Honorable Man didn't make his debut at the track until he was a 5-year-old, more than a little long in the tooth for a thoroughbred race horse, and had only nine races in his life heading into the feature yesterday at Laurel Park. After the gelding fractured his right front knee in 2002, trainer Ron Cartwright gave him all the time he needed to recover, and it's paid off.
With a tremendous surge in the stretch, Honorable Man ran from seventh to first, burying an accomplished field of older horses to win the $100,000 Charles H. Hadry Stakes by 31/4 lengths. He ran the one-turn mile in a swift 1 minute 36.77 seconds, establishing himself as one of the fastest horses in the state.
"I'll tell you, this horse's name says it all -- Honorable Man," winning jockey Steve Hamilton said. "He gives his all every time he runs."
Cartwright is the type of trainer who takes his time with a horse. At 75, he has been sending out horses for Honorable Man's owner, Al Wirth of Douglaston, N.Y., since 1969. The victory evidently put him in a good mood because he put the winning trophy, a bowl, over his head moments before the track photographer shot the winner's circle picture.
"I thought it was a helmet," Cartwright said.
Honorable Man went off as the fourth betting choice. The $100,000 purse attracted accomplished millionaire sprinter Peeping Tom; Unforgettable Max, who ran in the Grade I Carter Handicap this spring in New York; Cherokee's Boy, a multiple stakes winner of more than $800,000; and Saay Mi Name, a blazing 5-year-old sprinter in the best form of his life.
When the gate opened, Saay Mi Name immediately established command under jockey Chris VanHassel. He set a stern pace near the rail, running the first six furlongs in 1:11.44, putting away an early challenge from Implicit and holding off Cherokee's Boy and Unforgettable Max.
In the stretch, Saay Mi Name increased his lead to two lengths, but Honorable Man, five wide turning for home, ran right by him with ease.
"He went a little wider than I wanted to go, but I had a lot of horse and he did the rest," Hamilton said.
Cartwright, who won the Hadry Stakes last year with Irish Colony, said he was proud of Honorable Man. The horse recovered from the knee fracture and also has overcome arthritis.
"He's named correctly," the trainer said.
Racing Note: Saint Liam, one of the top older horses in the country, won the Grade I $500,000 Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park after trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. sent out two "rabbits" to soften up main rival Commentator. The winner, under Jerry Bailey, effortlessly won the prestigious 1 1/8-mile race in 1:49.07.