Kentucky Derby contender profile: Honor A. P.

June 9th, 2020

Fifteen years ago, trainer John Shirreffs and jockey Mike Smith teamed up to win the Kentucky Derby (G1) with an unheralded 50-1 longshot named Giacomo.

Shirreffs and Smith are poised to return to Churchill Downs in 2020, but this time around, they’ll be bringing one of the favorites.

Honor A. P. has thrived under Shirreffs’ patient care and staked his Kentucky Derby credentials with a decisive victory in the $400,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1) at Santa Anita.

Purchased for $850,000 as a yearling by C R K Stable, Honor A. P. has always been cut out to be a top-class racehorse. His sire, Honor Code, won the Metropolitan H. (G1) and Whitney (G1), on his way to being voted champion older dirt male of 2015. Honor A. P.'s dam, Hollywood Story, was a durable mare who competed in 26 consecutive graded stakes races and claimed the Hollywood Starlet (G1) and Vanity Invitational H. (G1).

Honor A. P. has likewise displayed significant talent. After he rallied strongly to finish second in his debut sprinting at Del Mar, Honor A. P. stretched out in distance and dominated a 1-mile maiden race at Santa Anita in the fall, when he led all the way to score by 5 1/4 lengths.

Unfortunately, a hoof issue caused Honor A. P. to miss some training during the winter, and when he returned to action in Santa Anita’s 1 1/16-mile San Felipe (G2) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, he wasn’t primed for a peak performance.

Nevertheless, Honor A. P. ran a resilient race. He rallied to finish second, behind 6-5 favorite Authentic, and left champion 2-year-old Storm the Court far back in third place.

With a comeback run under his belt, Honor A. P. trained up a storm in preparation for the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, and the result was a career-best performance.

Reserved in fifth place during the first half of the race, Honor A. P. rallied with authority down the homestretch to turn the tables on Authentic and prevail by 2 3/4 lengths. He earned a 108 Brisnet Speed rating and 100 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Though Honor Code and Hollywood Story were both graded stakes-winning juveniles, they also improved with maturity and peaked as older horses, which bodes well for Honor A. P.’s long-term prospects. Handling 1 1/4 miles shouldn’t be an issue, since Honor A. P.’s immediate pedigree features the names of renowned stamina influences A.P. Indy and Dynaformer.

Will Derby lightning strike twice for Shirreffs and Smith? There are no certainties in racing, but Honor A. P. is progressing in the right direction.