This past weekend was a big one for races, races that did not go as well as I had hoped for the members of my fantasy stable in the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league. I had two horses race on Saturday, though neither did quite as well as I was hoping. I wasn’t completely blanked, with one third place out of the two horses who raced, but I still left the weekend with a bit less overall confidence than I had going in.
Enough preliminary blather. Onward to the horses!
- Please Explain – It wasn’t strange to see Please Explain away from the lead early in Saturday’s Honeybee Stakes. However, what was strange was just how far back Drayden Van Dyke took her. I was expecting her to be part of the pack, somewhere near the middle or the back. Instead, he took her back over a dozen lengths early! She did have plenty left for the stretch, and crossed the wire third beaten only one length all told. The news on Please Explain is mainly good: she acquitted herself well her first time out in a graded stakes, she shouldn’t have a problem with the 1 1/8 miles of the Oaks, and she has now hit the board in all six of her career starts. As much as I support giving deserving apprentices a shot, I’d also be happy to see a different jockey on her next time. This isn’t an apprentice thing; I’d be saying that no matter who had the mount, just for getting her back in another zip code that early in the race. She may be a fast horse, but even the mighty Curlin babies have their limits.
- Conquest Titan – Conquest Titan went off as the favourite in the Tampa Bay Derby, but ended up crossing the wire fourth: meaning no fantasy points for me, and just five Derby points for him. It was a bit of an odd race for him; he was closer than usual to the pace early, and then along the rail for much of the race. Historically, the rail has not quite his best place to blast off and make up ground into and down the stretch. However, it’s still a bit worrisome that he didn’t have enough in him to at least pick off everyone but Ring Weekend. It would be a bit less alarming if it were a new jock who didn’t know how to ride him, but Shaun Bridgmohan had the mount. Bridgmohan had the ride in his very first maiden race, as well as in the Allowance win and the Holy Bull; the latter two were after the realization that Conquest Titan runs best using a closing strategy. The best news from Conquest Titan’s corner involves his next race. The scuttlebutt right after the Tampa Bay Derby had him going to the Florida Derby, which would have had me tearing my hair out (had I had any at the time) since the notoriously early speed favouring Gulfstream does not favour his style. However, as of Monday night, the latest from trainer Mark Casse had him pointing at the Arkansas Derby instead. The good news is, it’s not at Gulfstream. The bad news is, it’s still a month away, so it’s a longer layoff than I was hoping for. Given that the Kentucky Derby is on May 3, and Conquest Titan only has nine Derby points, the Arkansas Derby will be do or die.
- Ride On Curlin – Since the last update ten days ago, there has been plenty of news from the Ride On Curlin camp. First off, on March 6, he worked seven furlongs in 1:26.80 at Oaklawn. It was his first published work since the Southwest, but his team isn’t prone to publishing too many works for him. All of the word since the Southwest has said he has been pointing toward the Rebel, and sure enough that is bearing out. The Rebel field was announced today, and Ride On Curlin is confirmed for it. He is breaking from the second gate. He also has a new jockey, Kent Desormeaux. Here is hoping that Desormeaux is able to get out of him the same kind of ride he got in the Champagne. I was surprised and disappointed not to see him run a more closing style during his third place run in the Southwest. With as many horses as there are in that field who do best on or near the early speed (Tapiture, Strong Mandate, Hoppertunity, and Jet Cat), the pace could well set up for that kind of a late run. I hope William Gowan (his trainer) and Kent Desormeaux consider it.
- Tamarando – Things are humming along just about the same as they were last week, and I’m pleased. He posted another work on March 8, 6 furlongs at Golden Gate in 1.14:00. It was a bullet, though among only four horses who worked the distance. He is still on track for the Spiral on March 22nd at Turfway. Given how well he has raced on the synthetic, combined with the fact that it leaves him the Blue Grass if all else fails, this is the perfect goal for him.
- General a Rod – General a Rod made it back on the worktab on March 8 for the first time since his second-place finish in the Fountain of Youth; he worked four furlongs in 51.26 at Gulfstream. It’s a slower and shorter work than the General normally posts. However, given that there are still two and a half weeks between now and his projected next start in the Florida Derby, there is time to post some sharper works. I’m not worried just yet.
- She’s a Tiger – She’s a Tiger has been on the worktab twice since my last fantasy discussion. On March 3, she worked three furlongs in :35 flat; on March 9, she worked four furlongs in 48.20. Both works happened at Santa Anita. She has 8 Oaks points already, but will still need a good run in a prep to have any shot of being in the gate. The regular works are promising, but I am hoping for information about a race soon. If I had to make a guess, I would say the Santa Anita Oaks on April 5. The only remaining Oaks prep races are that one and the Sunland Park Oaks on March 23; since she only returned to the worktab on February 22, the Sunland is cutting it close.
- Shared Belief – At this point, it would be bigger news for there to actually be news about Shared Belief than it is for there to be absolutely none. However, just today, there was something that at least resembles news about Shared Belief! Keeneland released the nominations for the Blue Grass today, and Shared Belief is actually on that list. Granted, it doesn’t mean a ton. A whopping 191 horses — the entire Derby trail, and then some — were nominated for the Blue Grass. However, it means there is an outside hope of Shared Belief racing this spring. If he had not shown up on the Blue Grass nominations list, it would have been tantamount to declaring his Triple Crown season done. (EDIT: Of course, there was bigger news about Shared Belief less than 24 hours after this entry.)
- Stopchargingmaria – Stopchargingmaria has still not shown back up on the worktab since the Davona Dale. Since that race was on February 22, and she was working weekly leading up to the Davona Dale, this seems odd. There is also no good information on where she is headed next. The silence is deafening.
This is where Iron Bard Stable stands after week 7 in the contest. Every week is starting to matter more and more. Early in the fantasy season, a week or two seemed like almost nothing. Now? They’re the difference between getting that Derby or Oaks prep in and being left out in the cold.
Good luck in the Rebel, Ride On Curlin!