Starlight Racing’s Cutting Humor, a tough-trip seventh as the favorite in the Southwest (G3), found smoother sailing in Sunday’s $800,000 Sunland Park Derby (G3). Pouncing from just off the hot pace, the Todd Pletcher trainee held off Anothertwistafate to set a new track record and score 50 Kentucky Derby (G1) points.
Bob Baffert’s 4-5 favorite, Mucho Gusto, flashed speed from his rail post, but found a complicating factor in the presence of locally based Hustle Up. That New Mexico-bred tugged his way forward to press Mucho Gusto, likely forcing him to go a tad faster than preferable in this 1 1/8-mile test. Golden Gate shipper Anothertwistafate, initially between the pair, eased back into a tracking spot just behind them.
Cutting Humor advanced to flank Anothertwistafate on the backstretch, and that might well have been the decisive tactical move by Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez. For Cutting Humor was able to launch his bid sooner, while Anothertwistafate had to take longer to angle out for room.
Mucho Gusto’s class told as he put away Hustle Up on the far turn, but by that point Cutting Humor was already throwing down his challenge. Although the ever-gritty Mucho Gusto tried to respond along the inside, he had been softened up by the early pace on this step up in distance.
Just as Cutting Humor forged clear, Anothertwistafate lengthened stride in pursuit and managed to reduce the margin gradually. But he never looked quite like getting past the winner, who kept his neck in front.
Cutting Humor posted a track-record 1:46.94, bettering the old mark of 1:47.21 established by Oh So Regal in the Sunland Park H. on April 15, 2018. This was the second track record to fall Sunday, after Escape Clause blitzed the one-mile Harry Henson in 1:34.00.
Anothertwistafate garnered 20 points, increasing his total to 30, and answered the question about his dirt proficiency. Mucho Gusto’s tiring third was good for 10 points, and he now has 24 all told. Wicked Indeed plugged on in fourth, adding 5 points to bump his account to 6. Eye Cloud closed from last for fifth, and Pasamonte Man, Hustle Up, Collusionist, and Walker Stalker rounded out the order under the wire. Diamond Blitz was scratched.
The 2-1 second choice, Cutting Humor paid $6.60 while boosting his bankroll to $516,967 from a 6-2-2-1 line. He had placed second to Bourbon War, the future Fountain of Youth (G2) runner-up, in a Gulfstream Park allowance two starts ago. Most recently in the Southwest, he was unable to put his best foot forward in his stakes debut after being forced out on the first turn.
Cutting Humor, a $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling, is a half-brother to Grade 2-placed stakes scorer Irish You Well. He’s cleverly named being by First Samurai out of Pun, an unraced Pulpit half-sister to multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter Zensational.