree—as if the gods of racing designed utter perfection, both on the page and in the flesh. His win in the Whitney, over another favorite horse, Liam’s Map, was one of the most thrilling races of the year, the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic aside (it has been a fantastic year for racing, hasn’t it?). For these looks, this pedigree, and over $2.5 million in earnings, $40,000 seems a reasonable price, given the fact that sons and grandsons of A.P. Indy, truly a breed altering sire, sit atop the sires’ lists perennially.
In the book and movie review business, there are certain reviews known as “love letters,” when a reviewer’s passion for a certain book or movie knows no bounds. My “review” of Honor Code’s pedigree is certainly a love letter. What more could anyone ask of a pedigree? By A.P Indy, and out of a Storm Cat mare—have any two stallions ever defined racing in their generation as these two have? Their legacies, though they are not yet ancient history, are certain, and the fact that the crossing of the two of them has produced such wonderful horses is proof of that. And his second dam is by Mr. Prospector! These, alone, would be enough to mark Honor Code as a possible great. But that is just the beginning—his third dam is one of the greatest race mares of her time, Serena’s Song, whose daughters and granddaughters, Honor Code’s first two dams, were both stakes winners themselves. By one of the best broodmare sires of our time, Rahy, it’s not surprising that Serena’s Song was as successful as a broodmare as she was as a race mare. An unprepossessing looking horse (some at Three Chimneys called him “the pony” because of his diminutive size), his daughters foaled such as Giant’s Causeway, Even the Score, and innumerable others.
Add to this his three doses of Somethingroyal, top and bottom through Secretariat, and that extra dose on his sire’s side through Sir Gaylord, and his multiple strands of La Troienne, through Buckpasser, Cohoes, and of course Seattle Slew, not to mention Rahy’s dam, Glorious Song, and we’ve got mare strength in spades, surely the reason for Honor Code’s literal and figurative huge heart. Three ways back to the great Myrtlewood must also be mentioned, two through Slew, and one through Mr. Prospector’s dam, Gold Digger, further enhance the female lines in his pedigree. As with most successful sires, Honor Code’s collection of female stars will be as significant in his future as a sire as those breed altering stallions.
In terms of inbreeding, Honor Code is 5 x 4 x 5 Bold Ruler, and 3 x 4 Secretariat, through two of the best Secretariat mares ever, Weekend Surprise and Terlingua. If racing success is a measure of a stallion’s success at stud, it must also be mentioned that all of his relatives, three generations back, are stakes winners. This family can flat out run. It would be a reasonable assumption to conclude that Honor Code’s offspring will be runners as well.
The next issue to consider is any weaknesses in this pedigree, and these are hard to find. Perhaps a more appropriate question would be, what’s missing from this pedigree that might enhance it even further? The two representatives of the Northern Dancer line are Storm Bird, of course, and five generations back, Northfields, on the dam’s side, so it would be natural to look for other strains of Northern Dancer, especially those that work well with Storm Bird. Furthermore, a glaring omission from this pedigree can be found in the strengths of the Fappiano line, which work so well with both Mr. Prospector and A.P. Indy (Tapit and Bernardini represent this cross), and which add the power of the In Reality/Dr. Fager line, infusing any pedigree with both speed and toughness.
His Best Potential Mates
It is easy to identify the strengths of Honor Code’s pedigree—as mentioned above, his mare power is intense. So more appearances by those great mares (Somethingroyal and La Troienne, primarily) underscore my belief that when it comes to such mares in any pedigree, too much is not enough. As previously noted, finding the right strains of Northern Dancer and Fappiano would also be key in designing Honor Code’s first crop of offspring.
Unbridled: The wealth of genetic material in the pedigree of Unbridled, and in such sons as Unbridled’s Song, Empire Maker and First Defence, perfectly complements Honor Code’s pedigree. Through Unbridled, we get his sire, Fappiano, with his Dr. Fager dam, Killaloe, and his Princequillo third dam, Cequillo, who reaches out to the other Princequillo mare featured so prominently in Honor Code’s genetics, Somethingroyal. Unbridled’s second dam, Charedi, is by In Reality, and out of the Buckpasser mare Magic; Magic’s dam is Aspidistra herself, so prominent in relatives of In Reality. This cross would be utter and complete perfection.
As mentioned above, some sons of Unbridled also present great opportunity. Unbridled’s Song has, as his third dam, yet another Princequillo mare, Incantation. The addition of Caro also presents interesting possibilities for combining with Honor Code, as Caro’s best son, the exquisite Cozzene, had in his pedigree Princequillo through both Prince John and Somethingroyal, and a dose of Jet Pilot, who is tail female Frizette, the ancestress of Myrtlewood. As Honor Code’s pedigree adds Somethingroyal and Jet Pilot to the Caro in Unbridled’s Song, it seems certain that this combination, which worked so well in the creation of Cozzene, will also work beautifully when combining Honor Code with Unbridled’s Song mares.
