March 2014 Issue - page 4

Page 4
March 2014
PENNSYLVANIA EQUESTRIAN
by Terry Conway
So far the flashy chestnut
colt has lived up to his name. Top
Billing stamped himself as a top-
flight Derby prospect with a de-
cisive victory at Gulfstream Park
in late January. Dropping eight
lengths behind the field of seven
after a half mile, the handsome
chestnut colt circled the field on
the far turn and rolled home a 2¾
lengths winner.
Top Billing made easy work
of a first-level allowance field in
his third start, winning under a
confident ride by Joel Rosario. He
hit the wire in a sharp 1:42.66 on a
fast track at 1 1/16-mile. His final
time was less than a second off the
track record after going five wide.
“He was the best horse in
the race,” Rosario remarked. “He
always takes himself back a little
bit, but when he’s ready to go, he
goes. I was very happy with the
move he made. He just has such a
quick turn of foot and when he’s
ready, he gives it to you. He’s an
honest horse.”
“That was pretty impressive,”
added trainer Shug McGaughey.
“I was watching on the TV and all
I could see was his number 2. He
was back there where I didn’t re-
ally want him to be. He’s learning.
I thought this was a powerful race
today. He ate the dirt today even
though Joel took him out away
from it. He told me that wasn’t go-
ing to be a problem in the future. I
just thought he ran an awful good
race today.”
Top Billing was one of a
string of horses McGaughey sent
to Bruce Jackson’s barn at Fair
Hill last summer. The trainer
Strong Prospect Top
Billing Hits Derby Trail
elected to just run the colt at
Laurel December 6 off his works
at Fair Hill. Top Billing overcame
early crowding and rallied from
almost 15 lengths to blow away
his rivals in the slop by 5 1/4
lengths at six furlongs.
Top Billing appears to have
all the tools. He has a nice temper-
ament and is a willing worker who
does everything very easily. The
colt has a long, fluid stride and in
all three of his races he’s shown
a devastating turn of foot, both
traveling on the rail and barreling
down the center of the track. He
has scored over a sloppy track and
on a fast track, from distances of 6
furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.
Now he has to prove it
versus stakes horses and gain the
points necessary to quality for the
Derby on May 3. He was sched-
uled to make his stakes debut in
the $400,000 Fountain of Youth
on February 22 at Gulfstream, a
key prep for the Grade-1, $1 mil-
lion Florida Derby on March 29.
Owned and bred by William
S. Farish (owner of Lane’s End
Farm) and Edward J. Hudson,
Top Billing boasts a superlative
pedigree. He is a son of two-time
Horse of the Year Curlin and the
multiple Grade 3-winning A.P.
Indy mare Parade Queen. That
female family includes two Triple
Crown winners, three Belmont
winners, two English Derby
winners, and a Coaching Club
of America winner. His sire and
broodmare sire are Breeders’ Cup
Classic winners and Horses of the
Year. He is a half-brother to the
Grade-3 filly Untouched Talent,
who is the dam of Bodemeister,
the 2012 Arkansas Derby romper
and runner-up in both the Ken-
tucky Derby and Preakness.
“He went the wrong way
on me last summer, he sort of
lightened up (weight) more
than I liked so I backed off on
him and sent him to Fair Hill,”
McGaughey acknowledged. “He
trained well there and when we
brought him down to Florida he
was ready to run.”
Top Billing kicked off his
3-year old campaign stretching
out from six furlongs to 1 1/8
miles at Gulfstream on January
3. His attempt to go last-to-first
was compromised when the colt
was put in a tight squeeze twice
in the stretch and fell a neck short
of overtaking Commissioner. His
Hall of Fame trainer drew a com-
parison to his 2013 Derby winner.
“He hasn’t raced as much as
Orb did at this time last year, but
he might be more forward,” noted
McGaughey. “I have a better read
on him right now than I did with
Orb. This horse has an unbeliev-
ably good mind. The Fountain of
Youth looks like a good spot for
him.”
McGaughey had been ponder-
ing how to keep Top Billing and
Honor Code apart on the Derby
Trail. That dilemma was solved
when Honor Code sustained bruis-
ing in his hind ankles while train-
ing for his scheduled 2014 debut in
the Fountain of Youth.
“I brought him to a new track
at Payson Park (training center
in Indiantown, Fla.) and I think
he just stressed them a little bit,”
said the trainer, who scored his
first Kentucky Derby last year
with Orb.
The highly regarded son
of A. P. Indy recorded his first
breeze of the year on February 12
at Gulfstream Park.
“He breezed very well–I
was very pleased with him,”
McGaughey said. “He seemed to
come out of it very well. I jogged
him the next morning just to
make sure and it seemed like he
was none the worse for the wear,
so, hopefully, all systems are go.”
Honor Code is equine
royalty: from the final crop of
Hall of Famer A.P. Indy, he is
out of a Storm Cat mare who is a
granddaughter of Hall of Famer
Serena’s Song. One of the top-
ranked colts in most Kentucky
Derby polls, he showed a ton
of class and courage in winning
Aqueduct’s 1 1/8-mile Remsen
Stakes on November 30 in his
last start. He is owned by Lane’s
End Racing and Dell Ridge Farm.
Honor Code is now playing
catch up. An extremely talented
and versatile colt who possesses
a monster stretch kick, Honor
Code will need to turn in two
solid prep races to peak on Derby
Day. McGaughey, who enjoyed
(Continued on page 5)
Top Billing, trained by Shug McGaughey, rallied from eight lengths behind the field to win an allowance race at
Gulfstream Park in late January. The colt, who has two wins and a second from three starts, was pointed at the
February 22 Fountain of Youth enroute to the Kentucky Derby.
Photo credit: Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos
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