Todd Pletcher has long been the czar of Kentucky Derby racing. In just 18 years, he became the record-holder as the trainer with the most KY Derby starts in last year with 52, eclipsing D. Wayne Lukas. Though, when getting to the race he has an underwhelming record with just two wins, two seconds, and five thirds.
Todd Pletcher’s program is suited to develop young horses as quickly as possible to make the Derby. Because his program is so potent, he’s fooled us with many bad animals he was transforming into seeming contenders. In the Derby many of his horses are exposed, which has resulted in a lackluster record. Think of it, you were a pretty good athlete at 13, right? Imagine if you’d be prepped like LeBron James your entire youth to peak at just 13. Well, you’d be LeBron James. But remember when you played those kids from out of town that were a couple years older? Do you ever think you recovered from that concussion? These are the issues many Pletcher trainees are forced to deal with. A trainer’s program can get inferior horses to win early, but this is hardly the case as they continue to mature, with the cream rising to the top.
The young division leaders often pay a toll sooner than later as well. Super Saver, Pletcher’s first KY Derby winner in 2010 who caught beneficial factors to win, was routinely thumped the rest of the year. The same can also be said for 2017 winner, Always Dreaming, who couldn’t cut it when brought back as a four year old either. So, what do these pretenders look like going into the Derby…?
In Cutting Humor, Pletcher has a improving son of First Samurai, who may have finally broken through last out with a win in the Sunland Derby. Prior to his win in New Mexico, Cutting Humor had not shown much ability, with an underwhelming maiden score at Gulfstream West as only win. He was brutally dismissed by Bourbon War (Belmont Stakes winner?) in a Gulfstream allowance. Aside from his disappointing finishes, he did not show much early speed and was prone to bouts of attention deficit disorder within his races, even after blinkers were added. In the Southwest stakes at Oaklawn, he was quite dull. Though despite having put forth his best effort, his immaturity and inability to find a rhythm over the track made his race an irrelevant one, finishing ninth.
In the Sunland Derby, Cutting Humor was much sharper and took advantage of a lackluster field in his last desperate attempt to make the Derby field. Due to the dynamics within the race, the Sunland Derby became Cutting Humor’s race to lose rounding into the stretch, yet he was again unfocused in the lane before putting away Mucho Gusto. He then allowed Anothertwistafate into the race, and was almost caught. Still, coming off of a debacle in the Southwest, this was surely an improving sign for Cutting Humor as he undoubtedly ran the best race of his career, earning a 95 beyer speed fig in the process.
In order to be considered a true Derby contenter, Cutting Humor should have run and hid from the Sunland Derby field — a field that will not produce another Derby starter, despite Anothertwistafate running back in the Lexington last week. Still green, Cutting Humor could certainly continue to come on and put things together throughout his three year old campaign. To Pletcher’s credit, his program has evolved in recent years as he has allowed for some more natural growth from his stock, as evidenced by the work he did with Tapwrit who won the 2017 Belmont Stakes after breaking his maiden at Gulfstream West the previous fall as well. Nevertheless, we have yet to see enough talent from Cutting Humor to think that he’s just another prototypical, underwhelming, Todd Pletcher Kentucky Derby starter.
Here are our trip notes of Cutting Humor:
6th career race: March 24th, Sunland Park, G3 Sunland Derby, one mile and an eighth
Cutting Humor is #5
Bumped at start to no consequence, guided outside in behind contested pace into the first turn, partnered with Anothertwistafate to his inside in 2nd tier behind valid pace, easily up to leaders mid far turn, looked to go by Mucho Gusto with momentum, bit unfocused into the stretch before straightening out and taking advantage soon enough, lugged in some when building margin before coming out to meet the oncoming Anothertwistafate, just held. An improved, sharper performance than he put forth prior. He had a chance to run away and hide from this group with a fast time, but ended up almost getting beat.
5th career race: February 18th, Oaklawn Park, G3 Southwest, one mile and a sixteenth
Not much gate speed, brushed in between horses early, hated the kickback, violently swung out into the turn when a horse crossed over in front of him, corrected, gradually advanced up to the leaders in the clear in line of four mid far-turn, no match for eventual winner Super Steed to the outside rounding into the stretch, tired. Cutting Humor’s immaturity was fully on display here as the early bump he took completely threw him off of his game, but he still tried and kept on to the wire.
4th career race: January 18th, Gulfstream, optional claimer/non-winners of one, one mile and a sixteenth
Lunged at the start to no consequence, eventually settled in the clear on backstretch behind a contested pace, whipped to focus, up to leaders 3/4 wide rounding into the stretch when faced by Bourbon War to his immediate inside, very brief duel into the stretch before that one got away, finished fine in short stretch. Cutting Humor was wide this day, but boy did he get smoked by Bourbon War, who later finished 2nd in the Fountain of Youth.
Trip notes of Cutting Humor’s first three career starts can be found in the comments.