Weekend results in the two major Kentucky Derby preps have horseplayers scratching their heads. Getting a clear read on just which horses are the major contenders in this year’s Run for the Roses is proving to be a difficult riddle to solve. As race fans from around the world are focussing their attention on Churchill Downs in Louisville on May 4, they’ll most likely be in need of a handicapping solution.

Cutting Humor
Cutting Humor, Gabriel Saez in the irons, got the last laugh this weekend at a Kentucky Derby prep in New Mexico. (Image: Coady Photography)

War of Will was the clear 4/5 public choice in Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby. However, when trying to exit his starting stall at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, the ground was giving way beneath his hindquarters — this, causing the son of War Front to lose his action. Not anxious to make up lost ground to the leaders too early and risk having little energy left at the finish, jockey Tyler Gaffalione allowed War of Will to gather himself.

Upsetter Pays Big in Big Easy

However, the poor beginning forced War of Will wide around the first turn and the winner of both local preps for the Fair Ground’s signature race had his chances of a Derby prep sweep hopelessly compromised. As the race progressed the heavy favorite, positioned mid-pack, never proved a threatening presence to the eventual winner, By My Standards.

War of Will trainer Mark Casse indicated Monday his horse is suffering some muscle strain because of the gate incident and it’s uncertain when he can resume training towards the Kentucky Derby — now just six weeks away.

Surprise winner By My Standards — $47.00-$16.60-$9.40 – is trained by W. Bret Calhoun and ridden by veteran jockey Gabriel Saez. The final time for the 1 1/8 mile test: 1:49.53. For a complete chart of the Louisiana Derby, click here.

Calhoun said Monday his late rallying winner came out of the race in good order and is most certainly being pointed towards Churchill Downs the first Saturday in May. In fact, the 100 points rewarded to the winner now puts By My Standards at the head of class in the system used to determine the 20 horses allowed to enter the Derby starting gate.

Sun Shines on Cutting Humor at Sunland Park

Bettors may have been taken by surprise in New Orleans, but the results of the 1 1/8 mile Sunland Park Derby in New Mexico is proving to be less of a shock. That’s because Todd Pletcher’s Cutting Humor — $6.60-3.40-$2.40 – took home the bulk of the $800,000 purse and 50 Kentucky Derby points going along with the cash.

As the second choice to Bob Baffert’s Mucho Gusto, Cutting Humor under top national rider John Velasquez, sat off pacesetter Mucho Gusto’s blazing early fractions. Then, moving wide at the head of the stretch held off fast-closing third choice Anothertwistafate by a neck.

This is Anothertwistafate’s return to dirt racing after three bravura performances on the synthetic surface at Golden Gate Fields, near San Francisco. The Blaine Wright trainee failed to impress in his lone start on natural dirt in his first career start at Santa Anita. Wright has yet to announce future plans for the son of Scat Daddy, sire of Justify, last year’s Triple Crown winner. For a complete chart of the race, click here.

As for Mucho Gusto, race fans and, perhaps, Baffert are now seeing evidence that he might not have the Derby chops of Baffert’s leading hopefuls, Game Winner and Improbable. Or, was he he hindered by an unnecessary fast early pace with jockey Joe Talamo aboard, causing him to falter near the finish.

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