Making the Grade, which will run through the 2019 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners or top performers of the key races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey), and pedigree.
This week we take a closer look at By My Standards, winner of the $1 million, Grade 2 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby on March 23 at Fair Grounds.
By My Standards
Last week, I profiled a 3-year-old who made a major jump from maiden winner to Grade 2 winner in Omaha Beach. Seven days later, we find a very similar candidate in $1 million Twinspires Louisiana Derby winner By My Standards, who earned a starting spot in the 2019 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve with a 22.50-1 upset. Does By My Standards profile as a top Kentucky Derby contender like Omaha Beach? Let’s take a closer look.
Ability: It took By My Standards four starts to secure his first career win, pulling away to a 4 ¼-length win in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race on Feb. 16 at Fair Grounds, but like Omaha Beach he had never been worse than third in any of his previous starts.
By My Standards debuted in November 2018 in a sprint at Churchill Downs on a sloppy track and ran second before another runner-up finish, this time at Fair Grounds on Dec. 22. The bay Goldencents colt next took the lead in a mile and 70-yard race at Fair Grounds but faded late to finish third.
While his Equibase Speed Figures indicated talent — 89-85-91, respectively — By My Standards was beaten by at least four lengths in each of his first three races.
But after By My Standards breakthrough first win in February at Fair Grounds, earning a new career-best 93 Equibase Speed Figure, trainer Bret Calhoun said the bay colt emerged a much more focused, confident racehorse.
“The light went on,” Calhoun told BloodHorse. “In the mornings he was phenomenal. … He was a different horse in the morning from that point on. I mean, his breezes were unbelievable. There were some fast works in there, and none of them were intentional. He just turned into a different horse.”
By My Standards needed to be a different racehorse to handle the test in class he faced moving from a maiden race against other horses who had never won a race up to one of the top prep races for the 2019 Kentucky Derby. It was a sink or swim moment in the Louisiana Derby.
By My Standards got away from the starting gate quickly and regular jockey Gabriel Saez positioned him in fourth early, sliding over to the rail on the first turn and saving ground through the backstretch and into the far turn.
Saez angled By My Standards to the outside approaching the stretch, but then moved back a path inside to take advantage of an opening between fading pacesetter Lemniscate and Sueno.
Spinoff rallied to take the lead at the eighth pole but By My Standards shifted gear and surged past on the inside to win by three-quarters of a length with a final eighth of a mile in about 12.50 seconds.
By My Standards improved his Equibase Speed Figure to a 96, a new career best but significantly below many of the other leading 2019 Derby candidates.
Other speed-figure makers were more positive: By My Standards 97 Beyer Speed Figure was the best number for a Derby prep winner in the calendar year and tied for best when including 2018 2-year-old races; his Brisnet figure was a 102, tied for the best figure in a Derby prep in the calendar year; and his 117 Timeform US rating was just two points off the top figure earned in a 2019 Kentucky Derby points race.
It’s difficult to assess the quality of competition By My Standards defeated in the Louisiana Derby because the overwhelming favorite, War of Will, took a couple of very strange steps a few strides after the starting gate in which it looked like the ground under his hind legs gave out underneath him. War of Will recovered and moved into contention on the far turn but gave way in the stretch. He reportedly was sore after the race but much improved the following day. Minus Lecomte and Risen Star Stakes winner War of Will, there were no other previous graded stakes winners in the Louisiana Derby field and only two other stakes winners.
I think there is room to be skeptical of the quality of the 2019 Louisiana Derby while still realizing that By My Standards took a huge step forward and did so by finishing quite well in the final eighth of a mile.
Running style: After closing from well back in his first two races, By My Standards has settled in as a stalker with enough speed to gain tactical position early and still leave enough gas in the tank to finish powerfully. He leveled off very nicely in the Louisiana Derby stretch once he found an opening.
In recent years, early speed has been potent in the Kentucky Derby. Ideally for runners with tactical speed, most trainers and jockeys would like to be in front near the eighth pole on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs. By My Standards’ running style makes that possible, but there will be a large group of runners vying for that same position early in the Kentucky Derby, which makes a clean break from the starting gate critical.
Connections: Chester Thomas’ Allied Racing Stable earned its first career graded stakes victory in the Louisiana Derby. Allied Racing also raced multiple stakes winner Inveniam Viam, multiple stakes-placed winner Upset Brewing, and Louisiana Derby fifth-place finisher Mr. Money. Mr. Money finished fourth in the 2018 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
A Madisonville, Ky., entrepreneur, Thomas was the leading owner at the 2016 Ellis Park meeting and finished second at the 2017 Ellis Park meet.
A Dallas, Texas, native, trainer W. Bret Calhoun earned his 3,000th career win on Feb. 10, 2019, at Fair Grounds. His father, William “Buddy” Calhoun, also was a Thoroughbred trainer.
Calhoun, 54, took out his trainer’s license in 1994 and has won 287 stakes races, including 33 graded stakes, through March 25. In 2010, Calhoun won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint with Chamberlain Bridge and the Filly and Mare Sprint with Dubai Majesty. Calhoun has never had a Kentucky Derby starter.
Jockey Gabriel Saez is from Panama City, Panama. He graduated from the Laffit Pincay Jr. academy in his native country and began his career there before moving to the U.S. in 2006. Saez has amassed 1,198 victories, including 64 stakes wins, through March 25. He finished second aboard ill-fated Eight Belles in the 2008 Kentucky Derby and won the 2008 Kentucky Oaks on Proud Spell, who gave him two of his three career Grade 1 wins.
Pedigree: By My Standards is from the first crop of two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents, who also won the 2013 Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles. Goldencents is by Into Mischief, a top sire who stands for $150,000.
By My Standards is the first graded stakes winner for Goldencents from three stakes winners to date.
It’s far too early to evaluate Goldencents as a sire with only one crop to hit the racetrack and his second crop of 2-year-olds on the way this spring, but he had plenty of speed as a racehorse and the ability to carry it two turns.
By My Standards’ dam (mother) is Grade 2-placed multiple stakes winner A Jealous Woman, by Muqtarib. Both of A Jealous Woman’s stakes wins came at one mile on the grass. His grandam (maternal grandmother), Miss Free Bird, by Fly So Free, won her only race in a three-quarter-mile sprint.
By My Standards’ third dam (maternal great-grandmother) raced twice at one mile and then 1 1/16 miles on the grass with a runner-up finish by a head in the latter in her final start. She produced, in addition to the aforementioned Miss Free Bird, multiple stakes winner Devils Disciple, runner-up by a neck to Afleet Alex in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes in 2004.
I would not dismiss By My Standards chances to run a big race at 1 ¼ miles in the Kentucky Derby based upon pedigree, but neither would I view it as an asset when it comes to evaluating for stamina.
In a typical Kentucky Derby year in which there were two or three 3-year-olds who had run monster races and separated themselves from the pack, By My Standards might profile as a second- or third-tier contender on the rise with a shot to finish in the top four. But with the absence of even one true standout on the 2019 Derby trail, an improving 3-year-old like By My Standards fits much better, especially with six weeks of rest and what figure to be appealing odds of 12-1 or better.
“The Derby is a whole different deal. It’s not just the race, it’s everything that goes into going up there,” Calhoun said. “We’ll do a lot of stuff preparing him for that. He’s got a great mind. We’re lucky in that sense that he’ll handle everything.”