Like clockwork every year at Kentucky Derby time, fans and media alike make bold statements labeling the Kentucky Derby fields as either the strongest in years or the weakest in years. Truth be told, neither statement is correct.
It takes a few years to fully appreciate how good, or not so good, any Kentucky Derby field really was.
Two years removed from the 2019 Kentucky Derby that saw Maximum Security cross the wire first, it's safe to say that the field was quite good.
Ranked No. 7 in the Older Dirt Male division, By My Standards is an alumnus of that field, and even though he has yet to score a win in a Grade 1 event, he is clearly a Grade 1 caliber horse. Before I take a closer look at By My Standards and where he stacks up with the rest of that 2019 field, let's take a look at this week's updated Division Rankings:
Older dirt males
1. Mystic Guide. Solid win in Dubai and is 2-for-2 on the season, but the Dubai World Cup (G1) field he defeated was nowhere near what we have come to expect from Dubai World Cup fields. Certainly has done enough to move into the top spot, though I am not sure how long he will stay here if he doesn't run soon. In the states now and working at Keeneland, the July 3 Suburban (G2) at Belmont has been mentioned for his next start.
2. Maxfield. Rebounded nicely from his first loss, a third-place finish in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1), with a win the Alysheba (G2) at Churchill Downs. The June 26 Stephen Foster (G2) will be next, and a win there will likely vault him to No. 1.
3. Silver State. 3-for-3 on the season, his Oaklawn Handicap (G2) win stamped him as a legitimate Eclipse contender in this division. He deserves this spot for what he has done in 2021. Connections are considering the Met Mile (G1) for his next start, and should he win again, he will have every right to the top spot.
4. Knicks Go. Pegasus World Cup winner will make his next start in the Met Mile. Love the move by his connections to go in this spot instead of this weekend's Steve Sexton Mile (G3) at Lone Star. Despite a fourth-place finish in the Saudi Cup last time out, which halted a four-race winning streak, he is still very much alive in this Eclipse race and will be favored in the Met Mile.
5. Idol - Santa Anita Handicap winner has to skip his next scheduled start, the upcoming Hollywood Gold Cup (G1), because of an undisclosed physical problem. The Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar is still the long-range goal, so he probably won't race outside of his home state of California this season. Could drop from this spot if Express Train comes away victorious this weekend in the Hollywood Gold Cup.
Next 5: Express Train, By My Standards, Rushie, Last Judgement, Dr Post.
Older dirt females
1. Letruska. Was simply spectacular in the Apple Blossom (G1), prevailing in an epic stretch duel over a future Hall of Famer in Monomoy Girl. She is now 13-for-17 in her career. A fascinating story, this mare started her career in Mexico City and ran six times, all wins, and was a champion in Mexico for her Mexican connections. She becomes the first horse who started their career in Mexico to win a Grade 1 race in this country. Back on the work tab, she will go next in the Ogden Phipps (G1) on Belmont Day.
2. Shedaresthedevil. She was much the best in the La Troienne Stakes (G1), defeating a good field of older females. Previously this gal was gritty in her head win in the Azeri (G2) over Letruska, so why isn't she No. 1? Given how close their race was and the field Letruska defeated in the Apple Blossom, Letruska gets the slight nod. She will get her chance to take over No. 1 as she too is slated to run in the Ogden Phipps.
3. Monomoy Girl. Was gallant to the finish in the Apple Blossom, but came up a nose short. Clearly still on top of her game, something I wondered aloud about heading into this last race. News from last week now is that she was sent to the sidelines with muscle strains and hamstring soreness. Should be back later this summer, may drop from this spot in the coming weeks.
5. As Time Goes By. Game winner of the Santa Maria (G2) last weekend, she previously routed the Santa Margarita (G2) field. Her only loss this year was a runner-up finish to Swiss Skydiver in the Beholder Mile (G1). Will have home-court advantage come Breeders' Cup time. Will run next in the Clement Hirsch Stakes (G1) on Aug. 1 at Del Mar.
Next 5: Envoutante, Bonny South, Valiance, Spice is Nice, Vault.
1. Medina Spirit. Didn't run poorly in his Preakness loss, a third place finish behind the winner, Rombauer. Beaten a little over five lengths, the quick middle fractions that he was forced to set by Midnight Bourbon ended up costing them both the race as Rombauer pounced on both of them in the stretch. He stays here at No. 1 for now. No immediate race plans yet for Medina Spirit, who lost a little bit of weight after the Preakness, trainer Bob Baffert said.
2. Essential Quality. Broke poorly out of the gate in the Kentucky Derby, lost ground around the turns, but he did have every chance down the lane to pass the leaders. He did run farther than the others because of his trip, but I am still not convinced that the 10 furlongs had something to do with his inability to get there at the end. His connections chose to skip the Preakness Stakes, a race I felt he would have been tough in, to run in the Belmont. This guy does not strike me as a horse who will relish the 12 furlongs of the third jewel of the Triple Crown, though he likely will be favored.
