It’s finally here: Derby week! In a sense, the entire Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league has been building up to this season. There have been tons of points races over the last few months, but the biggest ones are still to come. The horses in my stable have changed a bit since my last update, though they’re ready to hit the ground running: one of my new horses has already won a race, and two more are in the starting gate for the Kentucky Oaks this Friday.
I am still stressing out about how I ordered Please Explain, Stopchargingmaria, and Conquest Titan in my drops, which ended up meaning something because I only ended up getting three of my five claims. I kept Stopchargingmaria and Conquest Titan, since I am so leery of Please Explain after the medication violation and then the poor run in the Fantasy that I thought Stopchargingmaria and Conquest Titan were less of a risk should either point to a minor race for the league. I knew Please Explain was working at Churchill Downs. However, I misunderstood how the points system worked, and thought points were required to enter a horse in the Derby or Oaks. However, that isn’t the case: they’re preferred. If not enough horses with points enter the race, anyone can. If I had understood that, I’d have interpreted Please Explain’s Churchill works for what they ended up being: crumbs leading toward a surprise entry in the Kentucky Oaks.
For Please Explain’s sake, I’m still worried about this move. I hope whatever was hurting her, whatever led to her being medicated, has been healed. I hope she runs well, and strikes a long-shot blow for the awesomeness of Curlin babies. For my fantasy stable’s stake, I feel really dumb for not understanding the points rule correctly, and may have ranked differently had I understood the rule. That said, I feel I made the best ranking decision I could have at the time, given my assessment of the situation.
With that out of the way, let’s check in on my stable:
- Empress of Midway – Empress of Midway had been pointing to either the Kentucky Oaks or the Eight Belles when I decided to draft her. The Eight Belles would probably have been a more likely spot for her to hit the board, but I understood there would likely be enough drops to get her in the Oaks with just the fifteen points from her dead-heat second in the Sunland Park Oaks. Sure enough, she’s in. She drew the 10 post in a field of 13, and is a 50-1 longshot according to the morning line. Her last published work was on April 25, four furlongs in 49.8 at Churchill Downs. Empress of Midway will definitely need to improve to succeed here, and will need to hope that the Empire Maker blood carries her nine furlongs — since out of all her half-siblings to race, only one (Gnostic, who is now a steeplechaser) isn’t a sprinter. However, she’s not completely out of luck stylewise, having already demonstrated the ability to rate.
- Sugar Shock – Sugar Shock, another new face in my stable, is Iron Bard’s other Oaks starter; she is 12-1 on the morning line. She burned up Oaklawn this winter: breaking her maiden, winning an allowance by daylight, crossing the wire first in the Honeybee (though then being DQ’ed to second behind Euphrosyne), and then holding off Kiss Moon to win the Fantasy. Her last recorded work was at Churchill Downs, four furlongs in 48.40. The Candy Ride filly is stretching out to nine furlongs for the first time, and prefers to be near the early speed, but as long as she at least gets out of the 3-gate and into a decent stalking position, she has a chance.
- She’s a Tiger – She’s a Tiger has been in my stable since the second round of the draft back in January, and has been working through a good portion of the spring. She finally hits the track for her three-year-old debut this Friday: in the Eight Belles stakes, seven furlongs on the Churchill dirt. She didn’t draw the best post: the 10 gate in a field of ten. However, this is a good place for her to come back, given the short distance of the race. She has won at 7f before, in the Del Mar Debutante last year; even though she has never raced at Churchill, she has never fired a bad one on the dirt. Hopefully she comes back the classy filly she was at two, and hopefully she’ll pop up later in the series of big filly races this spring as a spoiler!
- General a Rod – All systems are go for the General in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. His first workout at the main Churchill Downs track was rather disappointing; he went five furlongs in 1:03.40. The trainer’s excuse was that he was distracted by the Big Board; this is believable, though worrisome in light of the crazy crowds on Derby day. He worked once more after that, going four furlongs in 49.40 on April 29. General a Rod drew the 8 post in the field of 20, which should be just fine. He has won from the 9 gate before, albeit in a smaller field, but is coming from a place where he’s neither crushed against the rail nor coming in from the stratosphere. The one other big news item about the General this week is that he was purchased; General a Rod is no longer owned by Armando Rodriguez. On Monday, a deal was finalized to sell him to a group including Starlight Racing (who also currently owns Intense Holiday) and Skychai Racing (who also currently owns Harry’s Holiday). It doesn’t seem much of a factor for handicapping, though, as Mike Maker is still training him.
- Ride On Curlin – Ride On Curlin still rides toward the Derby starting gate this Saturday. He has had one published work at Churchill, seven furlongs in 1:29.00 on April 27. This is fairly normal Billy Gowan, at least along the Derby trail: few published works, and the ones that are published are good and long. The reviews on how he looked during that run were mixed, though I have heard better comments about his form during his gallops later, as he has gotten used to the track again. He will be breaking from the 19 gate in the field of 20. I don’t love that he’s quite that far out, though I like the fact that such a gate is less disadvantageous if Ride On Curlin is going to be coming in from off the pace. It makes me a bit less nervous about the (hopefully already small) possibility that he could be trying a more near-the-front tactic, just because an outside hole screams “make one run”.
- Embellishing Bob – There’s not a whole lot new about Embellishing Bob, but that’s only because he brought the awesome so soon after the claiming date. I drafted him because he seemed like a live longshot in the Derby Trial; he was less of a longshot than I expected, but was absolutely live. There’s no clear word on where he’s going next; given that he is not Triple Crown nominated, I doubt it will be the Preakness or the Belmont, but hopefully he will turn up in one of the undercard or prep races. No matter what, he has a bright future ahead of him, and will probably go down as the shrewdest claim I made all season.
- Conquest Titan – Conquest Titan returned to the worktab at Churchill Downs on April 26, breezing four furlongs in 49.00. This was his first work back after the Arkansas Derby. There isn’t any clear word on where he’s heading next, though the fact that he is working means his connections may have a race in mind. Hopefully there will be some information on the horizon about where he is headed next.
- Stopchargingmaria – Stopchargingmaria has finally returned to the worktab, and I could not be happier about where she returned: New York! She breezed a bullet on the training track at Saratoga on April 28, four furlongs in 48 flat. There’s no good scuttlebutt on where she is headed next, though I can dream that she’s pointing toward the Acorn, right?
Anyway, that’s how my stable is doing come Derby week. I have five of my eight running in points races this weekend; let’s hope they all hit the board!