Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM
Derby Contenders - Part 3
This week, Anthony “the Big A” Stabile will preview the 2019 Kentucky Derby on VegasInsider.com, culminating on Friday, May 3 with an extensive analysis of every runner that steps into the gate for the Run for the Roses. On both May 3 and May 4, Kentucky Oaks and Derby Day, you’ll be able to purchase Stabile’s Pick Packs, full of selections and plays for two of racings’ most exciting days of the year. To purchase Anthony Stabile products, click here!
Part 1 · Part 2 · Part 3 · Part 4
The third of our four-part Kentucky Derby preview will focus on the horses who earned their way into the Kentucky Derby starting gate by way of the Fair Grounds and Sunland Park.
Four runners – By My Standards, War of Will, Spinoff and Country House – exit the G2 Louisiana Derby, run six weeks before the Run for the Roses while Cutting Humor won the G3 Sunland Derby the very next day.
War of Will went into the La. Derby a perfect three-for-three on the dirt for trainer Mark Casse and rider Tyler Gaffalione.
After starting out winless in four starts on turf, with solid efforts in G1 races like the Summer at Woodbine and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill, Casse switched War of Will to the dirt and ended his juvenile season with a five-length romp in the slop beneath the twin spires.
Sent to Casse’s Fair Grounds string for his winter campaign, War of Will came out firing, rolling to a four-length tally in the G3 LeComte despite a wide trip and a bit of a more workmanlike, two-plus length victory in the G2 Risen Star that earned him the bulk of his 60 points.
The 4-5 favorite in the La. Derby, War of Will was awful. He broke awkwardly, appeared to be lame both in the race and afterwards and was said to have a soft tissue issue after a ninth-place finish.
War of Will has reportedly recovered nicely but would need a remarkable turn around and shake the notion that Louisiana is not the place to prep a Derby horse as few have had any success in these Triple Crown races in recent memory.
By My Standards upset the proverbial applecart in a big way in the Louisiana Derby for Bret Calhoun at over 22-1, earning all of his Derby points with one big effort.
Winless in two starts last year and his first this year, By My Standards had already tried two turns twice down in the bayou before breaking his maiden in his fourth try under regular rider Gabriel Saez. He overcame some trouble at the start and a wide trip to get out of the maiden ranks and was apparently good enough for Calhoun to send hi up against stakes company.
In the La. Derby, By My Standards couldn’t have scripted a better trip. Fourth early behind honest early fractions, Saez moved him into the clear off of the turn before the two grinded their way to the lead in the late stages to win by a little less than a length.
Since that score, By My Standards has been a bit of a buzz/wiseguy horse having done all of his prep work at Churchill Downs for over a month and is apparently getting over the ground well.
Country House used a couple of starts last year to find his way for trainer Bill Mott, who finally got him out of the maiden ranks in his seasonal bow at Gulfstream going 1 1.16 miles after breaking poorly and making up a ton of ground late to win by a widening three-and-a-half-lengths.
Country House shipped for the Risen Star off of that tally and after breaking slowly again, passed most of his rivals before stalling a bit when finishing second, more than two lengths behind War of Will.
He gave it another go in the La. Derby where he finished fourth after a slow but better break, wide trip and bit of a premature move on the far turn. The real story that day was his studish behavior in the paddock prior to the race. He was acting up and thinking more about the fillies that were in the paddock prior to his race for the Oaks than he was running in that Derby.
Mott seemed hellbent on getting Country House to the Derby and sent him to Oaklawn Park just three weeks later for the G1 Arkansas Derby. After a good break, he settled towards the rear of the field over the sloppy track and secured a third-place finish and enough points to run in this.
With Luis Saez riding Maximum Security and Joel Rosario on Game Winner, Mott has chosen Flavien Prat to ride Country House with the hope that he fits his one-run style.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, a two-time Derby winner having saddled Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming two years ago, comes into this Derby in a unique position for him as his two runners, Spinoff and Cutting Humor, figure to be longshots.
Spinoff has made just four starts in a career that has spanned over 10 months. After breaking his maiden at Gulfstream at the end of June last year, Spinoff shipped to Saratoga and finished third in the G2 Saratoga Special behind multiple graded stakes winner Call Paul.
Away from the races for over six months, Spinoff returned in a mile and forty-yard allowance/optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs, where he made quick work of four rivals, winning by almost a dozen lengths.
Back in against stakes company last out in the La. Derby, Spinoff raced alongside the winner most of the way and actually got the jump on him on the far turn but couldn’t stave him off in the final sixteenth of a mile. Manny Franco will ride for the first time as John Velazquez has committed to ride Code of Honor.
Cutting Humor still needs a rider as Velazquez has been his partner for four of his six starts. After a second-place finish in his debut at Belmont and third place finish on the stretch out at Keeneland, Cutting Humor broke his maiden going a two-turn mile at Gulfstream Park West last fall when blinkers were added.
Two months later, Velazquez climbed back aboard for the first time since his debut and piloted Cutting Humor to a runner-up performance behind Derby-bubble horse Bourbon War.
Pletcher decided to ship Cutting Humor to Oaklawn for the G3 Southwest. Sent off as the 2-1 chalk, Cutting Humor never seemed comfortable over the track and couldn’t work out a trip in an oddly run race and finished a non-threatening seventh.
Still in search of Derby points, Cutting Humor found his way to Sunland Park for its Derby. Bet down to 2-1 yet again, this time he rewarded his backers, sitting a few lengths behind a fast pace before making the lead at the top of the stretch and holding off Anothertwistafate in the final yards to win by a neck.
Anthony “the Big A” Stabile can be heard regularly on the Horse Racing Radio Network from 3-6:00 p.m. ETon Wednesday and 3-7:00 p.m. ET Thursday and Friday. Tune in on Sirius 219, XM 201 or streaming live at horseracingradio.net. He also is a contributor on NYRA-TV as the co-host of Talking Horses and a backup racetrack announcer. Follow him on Twitter @thebigastabile