Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Honor Marie

November 27th, 2023

When Honor Marie tackled a two-turn configuration for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, he rallied strongly to win by two lengths, emerging as a 2024 Kentucky Derby (G1) contender.

Pedigree handicappers weren’t surprised to see Honor Marie produce a big effort in his first start racing beyond one mile. After all, the bay colt is bred to shine running long.

Honor Marie is a son of 2015 champion older dirt male Honor Code, winner of the one-mile Metropolitan H. (G1) and 1 1/8-mile Whitney (G1). Honor Code peaked at age four, but he wasn’t entirely a late-maturing type; as a juvenile he won the 1 1/8-mile Remsen (G2) and finished second in the one-mile Champagne (G1).

At stud, Honor Code has proven to be a source of stamina much like his own sire, 1 1/2-mile Belmont (G1) winner A.P. Indy. Honor Code’s best runners include 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Honor A. P., 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) hero Max Player, and 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) winner Maracuja. Both Honor A. P. and Max Player competed in the 2020 Kentucky Derby, finishing fourth and fifth.

The bottom half of Honor Marie’s pedigree is similarly stout. He’s the third starter produced by Dame Marie, runner-up in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) and a four-time winner racing one mile to 1 1/8 miles on grass. Dame Marie previously foaled Quaternion, winner of a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight over the Churchill Downs dirt; and the capable turf competitor Abarta, a debut winner racing 1 1/16 miles and runner-up in Keeneland’s 1 1/16-mile Bourbon (G2).

Dame Marie, in turn, is a daughter of Smart Strike out of Crystal Crossing. Smart Strike needs no introduction; the 1 1/16-mile Philip H. Iselin H. (G1) winner is the sire of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, champion turf male English Channel, and two-time champion Lookin At Lucky. Those three were all long-winded runners who have passed on their stamina at stud, with Curlin siring Preakness (G1) winner Exaggerator and Belmont hero Palace Malice while Lookin At Lucky is responsible for Kentucky Derby winner Country House.

As for Crystal Crossing, she’s the dam of Rule of Law, who showed sufficient stamina to win England’s historic St. Leger (G1) racing 1 13/16 miles. Rule of Law also won the 1 1/2-mile Great Voltigeur (G2) and placed second in the 1 1/2-mile Derby (G1) at Epsom.

Now, there’s such a thing as being too stoutly bred for the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby. The great race is often won by horses with a combination of speed and stamina, with an emphasis on speed in recent years. Honor Marie’s pedigree is so heavily stacked in favor of stamina that the longer Belmont may prove to be his true calling, though if the 2024 Derby turns into a test of stamina more than speed, Honor Marie figures to be a beneficiary.