PTF here in the italics. Our man Brian Hoffacker is back with the latest in his series of contender profiles/trip notes on the likely runners in this year’s Kentucky Derby. I’ve known Brian from in and around the New York tracks since he was a teenager, and when he speaks, I listen. Why is his analysis blasphemous? I’d say because it’s unholy good. Take it away, Brian!
The Kentucky Derby prep race series at the Fair Grounds consists of a trio of stakes: the grade three Lecomte, the grade two Risen Star, and culminates with the grade two Louisiana Derby. Headed into the Louisiana Derby, War of Will was the one horse of note the series had produced, having recorded much-the-best wins in the first two races. Sent off at 4:5, War of Will lost his action out of the gate, injuring himself in the process and ran an underwhelming nineth. Enter, By My Standards.
Needing to win the race to secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby, By My Standards did just that as a 22:1 longshot, despite a steep hike in class, from a maiden score to one of the few final KY Derby preps.
By My Standards, a fast evolving colt, is trained by the ever capable Bret Calhoun. The Calhoun name excites us, since Bret is a multiple graded stakes winning trainer, plenty proficient to train any big horse. Still, he is largely unknown to much of the gambling public on KY Derby day, which may cause By My Standards to go off as one of the few Derby overlays.
In the Louisiana Derby, By My Standards was a professional winner in an evenly run race. His tactical speed enabled him to get a fine trip before he proved his meddle, overcoming some traffic at the top of the stretch when he was forced to duck to the inside. Forced to outrun Spinoff who had already built up momentum making the lead on the outside, By My Standards aced that daunting test. There are no knocks on his individual effort in this surprising win.
For his win in the Louisiana Derby, By My Standards was assigned a 97 beyer speed fig, a number that would make him a prime contender if able to duplicate that effort. But don’t let the fig fool you; not all figures within a few points are always comparable, and his 97 in the Louisiana Derby does not mean that his abilities are in the same realm of the KY Derby favorites.
Among the other final Derby prep races, By My Standards’ win in the Louisiana Derby was decidedly second-rate. Once War of Will was injured, it became a much simpler affair with an unproven Spinoff making the lead at the top of the stretch before completely blowing it, after the race became his to lose. While By My Standards’ win was admirable, how much credit can we give to a horse that beat nothing but Spinoff and Country House? Both will be huge longshots in the KY Derby.
On the heels of a monumental progression over his last two starts, By My Standards may be a live longshot in the Derby. He has enough tactical speed to get a decent early position, and should be far enough off the early pace that he could greatly benefit from a pace flow that comes apart late. He also sports a fine pedigree and should see out the demanding distance without issue.
Ultimately, one must answer this quandary: Was By My Standards’ Louisiana Derby win merely filling a void, or was it an improving horse hinting at real talent? In our opinion both may be true, but asking By My Standards to take another drastic leap, which would be needed to beat this large field is to believe that he is far and away the most talented horse in the group. After all, his beyer speed fig spiked a drastic 19 points last out, and he is now being fed to the wolves. Our opinion is that By My Standards is most likely more of a grade two/three type down the line, but there are some valid reasons to support By My Standards in the Derby. If he’s training well into the race and is a juicy price, he’ll be on our tickets, mostly underneath.
Here are our trip notes for By My Standards:
5th career start: March 23th, Fair Grounds, G2 Louisiana Derby, one mile and an eighth
By My Standards is #5
Broke bit awkwardly to no consequence, inside in second tier near pocket on the inside of eventual 2nd place finisher Spinoff, in behind leaders far mid-turn, shifted out into the three path into the stretch, missed opening and dove inside of leader Sueno, up to challenge outside leader Spinoff inside 8th pole, edged away in the final 16th. A legitimate score here in By My Standards’ first race against winners, simply outdueling a well-meant Pletcher trainee in Spinoff, who had no excuses himself. He once again finished well, backing up his significant improvement in his previous start.
4th career start: February 16th, Fair Grounds, Maiden Special Weight, one mile and a sixteenth
Content to sit outside behind a valid pace from the far outside post, into second rounding into the stretch, reeled in the pacesetter (Free Speech, 3:1, 5th) who had gotten away to a significant lead into the stretch, appeared to lose focus for a brief moment before re-engaging and thundering away, finishing nicely. While his final time speed figs may not have improved much, this was By My Standards’ breakout performance in what was a crucial start for him after such an abysmal stretch run last out.
3rd career start: January 19th, Fair Grounds, Maiden Special Weight, one mile and seventy yards
Broke much better than he ever had, actually vied for the lead in the two path in a line of four into the first turn, took back outside in second tier behind contested pace, advanced easily mid-turn to take nod over Comedian into the stretch, the race became his to lose, did not go on and dueled with Comedian until throwing in the towel late, with a closer mowing them down easily late. Although By My Standards had his act together and was much improved from his prior start, this was an awful loss that indicates that he either doesn’t want this distance or that he flipped his palate sometime rounding into the stretch because he had no business getting beat as badly as he did.
Trip notes of By My Standards’ first two career starts may be found in the comments section.