Honor D Lady sharp in Delaware Handicap score

Honor D Lady
Jose Ortiz waved to the crowd after winning the Delaware Handicap aboard Honor D Lady. Photo by Allison Janezic.

The story of Honor D Lady starts with a dad in trouble, continues through a failed pinhook, and today landed in the Delaware Park winner’s circle following her stirring victory in the Grade 2, $500,000 Delaware Handicap.

The win, the biggest of Honor D Lady’s career, gave her five from 13 starts and earnings of $708,167. It was the first in Grade 2 company and third graded win overall for the four-year-old Honor Code filly, who is trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr. for Jim Thompson’s Final Furlong Farm and Madaket Stable.

Head back to the beginning, though.

The first time a young Jim Thompson ever visited a racetrack – in the company of his father, but over his mother’s protests – he parlayed his allowance money into a winning day.

“My dad had couch duty for the next few days after that,” Thompson joked.

But Thompson had a passion that’s become a business. He acquired Honor D Lady for $40,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2021. A good investment?

Maybe not.

“I pinhook a little bit, so I buy yearlings and I give them to Eddie Woods in Ocala,” the Florida-based Thompson said. “We try to do the best we can, and we put them in the two-year-old sales. She didn’t sell; she RNA’d, actually, in the April sale, I think it was.” 

Then again, maybe so. In addition to having earned close to 20 times her purchase price, Honor D Lady could be, if all goes well, en route to a date in the Breeders’ Cup.

“We ended up keeping her and racing, so it worked out for the best,” Thompson acknowledged.

Honor D Lady had raced three times in 2024, kicking off the campaign with a score in the Grade 3 Royal Delta at Gulfstream Park. But in two subsequent outings, she was up the track in ninth in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park and then second in the Lady’s Secret at Monmouth.

“Some of the trips she got [in prior races] were not great,” Thompson said. “She came loaded today, and a little extra distance helped, and she just smoked ‘em. I mean, she looked great.”

She did: the winning margin was 5 ½ lengths. Running time for the 1 3/16 miles on a fast main track – and on a sweltering day – was 1:59.86.

When the gates opened, Abundanica, who until October had raced in Peru, jetted to the early lead, carving out moderate fractions of 24.07 seconds for the opening quarter and 49.67 for the half. With Julio Hernandez up, she led by two lengths over 51-1 Malibu Beauty and J. G. Torrealba at that point.

Malibu Beauty tightened the screws and was just a half-length back after three quarters in 1:14.49. 

With Jose Ortiz up for the second time – he rode her to a win in the Royal Delta – Honor D Lady was perfectly spotted in third, just two lengths back after six furlongs. Ortiz gave her her cue with about three eighths to go, and she moved readily to the attack while three wide, going clear with five-sixteenths to go.

“When I hit the 3/8ths pole, she kind of moved about two jumps before I wanted, so I had to kind of grab her and take a little momentum away from her,” Ortiz said. “But I was sitting on a lot of horse.”

Saddle Up Jessie, with Sheldon Russell up for trainer (and wife) Brittany Russell, loomed nearing the quarter pole but could not go with the winner in the lane, the margin widening from 2 ½ lengths to 5 ½ in the final furlong. Saddle Up Jessie did, narrowly, hold second from the late-charging even-money favorite, Wet Paint, a Grade 1 winner ridden today by Flavien Prat.

“I rode her one time already and we won,” Ortiz said of Honor D Lady. “Saffie [Joseph] told me you have the two-hole, so try to break clean, try to find your way outside, do not give too much to do and keep close to the pace, but at the end of the day you ride her how you want. That is what I tried to do and I am glad it worked out.”

Honor D Lady paid $6.20 to win as the second choice in the wagering. The exacta, with 13-1 Saddle Up Jessie underneath, returned $32.80 for a one-dollar wager. 

It was the fourth Delaware Handicap win for Ortiz, who is tied for the all-time lead with Angel Cordero, Jr.

“I think she came ready to run today,” Thompson said. “The extra distance, it fit her like a tee. Like I said, Jose rides her great: he just sits patient and makes a move.”

NOTES Delaware, which postponed Saturday’s Delaware Oaks day card to Monday because of the heat, got today’s races in despite a sweltering day… The DelCap was the fourth of four stakes on the card. The first, the $175,000 Battery Park for three-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles on the main track, went to former claimer Auto Glide, with Julien Leparoux off. Claimed for $30,000 in January by trainer Greg Compton for himself, Mark Dean, and Mike Cohea, Auto Glide has now won four straight while moving up the class ladder. He won by a nose today over Shaft’s Bullet, with longtime leader Movisitor another neck farther back… In the six-furlong Dashing Beauty for fillies and mares, Night Cap went worst-to-first to win by 4 ¾ lengths at 8-1 odds under jockey Flavien Prat, who won two on the afternoon. Trainer Horacio De Paz claimed Night Cap out of her last start for $40,000 for DEA Thoroughbred Racing LLC, and it’s safe to say that claim paid off… Delaware handled a robust $4,674,343 on today’s 10-race program…