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O’Rourke, McGaughey Ready for Rematch in Florida Derby


Code of Honor (dark green silks) engages Hidden Scroll (pink cap) coming off the far turn in the Fountain of Youth | Tim Sullivan

By Joe Bianca

Despite only having run one time, all eyes–and the bulk of betting dollars–were on Juddmonte Farms’ ‘TDN Rising Star’ Hidden Scroll (Hard Spun) heading into the GII Fountain of Youth S., allowing W.S. Farish’s Code of Honor (Noble Mission {GB}) to spring a 9-1 upset. The favorite faded to finish fourth after battling on a fast pace, but Juddmonte manager Garrett O’Rourke thinks his inexperienced colt is ready to rebound, while Code of Honor’s trainer Shug McGaughey sees no reason for a fortune reversal when the two clash in this Saturday’s $1-million GI Florida Derby.

O’Rourke talked at length on an NTRA teleconference Tuesday about Hidden Scroll getting caught up in the Fountain of Youth’s speed duel, and said he expects the Bill Mott pupil to be more tractable Saturday, that is, if he needs to.

“Having been around the horse his whole life, he’s actually a real character and not a hard-pulling type, but he does have natural speed,” he said. “The works he has had since then, Bill has been working on trying to teach him to sit behind horses. From what I’ve seen from them on XBTV, the horse has no problem whatsoever sitting behind horses. Now he doesn’t necessarily have to do that, I think he’s got speed to go up front, but it just shows he definitely won’t be a one-dimensional type horse.”

Hidden Scroll’s Fountain of Youth effort was flattered when the horse he dueled into a last-place finish, Gladiator King (Curlin), returned to pull off a 12-1 upset in Saturday’s GIII Hutcheson S. at Gulfstream.

“I think Joel [Rosario] just having ridden him the first time probably thought nothing can live with this horse, but we found out last weekend after the Hutcheson what caliber of horse he was trying to outrun early,” O’Rourke said.

Hidden Scroll will have a new pilot Saturday, with Rosario being replaced by Javier Castellano. O’Rourke explained the decision by noting that Rosario is committed to 2-year-old champion Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg}), and Juddmonte would prefer to have a jockey who knows Hidden Scroll should he run in the GI Kentucky Derby.

That may be the rub, however, as Hidden Scroll has just five Derby qualifying points, and will need to run first or second Saturday to secure a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate. But O’Rourke said that with such a lightly-raced horse, nothing will be forced to get the colt there should he fail to crack the Florida Derby exacta.

“It [would be] a concern if we were putting all of our chips on the Derby alone, but given that the horse is inexperienced, we’ve said and Bill has said that if this doesn’t work this weekend, we can regroup with this horse,” he said. “He’s such a talent that I think there will be big races, maybe we could skip to the Preakness or start thinking about races later in the year, but there’s no point trying to push. We wouldn’t run on Saturday and come back in another prep to try to squeeze something to get to the Derby. It wouldn’t be the right thing to do and the hope is that he shows his talent on Saturday. If that doesn’t happen, outside of really, really bad luck, it’s probably a sign that the horse isn’t ready for a step forward like that and we’ll listen to that sign should it present [itself].”

If Hidden Scroll does get the job done at Gulfstream, he will likely draw comparisons to last year’s Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy) heading into the first Saturday in May due to the two’s similar precocity, inexperience and speedy tendencies.

“Supreme talent can always overcome, especially if you’re a frontrunner and can stay out of trouble,” O’Rourke said. “I think that’s the beauty of Hidden Scroll hopefully, is that he’s got the natural speed to be closer to the front than the back by the time they hit the first turn, similar to what Justify had, and I think that’s the kind of horse that can overcome the inexperience.”

For his part, McGaughey is brimming with confidence in his three-quarter length Fountain of Youth upsetter, who completed preparations for the Florida Derby with a half-mile bullet in :48 2/5 (1/12) Monday at Payson Park.

“I was very impressed with his race in the Fountain of Youth and I thought that he was kind of an easy winner,” McGaughey said. “He made the lead and started waiting on horses. He’s come out of it very well, he’s trained well at Payson Park since then, I was there [Monday] and liked his work, liked the way he looked and acted.”

McGaughey called the result of the Fountain of Youth a fair one, and noted that the additional half-furlong Saturday could tilt affairs further in Code of Honor’s direction, despite Hidden Scroll being likely to go favored once again.

“He was pretty overlooked in the Fountain of Youth too,” McGaughey said. “I think that if that’s the way it is this coming Saturday, he’ll make some people feel funny. I wouldn’t trade places with any of the horses who are in there. Hidden Scroll’s obviously a talented horse, but he couldn’t carry his speed going a mile and a sixteenth. I know they went fast over a fast racetrack, but speed carries over this track, so I thought we caught him pretty easy and I think the mile and an eighth is going to help us even more.”

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