We had a claiming day this Thursday, and I had to get busy, since so many of my horses were off the Derby or Oaks trails. I had Ride On Curlin and General a Rod who are in the Derby starting gate, and She’s a Tiger pointing toward the Eight Belles, but that was it as far as horses of mine who were clearly pointing toward races that could advance my standing. I had to get my hands on at least a few horses who would be in some more points races, since my current point total in the league is nothing if not middling. Fortunately, I had the most money left out of anyone: $468 out of the $500 in Monopoly money that we got at the beginning of the season for claims.
I made five attempts at claims this month. Two of them flopped. I made a rather big stab at Danza, in order to get one other Derby starter. My thought was that Danza would garner less claiming interest than Wicked Strong (who had been released in the previous claiming period by one of the stables). I wasn’t (and am still not) completely convinced by the thought that either of them is a major contender, but since they’re both in the starting gate, having another Derby starter in such a wide-open Derby couldn’t hurt. I decided I’d take a pretty big stab — $157 of my $468 remaining — at what I thought was the lower-hanging fruit. I assumed there’d be a bidding war, but nothing like what I assumed would be on Wicked Strong.
Well, that backfired. Someone tossed megabucks for Medal Count. Someone tossed $206 of their claiming budget for Danza, outbidding me. Nobody bid on Wicked Strong. I could have had him for a dollar. Of course, I had no way to know that, but it still stings.
I also got outbid on My Miss Sophia. I bid $66 on her, but another stable put up $93 and took her. I’m a little bummed about that, since I think she’s a serious Oaks contender. The Oaks should be tougher than what she saw in the Gazelle, but she did show talent there. Either way, she is not in my stable for the Oaks.
However, the claiming period was not a total loss for me. I expected a pretty big bidding war on Sugar Shock, and did like her out of the Honeybee and the Fantasy, so I put up $116 for her. That was more than enough; in fact, there was only one other bid for $20 for Sugar Shock. If nothing else, that means I have a legitimate Oaks contender in my stable…or, at least, a contender for second or third, since I’m finding it as hard as anyone else is right now to fathom Untapable being beaten. I got another filly for my stable, as well; I put up $36 for Empress of Midway, and was the only one to bid on her. The allure of Empress of Midway was partially that she was on the bubble for the Oaks when I bid, but was planning to go in the Eight Belles (another points race for the league) if she didn’t make the Oaks. It turns out she’s in the Oaks, once Room Service defected. She’s a longer shot, but not completely without a chance.
My other claim was quite possibly my most hare-brained claim ever. The field for the Derby Trial came out the day before the claims deadline, and the Derby trial was a points race for the league. I pulled up the PPs for the race and took a look, just in case there were any perfectly cromulent longshots who were not owned in the league yet. I identified two: Myositis Dan and Embellishing Bob. Myositis Dan was at least somewhat on the radar since he had just won an allowance at Keeneland; Embellishing Bob was fresh from a third-out maiden win at the Fair Grounds. I thought the pace would set up a bit better for Myositis Dan coming in off the pace, but I thought Embellishing Bob was far enough off the radar that I could get him for a relatively low claiming price. So, I tossed a bid of $21 out there, and sure enough that got Embellishing Bob into my stable. No one bid for Myositis Dan, it turns out, but I was glad I got at least one Derby Trial prospect in my stable.
This hare-brained claim turned out to be an extremely rewarding one, as well. Last night in the Derby Trial, Embellishing Bob stalked just off of Bayern’s pace the entire way, and made a run at him down the stretch. Bayern drifted out into Embellishing Bob, and crossed the wire first by just a nose. However, an objection by Brian Hernandez, Jr. against Rosie Napravnik and Bayern for drifting and floating Embellishing Bob out was sustained, and Bayern was placed second. Embellishing Bob got the win, and my fantasy stable had a race winner for the first time since Tamarando took the El Camino Real. I’ve had a smattering of seconds and thirds, but having a win — especially from a bit of a dark horse like this — felt fantastic!
As for who I decided to let go, some of those decisions were easier than others. Shared Belief was very obviously off the Triple Crown trail, and Tamarando was back in California and trying the turf, implying he’s far off the trail as well. They were my top two choices, and they are now out of my stable. That left Stopchargingmaria, Please Explain, and Conquest Titan to drop in some order. I put Please Explain as first to be dropped among these, which may have been a questionable tactic given that Stopchargingmaria was stricken from the Oaks list. Please Explain had no points, but she was working at Churchill. However, I was still extremely leery of her doing anything around a racetrack, between the medication violation that knocked her off the board in the Honeybee and then the poor performance in the Fantasy. I figured Stopchargingmaria just had a better chance if she did turn up for one of the minor races. Conquest Titan, I left as my last to drop in case his connections decide to run him in one of the minor points races for the league. As such, I dropped Shared Belief, Tamarando, and Please Explain; Stopchargingmaria and Conquest Titan are still in my stable, at least pending the claiming day right before the Belmont.