3. Rombauer. The Preakness winner had things fall his way with the two favorites dueling on the front end, so he lands here at No. 3, even though this might be too high. The Preakness was his first win on the dirt, and he will have show me he isn't a one-hit wonder to move up from here. Will be an underlay in the Belmont Stakes, his next scheduled start.
4. Hot Rod Charlie. Ran his race in Louisville and was in that four-way battle in the stretch for the win. He gamely held off Essential Quality for the show but could not get by Mandaloun and Medina Spirit. Should go next in the Belmont Stakes, and if he does, he will be on my shortlist of contenders.
5. Mandaloun. Tremendous race from this guy with his Kentucky Derby runner-up finish. It demonstrated that his Louisiana Derby (G2) off-the-board finish was an aberration, a likely bounce from his strong Risen Star Stakes (G2) score one race prior. Will skip the Belmont and point for the Haskell (G1) at Monmouth later this summer.
Next 5: Jackie's Warrior, Rock Your World, Life Is Good, Midnight Bourbon, Highly Motivated.
1. Malathaat. Was sent off as the favorite in a strong edition of the Kentucky Oaks and she came through, narrowly edging Search Results by a neck at the wire. Will skip the Belmont and point to the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) held in late July and then the Alabama (G1) at Saratoga in August.
2. Search Results. Suffered her first loss to Malathaat in the Kentucky Oaks, but she was ultra game in defeat. She should get another crack at the top one later this year, but first a scheduled start in the Acorn (G1) on Belmont day is her next scheduled start.
3. Clairiere. Came with her run in the Oaks and missed the show spot by just a nose. She too will have her chances to move up later this season.
4. Travel Column. Was traveling well on the lead in the Kentucky Oaks but the nine furlongs might have been her undoing and she faded in the stretch to be beaten a little over five lengths. The one-mile Acorn Stakes at Belmont would suit her fine for her next start.
5. Will's Secret. Back-to-back third-place finishes in Grade 1 events bumps her up to this spot. She narrowly held off Clairiere for the show spot in the Kentucky Oaks in a nice effort.
Next 5: Wholebodemeister, Soothsay, Pauline's Pearl, Army Wife, Crazy Beautiful.
1. Colonel Liam. Finally faced a tough field of turf horses, and he passed the test as he dead heated with the very good Domestic Spending for the win in the Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs. Now 3-for-3 on the season, he appears to be a serious player for the Eclipse as this race starts to heat up. Will go next in the Manhattan (G1) on Belmont Day.
2. Domestic Spending. The Turf Classic was his second Grade 1 win in a row, previously taking the Hollywood Derby last fall. Now 5-for-6 on his career, trainer Chad Brown has himself another turf star. Will get a rematch with "Liam" in the Manhattan.
3. Channel Maker. He simply didn't run his best race in Dubai, where he finished eighth, beaten six lengths in the Sheema Classic (G1). Previously, he ran a gallant race to finish second in the Neom Turf Cup In Saudi Arabia. Will be back racing in New York this summer.
4. Raging Bull. Certainly an impressive win in the Maker's Mark Mile (G1), his first start of 2021. Moves up to this spot for now, but I cannot help but remember last season when he was impressive in first start of 2020 in Santa Anita's Shoemaker Mile, also a Grade 1 win. He then went winless for the remainder of the season. In other words, I am skeptical he can string together wins.
5. Smooth Like Strait. This guy is two necks and a head from being a three-time Grade 1 winner. He set the pace in the Turf Classic and was just edged by a neck nearing the wire to finish third. Will try and secure that Grade 1 win this weekend in the Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita.
Next 5: Hit the Road, United, Somelikeithotbrown, Channel Cat, Arklow.
1. Mean Mary Was very good at a distance (8.5 furlongs) that is not her best in the Gallorette Stakes (G3) at Pimlico. She was No. 1 for a few weeks in 2020 and she takes over that spot in a division that has no Rushing Falls in it this year. The New York Stakes (G2) on Belmont weekend is likely next.
5. Charmaine's Mia. With her win in the Royal Heroine (G2) at Santa Anita, she ran her record to 3-for-3 on the year. All three of her wins have come in graded stakes, the most of any horse in her division thus far. She is possible for the Memorial Day running of the Gamely at Santa Anita.
Next 5: Viadera, Mucho Unusual, Magic Attitude, Lemista, Jolie Olimpica.
1. C Z Rocket. Cemented his position at the top with another win over Whitmore, this time in the Count Fleet Sprint (G3). He has quietly won seven of his last eight and is leading the Eclipse race as we enter the spring. Will stretch out for this weekend's Steve Sexton Mile (G3) at Lone Star.
