Honor Marie – Kentucky Derby Context

April 17th, 2024

Honor Marie has shown an affinity for Churchill Downs, winning the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) last November, and he will bring a closing kick to the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 4. In his first start back this year, the bay colt didn’t get uncorked until straightening into the stretch, rallying belatedly from the back of the field to be a clear fifth in a deep edition of the Risen Star (G2) over a sloppy track at Fair Grounds. Honor Marie turned in a much more encouraging final prep, launching his bid on the far turn of the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby (G2) and closing determinedly while wide to be a length second. That performance netted him a career-best 99 Brisnet Speed rating, and Honor Marie may have more to offer in the final furlongs of the Kentucky Derby.

Owner: Honor Marie will be the first Kentucky Derby starter for owners Ribble Farms (Alan Ribble), Michael Eiserman, Earl Silver, Kenneth Fishbein, and Dave Fishbein

Trainer: Raised in Louisville, Whit Beckman worked for trainers Chad Brown, Eion Harty, and Todd Pletcher before opening his own stable in 2021, and he’s developed a reputation for being a hardworking and talented horseman. Along with providing his first graded winner, Honor Marie will be Beckman’s initial Kentucky Derby starter.

Jockey: Ben Curtis picked up the mount in the Louisiana Derby, and Honor Marie will be his first Kentucky Derby starter if he retains the assignment. Based primarily in England previously, Curtis moved his tack to America this winter, riding the Fair Grounds meet, and the 34-year-old Irish native has won more than 1,000 races internationally.

Breeder/Sales: Bred in Kentucky by Royce Pulliam, Honor Marie was purchased for $40,000 as a yearling at the 2022 Keeneland September sale. He will be the first Kentucky Derby starter bred by Pulliam. 

Sire: A Grade 2 winner at age two, Honor Code raced sparingly the following season and missed the Triple Crown, but the son of great sire A.P. Indy was named champion older dirt male in 2015 after capturing the Met Mile (G1) and Whitney (G1) at age four, concluding his racing career with a third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). His progeny have not made an impact in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness (G1), but Honor Code is the sire of 2020 Belmont (G1) third Max Player. Honor Marie is from the fifth crop of Honor Code, who was sold and moved to Japan in 2023.

Dam: Runner-up in the 2014 Distaff Turf Mile (G2) at Churchill Downs, Dame Marie made all 14 career starts on turf and is also the dam of Abarta, runner-up in the 2020 Bourbon (G2) on turf. Dame Marie counts as a half-brother English classic winner and sire Rule of Law, winner of the 2014 English St Leger (G1) and runner-up in the English Derby (G1). And while this is a classy female turf family, Dame Marie is by Mr. Prospector’s son Smart Strike, the broodmare sire of Kentucky Derby upsetters Rich Strike (2022) and Mine That Bird (2009).

Top Brisnet Speed: 99
Top Brisnet Late Pace: 102