Empire Maker mares have long been at a premium because of the fascinating genetic material they possess, and they would also make ideal mates for Honor Code. Empire Maker’s dam, the Broodmare of the Year Toussaud, is by El Gran Senor, thus providing Northern Dancer and another dose of Buckpasser, both key elements in designing the perfect offspring of Honor Code. Toussaud’s dam is Image of Reality, by In Reality—need I say more?
First Defence is similarly bred, by Unbridled’s Song, and out of a daughter of Toussaud, so all of the strengths of Empire Maker exist in his pedigree as well, with the addition of Seattle Slew, his broodmare sire. This would make offspring from this mating 3 x 3 Seattle Slew, though it must be considered that A.P. Indy started his own, unique line, and noted that this inbreeding is on the zigzag, through a male line on top, and a female line on bottom. It should also be noted that First Defence’s best runner, Close Hatches, is out of a Storm Cat mare, which Honor Code’s pedigree also provides.
One more ideal mate from this same line would be a Broken Vow mare. Broken Vow is by Unbridled, of course, and is out of a Nijinsky II mare. Nijinsky II is, in my opinion, the very best son of Northern Dancer to combine with Honor Code, because he reaches out to both the Storm Cat and Rahy in Honor Code’s pedigree; both of these are power packed combinations which create stakes winners. Broken Vow’s second dam, Wedding Picture, is by Blushing Groom (evidence that the Nijinsky/Blushing Groom cross works brilliantly), doubling the Blushing Groom in an offspring’s pedigree, as Rahy is also by Blushing Groom, 5 x 4.
Northern Dancer: Both El Gran Senor and Nijinsky II, as mentioned above, are ideal in potential mates for Honor Code, but there are others as well. Any son or grandson of Northern Dancer out of a Secretariat, Sir Ivor, or Sir Gaylord mare would be wonderful; Dehere is a perfect example of one of these, as is El Prado (and his son, Medaglia D’oro). Deputy Minister-line mares are turning into serious producers, so it would be wise to add such influential sires as Awesome Again (providing another dose of Blushing Groom and Mr. Prospector), Silver Deputy (adding Mr. Prospector), Touch Gold (with his added Buckpasser) and their sons.
Mr. Prospector: There are so many sons and grandsons of Mr. Prospector whose daughters would be wonderful for Honor Code that a book could be written on the subject. Gone West, of course, would add the Secretariat mare Secrettame, and sons of Gone West bring other strong suits to the table, such as Speightstown’s Buckpasser and Storm Cat (though I’m wary of close inbreeding to Storm Cat), and Elusive Quality’s absolutely royal pedigree with La Troienne, Sir Ivor, and a cast of thousands. Smart Strike’s Hail to Reason line dam reaches out to both the Hail to Reason and My Babu in Honor Code, and, even better, a mare by his son, Curlin, adds Deputy Minister and Somethingroyal through Bates Motel. A Woodman mare would also work wonderfully, because of his La Troienne-rich dam’s side. I’d select Mr. Prospector-line mares with care, making sure their dams’ sides provide enough strength to counteract the flaws that inbreeding to Mr. Prospector sometimes creates, such as feet and knee issues.
Hail to Reason: Given the Seattle Slew, My Babu and Blushing Groom in Honor Code’s pedigree, a Hail to Reason-line mare would certainly work well. More Than Ready comes to mind, with his added Northern Dancer and Woodman. Arch too is an ideal broodmare sire for Honor Code, with his Danzig and Courtly Dee on his dam’s side; being by Kris S., he also has another powerful Princequillo mare as his sire’s dam.
Tiznow: Tiznow is a particularly interesting broodmare sire for Honor Code, because he is from the In Reality sire line, and has two strains of Northern Dancer, through Lyphard and Nice Dancer, and Seattle Slew through Seattle Song. I wouldn’t hesitate a second to inbreed to Seattle Slew through Seattle Song, whose dam, Incantation, is a granddaughter of Princequillo. With sons of Tiznow proliferating as sires, mares by them will also be particularly suitable for Honor Code. One has only to glance at Morning Line’s pedigree to understand how successful this Honor Code/Tiznow cross might be: Morning Line, who won more than $1.2 million, is out of an A.P. Indy mare, and his second dam is by Storm Cat, and he is also 4 x 3 Seattle Slew—this cross absolutely works.
The possibilities for creating brilliant offspring by Honor Code truly seem limitless. With Tapit, Bernardini and Malibu Moon currently carrying on the legacy of A.P. Indy, perhaps, in three years, we will be adding the name Honor Code to the list of top stallions from that line, while at the same time further burnishing the legacy of the superb Serena’s Song. No one can say with absolute certitude which young stallions will become future greats, and which will end up standing in Turkey or Korea; there are both happy and unhappy surprises in store for many young stallions. Selecting a stallion for your mare is always a crap shoot. A stud like Honor Code, however, would certainly be a favorite rather than a longshot to have a long and storied career at stud.
Thanks to Thoroughbred People contributor and bloodstock consultant Roberta Smoodin for this article. Roberta offers pedigree analysis for sales and breeding recommendation services for your broodmares - please contact Roberta at [email protected] for more information.