2. Mischevious Alex. Won his first Grade 1 race a few weeks ago in the Carter at Aqueduct in impressive fashion. Previously he scored in the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3), also impressively. He is the real deal this year, and his speed figures are on par or better than anyone else in this division. Will run in the Met Mile next.
3. Flagstaff. Tough old veteran is at the top of his game now as he scored his first Grade 1 win from 19 career starts in his last, the Churchill Downs Stakes. With two straight wins, these top three are tough to separate right now.
4. Whitmore. Another tough loss for this guy as he briefly had the lead late in the Churchill Downs Stakes but was edged at the wire, where he finished a close third in a blanket finish with four others. Previously he was twice runner-up to C Z Rocket at Oaklawn. As honest as they come and will get another shot to return to the winners circle in the six-furlong True North (G2) at Belmont on June 4.
5. Cezanne. Certainly a visually impressive win in the Kona Gold (G3) at Santa Anita, where he won by more than nine lengths, but pump the brakes before you hand him the Eclipse. He beat only three other horses and was able to lay far off a blazing early pace set by the race favorite, Brickyard Ride. In other words, I need to see a lot more before he moves up.
Next 5: Firenze Fire, Wildman Jack, Brickyard Ride, Special Reserve, Lexitonian.
1. Gamine. Had to work for her win in the Derby City Distaff (G1) over Sconsin, but she got the job done with the win. With fans used to the dominant Gamine we saw in 2020, the 2021 version hasn't been quite the same. Perhaps it is because this season she has been forced to run without Lasix, the anti-bleeding medication, after running with it in all of her previous starts. Her next start is undecided.
2. Kimari. In her first graded stakes race on the dirt she did not disappoint, edging away in the stretch for a 3/4-length win over Bell's the One in the Madison (G1) at Keeneland. Have to believe she would have been tough in the recent Derby City Distaff, but her connections opted not to enter. That may cost them come Eclipse voting time. She needs to run soon or will drop from this spot.
3. Sconsin. Showed in last weekend's Winning Colors (G3) that her close runner-up to Gamine in the Derby City Distaff was no fluke as she romped by three widening lengths in defeating Frank's Rockette, among others. She is in top form now and will be a major player moving forward in this division.
4. Bell's the One. Another somewhat disappointing effort when she was off the board in the Derby City, finishing fourth and beaten by more than five lengths. I will keep her here for now because I still believe she is among the best in this division. But one more subpar effort and she will drop.
5. Merneith. Won the Santa Monica (G2) last out and previously was third in the La Brea (G1) in December. Looks like she is finally realizing her potential for trainer Bob Baffert. Hasn't had a work for awhile, not expected back until the summer.
Next 5: Edgeway, Estilo Talentoso, Frank's Rockette, Pacific Gale, Venetian Harbor.
By My Standards: Still running hard, still winning
When the dust settles on the racing careers for all of the 2019 Kentucky Derby runners, By My Standards will be right up there with others who have stood out since.
Since the running of that 2019 edition, two from that field have won Eclipse awards: Maximum Security for 3-year-old male and Improbable last season in the older dirt male division. You can put Vekoma right up there with those two – this multiple Grade 1 winner probably should have won the Eclipse last season as the nations' top sprinter but was denied the award.
Like By My Standards, War of Will was off the board but went on to Preakness glory and then became a Grade 1 winner on the grass at age 4. Bodexpress went on to Grade 1 glory in last fall's Clark. Code of Honor went on to win two Grade 1 events after crossing the wire third in the Kentucky Derby.
In one way, By My Standards resembles another well-known runner from that field, Tacitus. Tacitus is also still searching for his first Grade 1 win, and he has placed five times in Grade 1 events since he crossed the wire fourth in the Derby.
I rate By My Standards slightly higher than Tacitus. By My Standards has run nine times since that Kentucky Derby and has finished first or second in all but two races. He was runner-up to Improbable in last summer's Whitney (G1) and was a winner of three Grade 2 events in 2020.
Starting his 2021 season off in the soon-to-be ungraded Oaklawn Mile stakes, he showed up and ran a stellar race to run down Rushie in the final yards for a nose win. Trainer Brett Calhoun has managed this son of Goldencents well, picking races that By My Standards could thrive in.
Although the Steve Sexton Mile is only a Grade 3, it is more like a Grade 1 or 2 on paper. Chief among By My Standards rival's is C Z Rocket, a winner of seven of his last eight races.
With the main objective this year to win a Grade 1, the Steve Sexton Mile was the logical next step toward that goal, according to Calhoun.
If all goes well this weekend and By My Standards should come away victorious, he will again move to the top five of the older dirt male division, a spot he resided in for much of last season. More important, it will be another step taken to try to get that elusive Grade 1 win later this summer, with the Whitney as the long-range goal.
Horses such as By My Standards should be appreciated more, and while others his age are long retired, By My Standards is still running hard and winning important races.