Week 4 was nothing short of eventful for my fantasy stable. There were two points races this weekend, and I had a horse in each: Tamarando in the El Camino Real Derby, and Ride On Curlin in the Southwest Stakes. Both of them did me proud: Tamarando caught Dance with Fate close to the wire to win the Southwest, and Ride On Curlin held on for third behind Tapiture and Strong Mandate in the Southwest. I’ve had some good luck so far — only three of my eight horses have run points races so far (these two, and Conquest Titan back in the Holy Bull), but all three have hit the board and brought some fantasy points home for me. It’s still early, but it’s nice to be building on a good foundation like this.
Here is where each of my horses stand. Since the last post about my stable there have been events, or at least news, for quite a few of them.
- Tamarando – I was petrified going into the El Camino Real, because of the lack of early speed. I was even more petrified (though not exactly surprised) during the race as I’ll Wrap It Up clicked off some early fractions that weren’t that swift. I knew Tamarando was going to come from behind, because that’s how he always runs, but I was just hoping Russell Baze wouldn’t keep him too far back to catch up. It turns out that I had no need to worry. He was never nearly as far back as he was last out in the California Cup Derby, and had plenty of space and energy to nab Dance With Fate for the win. He sure does like his synthetic tracks. Hollendorfer has stated that he plans to send Tamarando out east for a prep on the synthetic, likely the Spiral Stakes in March. He’s also said that the current plan is to keep Russell Baze on the mount. I have had my doubts, and I’m still not sure about the Triple Crown races themselves (as he has been so much better on synthetic than on dirt), but he showed in this race that he can adjust pace for a race without massive early speed. He looks like a keeper.
- Ride On Curlin – Ride On Curlin went off in the Southwest today, and I was a little surprised to see how he raced. I say a little because he was right up near the lead relatively early, which is how he has garnered his two career wins. However, given the horses in the field and the proclivities that so many of them had for speed (combined with the fact that Calvin Borel had the mount!), I was expecting him to run a more closing style, like he did in the Champagne last year. The race seemed like a perfect time to deploy that strategy again. I don’t quite understand why his connections didn’t; the best conjecture that I’ve seen so far involved the possibility that he’d get caught behind a wall of horses back there with nowhere to go. That’s legitimate. My thoughts on his racing style today aside, however, the fact remains that he got caught eight wide on the clubhouse turn, three wide on the far turn, and still managed to come in third. I will take it. I’m looking forward to his next race — both to see how he races in general, and (hopefully) to see what he does if he gets a better trip.
- Stopchargingmaria – She has been a regular on the worktab since the beginning of January, and worked again this week, five furlongs in 49.25 on February 16 at Palm Meadows. Despite her regular published works, I had found no good information about where exactly she was pointed — she’s the one horse in my stable who, try as I might, I could find no scuttlebutt on anywhere. This changed today, in the best possible way: she is confirmed for the Davona Dale. Not only is the Davona Dale this Saturday (in other words, a few days before the stable claiming deadline!), but it’s a points race for the league. The Davona Dale is a mile and a sixteenth — a distance at which I have no worries about her, since she won the Tempted last year at a mile as well as the Demoiselle at a mile and an eighth. She won’t have to ship anywhere, since the race is at Gulfstream. All in all, this makes perfect sense as a race to start her three-year-old campaign, and I am looking forward to see how she has come out of the winter.
- General a Rod – As usual, General a Rod got his work in again this week, working five furlongs in 1:00.12 on February 16 at Gulfstream. It had sounded like he was pointing to the Fountain of Youth, and sure enough, he is confirmed for the race. This will be his first race since his win in the Gulfstream Park Derby on January 1, and his fourth overall. A handful of the horses from the Gulfstream Park Derby return for the Fountain of Youth (second place Wildcat Red, third place East Hall, and ninth and last place Best Plan Yet), though the field will be significantly stiffer with horses such as Top Billing, Commissioner, We Miss Artie, and Casiguapo in the mix. He is stretching out past a mile for the first time in his career, but there’s nothing glaring in his pedigree or his past performances to suggest that he will have particular trouble at a mile and a sixteenth. I am interested in the Fountain of Youth — this is the race that will likely prove if General a Rod is legitimate Derby trail material or not. A lot of my planning for the first claim period hinges on how he does in this race.
- Conquest Titan – The draw for the Fountain of Youth happened this morning, and there was a notable absence: Conquest Titan. As of last week, Mark Casse had stated that he was pointing that way. However, this morning, he announced that instead, Conquest Titan would be pointing straight to the Florida Derby. Even though it’s a little frustrating in a fantasy league context to lose a horse in a points race in which he’d have a good chance at a good run, it’s probably best in the long run that he takes this little break. He has been training and racing through the winter, and Casse noted that he lost a bit of weight after the Holy Bull. He has been off the worktab this week, but Casse anticipates working him later this week. There is still quite a bit of time until the Florida Derby – the race is not until March 29. Even though this means Conquest Titan will have no chances at league points through March, that doesn’t affect my strategy when it comes to him — signs point to him being a serious contender on the trail, and he’s staying right here in my stable where he belongs.
- Noble Cornerstone – What in the world am I going to do with Noble Cornerstone? That is a question I face, and probably the biggest at the moment. There was chatter last week about Noble Cornerstone pointing to the Fountain of Youth, but that didn’t happen. That race was drawn today, and Noble Cornerstone is not on that list. He hasn’t been back to the worktab since February 12th, the work I mentioned last week. I was hoping to have one more race to help me evaluate him before the claiming deadline a week from Thursday, but unless he is being pointed under the radar to some allowance race coming up, I will have to make the best conjecture possible from limited information. (I know, I know, there’s a word for that, and it’s called handicapping.)
- Shared Belief – Today, there was finally some useful news about Shared Belief. He has been off the worktab with the foot injury (which is still unclear, though I don’t exactly buy that it was just a grabbed quarter), but was finally back at Santa Anita galloping last week. Today, the word is that he will be back on the worktab later this week. Furthermore, it sounds like he’s going to be pointing toward one of the synthetic track prep races out east — either the Spiral at Turfway or the Blue Grass at Keeneland, probably whichever one Tamarando isn’t running. I am happy with this plan, assuming it comes through; all three races he has won have been on synthetic, so he clearly likes the surface. I’m also happy, for purely fantasy-related reasons, that both Shared Belief and Tamarando have the same trainer who sounds likely to point them to different races. The last thing I want is these two going against each other before Derby day, when they’re both talented enough to have an honest shot at winning.
- She’s a Tiger – Not a whole lot has changed. She’s a Tiger is still galloping at Santa Anita, though has no published works yet, and there’s no good information out there suggesting what race she’s pointing to. Hopefully she will show up on the worktab as soon as this week, but there’s nothing particularly credible that I’ve heard either way. She’s not one I’m really considering dropping, despite still being on a lay — she’s too talented a horse, and there’s nothing that has come up to imply that this is anything other than coming back from a well-deserved winter break after six races as a juvenile.
So, there’s where Iron Bard Stable stands after week 4 of the contest. Week 4 was an exciting one, with Tamarando and Ride On Curlin hitting the track — and next week stands to be at least as thrilling (and informative!), with Stopchargingmaria making her three-year-old debut, and General a Rod coming back to face some tougher company. Until then, it’s time to make sure that I know how everyone else who is not in my stable did this last weekend, and continue to identify good possibilities among unowned horses since the first claim date is coming up February 27!