Honor Up holds off Syndergaard in thrilling Haynesfield rematch

Sunday, February 17th, 2019

NYRY/Susie Raisherr

By Sarah Mace

Honor Up just managed to keep his nose in front of a rallying Syndergaard in a thrilling finish to the $100,000 Haynesfield Stakes for older New York-breds run at a one-turn mile at Aqueduct Sunday.

This was not the pair’s first meeting. Their one-two finish in the 7-furlong Say Florida Sandy Stakes on January 12, was also a squeaker. In that case Honor Up collared Syndergaard late to score a neck victory. This burgeoning rivalry between these talented older New York-breds is likely to carry on further into the racing season.

The 6-horse field of the Haynesfield contained nearly as many intriguing storylines as runners, including the fact that Honor Up and Syndergaard were both cross-entered in Monday’s Hollie Hughes, a 6-furlong tilt for older New York-breds. Arguably the shorter distance was better suited to both horses, but their trainers, Michelle Nevin and John Terranova respectively, felt that the mile would be fine.

Also, both horses, as it happens, were making their fifth starts following a trainer switch, and thriving in their new barns.

Four-year-old Honor Up (To Honor and Serve) concluded his time with trainer Bill Mott following his 2017 summer campaign. Away for more than a year, he returned last October in Nevin’s care. He shortened up in distance and abandoned any turf experimentation, resulting in three wins and a second in four starts. He was looking for a third straight victory in the Haynesfield.

Five-year-old Syndergaard (Majesticperfection), who is named for Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, began his career brilliantly for Todd Pletcher in 2016, falling just a nose short of Practical Joke while finishing second in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes. That year he also won the Funny Cide Stakes. Failing to replicate that form in three starts at three, then away from competition for a year, he took a couple of races in Terranova’s barn – and a bit better of racing luck – to recover his lost form. Recently he has put together a pair of fine efforts, winning a second-level state-bred allowance in December, and finishing second to Honor Up in the Say Florida Sandy.

To get things started in the Haynesfield, sprinter Stoney Bennett, who was looking to stretch out his speed to a mile for a second time after winning an open allowance win at the same trip on January 12, shot out of his outside post, and took his customary position on the lead, taking the field through opening early splits of 23.45 and 46.11. Longshot Fiery Opal pressed in second, while Syndergaard tucked in behind the leader to pursue in third.

Honor Up, for his part, broke awkwardly and inward. Once he straightened out, he was faced with the task of working his way up into contention in the run up the backstretch. By the approach to the far turn, he had advanced from last into fourth.

Gaining ground three-wide through bend, Honor Up took over second and confronted Stoney Bennet at the quarter pole. After battling with that tenacious rival in upper stretch, he took over the lead with a furlong to go.

Meanwhile Syndergaard, who had fanned out three-wide for the dash home, found another gear and mounted a serious bid. Despite drifting out in late stretch, he very nearly got the job done, getting on almost even terms with the winner by the wire. When the pair were separated by the photo, Honor Up had his nose in front.

Twisted Tom, who is enjoying a renaissance of his own after moving from Chad Brown to Bill Mott, rallied down the center of the track and finished 1 1/2 lengths back in third. Completing the order of finish were Fiery Opal, Stoney Bennett and 8-year-old Loki’s Vengeance. The final time for the mile over the fast going was 1:37.04. [VIDEO REPLAY]

The finish was so close, neither trainer Michelle Nevin nor jockey Jose Lezcano were sure of the outcome.

Said Nevin, “I thought I was going to pass out. The other horse [Syndergaard] ran a hell of a race to keep coming. That was a close, close race. I thought it was a dead heat for a second.”

Lezcano said, “It was so close. I thought he got me, but as soon as my horse saw the other horse, he dug in, but I didn’t know if he got me on the wire.”

Jockey Rajiv Maragh, who was aboard Syndergaard for the tough beat, added, “[Syndergaard] got a little lost for a second there in the stretch, but that was just a tough way to lose. That’s probably the shortest of margins I’ve ever lost a race by.”

Nevin also commented on Honor Up’s poor start. “We didn’t have the cleanest break and that changed the dynamics of things,” Nevin said. “We would have hoped to break cleanly and be sitting right behind them and relaxed. Instead, we broke awkwardly and had to get back into the race and get position. Maybe [Jose Lezcano] switched him on a little bit too quickly, but he did a hell of a job to keep going to get to the wire.”

Lezcano added, “I think the longer you wait for him, the better for him. I got to the quarter pole, and I said it’s time to go, and the last three-sixteenths, he started to wait a little bit for the other horses. I think the longer you wait for him, the better.”

Bred by Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd and foaled at Vivien Malloy’s Edition Farm in Hyde Park, Honor Up is out of Unobstructed View, a Florida-bred daughter of Yes It’s True who was graded stakes-placed and stakes-placed as a juvenile. Of her five winning offspring, Honor Up is her second stakes winner, following in the hoofprints of his Kentucky-bred full brother Blueridge Traveler who has bankrolled $319,000.

Saratoga Seven Racing Partners purchased Honor Up at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton preferred New York yearling sale for $65,000 from the Gainesway consignment. In 15 career starts he has earned $335,513 from six wins, three seconds and a third.



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