So, you read the headline and wonder “what’s the definition of good by a hillbilly turf writer’s standards”? For that matter, does a hillbilly turf writer even have standards?
The answer to those questions are yes, the bar may be low but he does have standards and yes, this Bret Calhoun trained runner is answering the “good” questions without any help from a hillbilly.
By My Standards has turned in a couple of big performances in 2020 and ran himself right into the mix of the best older horses in the country. Currently ranked third in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association poll for older horses, this four-year old son of Goldencents has been nothing short of outstanding this year. Three wins in three starts has run his racing record to five wins, two seconds, and a third place finish in nine career starts.
The latest trip to the winner’s circle came on May 2 in the Oaklawn Handicap. Facing a stellar field, By My Standards ran just off a solid early pace and powered home to a 1 ¾ length victory. Running with confidence, Calhoun’s charge turned in the biggest performance of his career when all eyes were on him.
“That was obviously his best performance to date,” observes his conditioner. “He shipped in to a track he’s never ran on and beat the deepest field he’s ever faced. Runing closer to the pace than normal, he showed us another dimension. We expected a top effort because he had been working so well and to Standards credit he delivered in a big way.”
By My Standards display of immense talent actually began over a year ago. Since winning a maiden race at The Fairgrounds on February 16, 2019, the only break from the gate that did not land him in the winner’s circle was the Kentucky Derby (11th place finish). Before that first win, however, his handlers were doing a little head-scratching. What was thought to be a talented son of a two-time Breeders’ Cup winner always seemed to be coming up as the brides maid with two seconds and a third in his first three starts.
“I will admit I was a little discouraged before he broke his maiden,” says Calhoun. “We thought he was a really nice horse, but he was not getting it done on race day. After that third start when he didn’t win I think he knew he was under achieving. We could see a big change in his mental approach. Suddenly the switch flipped and he learned how to win. Figuring out how to put horses away and run to his potential has lead him to the winner’s circle in five of his last six races.”
Owned by Allied Racing Stables, By My Standards was a $150,000 purchase as a two year-old. In the higher levels of the sport that can be somewhat of a modest price. Now having banked over $1.2 million in on-track earnings, by anyone’s standards he has been a great investment.
“(Bloodstock Agent) Josh Stevens did an excellent job of picking him out,” says Calhoun. “I am especially proud of him for what he has achieved thus far as what some consider a modest purchase price. I will say at one time, having a horse in my barn that costs that much would have been super high for me. Fortunately we have done some things right over the years and have been able to raise our level of play. Competing against the best competition with a horse that is perceived to be of lesser value is always very rewarding for me.”
With a hot horse on his hands, Bret Calhoun is now faced with the coaching decisions every trainer wants. How to keep your contender on the right path as he runs toward the riches of Thoroughbred racing is the quandary. Right now there is a short term plan and long term goals.
“We are targeting the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs on June 27”, observes the Texas native. “It really makes the most sense for us because it is a top flight race that offers a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He gets to run out of his own stall at a place he calls home much of the year. We don’t have to ship and the Classic is our year end goal. What happens in between is yet to be determined. Right now we just want to let him freshen a bit and figure out how to get him to the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland in November.”
Any questions about this race horse By My Standards will continue to be answered in the coming months.