Week 5 of the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy horse racing league has ended, which means it’s almost time to put in my claims. I am still trying to finalize how I will approach this first claim, and keeping that information under wraps until after the claiming deadline on Thursday. However, what I will say is that I am having a much harder time deciding who in my stable I will put up for trade than I am zeroing in on horses I’m interested in claiming.
The last week has been eventful for several of my horses, so let’s get to it!
- General a Rod – The conveyor belt that was Gulfstream was his friend this weekend, as he and Wildcat Red were head and head from wire to wire in the Fountain of Youth. Even though the photo finish went Wildcat Red’s way, General A Rod showed himself to be very fast and very game. I noted last week that the Fountain of Youth would prove whether he was legitimate Derby trail material or not; it will be interesting to see how he fares on a track other than Gulfstream, but for right now, he has done nothing wrong, and he looks like a real contender. Even with the head bob loss to Wildcat Red, I would still take the General in a heartbeat over Wildcat Red for my fantasy stable, since his pedigree is just better for distance than Wildcat Red’s is. He was my seventh round draft pick, a horse I picked more on the strength of his second-place finish behind Conquest Titan in a November AOC than on thinking he beat much of anyone in the Gulfstream Park Derby. He, so far, looks like a great risk to have taken.
- Stopchargingmaria – She was my other horse to race this weekend, and has the distinction of being the first horse from my stable to run in a points race and not hit the board. She finished a disappointing fifth in the Davona Dale, 14 1/4 lengths behind the wire-to-wire winner Onlyforyou. She was caught a little wide, but nothing that should have caused her to tire out like she did, and lose that many lengths to the winner. This was her first race since the Demoiselle on November 30, but I wasn’t expecting her to be quite that rusty because she has been a regular fixture on the worktab since early January. It could be racing rust, or maybe the track just didn’t suit her. It would not surprise me in the least to see her pointed toward the Gazelle next, since it’s at Aqueduct: the site of her two graded stakes wins as a juvenile, at the same distance as the Demoiselle. In fact, after the Davona Dale flop, Todd Pletcher would be insane not to point her toward the Gazelle.
- She’s A Tiger – Saturday, February 22, she finally returned to the worktab for the first time since her Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies run; she worked three furlongs in 38 flat at Santa Anita. She had been doing some galloping at Santa Anita, but it’s a relief to finally see a published work. There is no reliable information about the specific race to which she is pointing, though I would be surprised to see it any earlier than late March. I am hoping the next race will be before the March claim date, and nervous about how little room this schedule leaves for error, but she’s so talented and has never run a bad race. Assuming she returns fit, she is likely to run nicely.
- Noble Cornerstone – After his flop in the Sam F. Davis, I was hoping to see him run another race before the claiming date. That clearly did not happen. He did post a sharp work at Gulfstream on the 19th, going five furlongs in 1:00.56. However, he is shipping up to Aqueduct to face a stacked Gotham Stakes field on March 1, a field that includes stakes winners Samraat, In Trouble, and Extrasexyhippzster, as well as other promising horses like Uncle Sigh and Deceived. He is still the biggest question I have to answer between now and Thursday: am I willing to risk him in the Gotham, or am I going to cut him loose for a better prospect? Stay tuned.
- Tamarando – There’s not much new with him, and that’s just fine after his big El Camino Real win. He returned to the worktab on February 23, working four furlongs in 49.80 on the Tapeta at Golden Gate. He is still being prepared for another Derby prep on synthetic; most of the scuttlebutt around identifies that as the Spiral out at Turfway, with Russell Baze still aboard.
- Ride On Curlin – There’s nothing new with him since his third in the Southwest Stakes. He hasn’t returned to the work tab, which makes perfect sense since the Southwest was just last Monday. I have heard some chatter about him pointing to the Rebel on March 15, which is another 1 1/16 mile race on the Oaklawn dirt. That seems like a perfectly logical race, since it’s a racetrack he clearly knows, and does not dislike.
- Conquest Titan – Mark Casse is a smart, smart man. Gulfstream has been a conveyor belt lately, and early speed has been carrying the day. Conquest Titan is a closer. Instead of keeping Conquest Titan pointed toward the Florida Derby at Gulfstream, Casse changed his game plan, and is now pointing him toward the Tampa Bay Derby on March 8. Hopefully this means he is getting rested up; he has been training so continuously that part of me thought he would appreciate the two month rest between the Holy Bull and the Florida Derby. However, the break from the Holy Bull to the Tampa Bay Derby is still a significant six weeks, and leaves more room for error should the Tampa Bay Derby not go well. All in all, I like this news. The only other Conquest Titan news this week is a nice return to the worktab; on February 22nd, he worked four furlongs in 48.30 at Palm Meadows.
- Shared Belief – Another week, another week without a published work from Shared Belief. He has so much talent, and his two-year-old season was dynamite, but I’m getting impatient here. It would be rash to drop him yet, and I am almost certainly hanging onto him for at least another month, but I want to see some works, and some credible information about a race (read: Blue Grass Stakes) in his future.
There’s a lot to think about between now and Thursday. I feel I’m in a good place, since I am tied for first in league points and am confident in the majority of my stable. That said, I’m looking forward to getting as close as possible to a solution to this puzzle between now and Thursday, and will likely post a mid-week fantasy update with the effect that the claim has on my stable.