The Holy Bull and the Forward Gal are next weekend, and this can only mean one thing: the beginning of the Derbyologist Triple Crown Fantasy League! Last year I played, and wrote regular updates here; this year, the same plan is in the cards.
The draft was tonight, and overall I’m happy with how it went. Last year my stable contained a couple of superstars who either only raced at the end of the league period, or did not race during the league at all. (I’m looking at you two, Shared Belief and She’s a Tiger!) This year, I put a bit more emphasis on horses who are active early in the season, but have some possible upside stretching out to Classic distances.
Introducing: my stable!
- Frosted (Tapit – Fast Cookie, by Deputy Minister) – I had the very first pick in the draft; it was down to Texas Red and Frosted, and I went Frosted. This colt was hung outside in the Remsen, and yet he fought an inside bias to finish beaten just half a length. The Remsen is a mile and an eighth, so this suggests he has some stamina in addition to precocity. Though his full sister Macaroon proved to be a sprinter, his half-sister With Sugar On Top won twice at nine furlongs over grass. He also appears to be pointed to an early-season points race, the Holy Bull. It remains to be seen whether taking him over Texas Red will prove intelligent, but on paper at this early stage, Frosted looked worth the gamble.
- Popover (Lookin at Lucky – Starboard Tack, by Seattle Slew) – Popover won at first asking going a mile at Santa Anita on January 2. Who she beat is a bit questionable, especially since Danette finished second — and Danette is looking quite out of form lately and quite in need of a break. She should have upside as she stretches out, as she is half to a two-time winner at nine furlongs (Star Queen). Between the maiden field and the fact that there is no clear word on her next step, she remains a bit speculative, but looked good enough in her maiden win that stakes company next out seems a realistic ask.
- Keen Ice (Curlin – Medomak, by Awesome Again) – Make no mistake about it: Keen Ice is my Derby Horse. I did not take him first because I figured he would last until the beginning of the third round; I figured correctly. Keen Ice has been on my radar since before he raced (given his sire…), and on my Derby Horse radar since his almost impossible-looking maiden win. His style is somewhat pace-dependent as a deep closer, and he still has to take some steps forward to end up on top of the heap. His breeding suggests further development, though, and his breeding suggests distance. Keen Ice fought a speed bias to get up for third in the Remsen, and he should stretch out even further from there. He has been working actively at Gulfstream since late December, and may have a chance to bring early points since he is possible for the Holy Bull on Saturday.
- By the Moon (Indian Charlie – By the Light, by Malibu Moon) – Her dam was precocious, but carried on to win stakes at three and four as well. Though her one-mile Frizette win was on slop, she did break her maiden on fast dirt. She got about a month off after the Breeders’ Cup, but has been working steadily since November — suggesting she should be pointing for a race soon. She is nominated for the Forward Gal; though there has been no clear statement that she is pointed there, the fact that she has been working so long at Palm Meadows suggests it is a possibility. The Forward Gal is not do-or-die, since it is just a seven-furlong race, but should at least give an indication of where her form is going. Distance may be the biggest question; her ability to get the Oaks distance remains speculative given her pedigree.
- General Bellamy (Bellamy Road – Sweet Again, by Awesome Again) – Third in the Jerome after a not-so-great start, General Bellamy is probably the most speculative one in my stable. His ability to stay interested and make up ground late even though he likely prefers the lead was a positive sign. His pedigree also suggests he may stretch out very well. Though he is the first out of his unraced dam to hit the track, Awesome Again should bring some stamina — as should his female line, as second dam Sweet Symphony (A. P. Indy) won the ten-furlong Alabama (GI). On the sire side, Bellamy Road was a GI winner at nine furlongs and a GII winner at ten furlongs, and his progeny’s average winning distance is north of seven furlongs.
- Lucky Player (Lookin at Lucky – Janetstickettocats, by Storm Cat) – Lucky Player is already proven at two turns, having annexed the 1 1/16 mile Iroquois Stakes by a neck over stablemate Bold Conquest. His two outings after that have both been disappointments, so there do remain some class questions. He got a break, has been breezing at the Fair Grounds since late December, and ships out to Oaklawn for tomorrow’s Smarty Jones Stakes. Though the Smarty Jones is not a league points race, the distinct possibility that he will do well there makes him worth having, since a good run there could lead to runs in Oaklawn’s other Derby preps. If he falters in the Smarty Jones, though, it may be time to be Lookin at someone else.
- Ami’s Flatter (Flatter – Galloping Ami, by Victory Gallop) – Ami’s Flatter won on debut going seven furlongs at Woodbine, and then shipped south for the Mucho Macho Man. In his first try on dirt, he crossed the wire a late-running second behind Bluegrass Singer, with almost nine lengths between him and third-place Mawthooq. He is full to Aragorn Ami, who won the Martha Washington last year. His ability to get farther than a mile well seems a question given his bottom-side pedigree, though being by Flatter does not rule it out. But, he may well like the Gulfstream course, and ran well for an off-pace type there trying stakes company for the first time.
- Ekati’s Phaeton (Tale of Ekati – Seventh Veil, by Capote) – Ekati’s Phaeton won the Old Hat (GIII) last out, and has still only won at sprint distances. Her only try at two turns was on turf, leaving a chance she could do better when she tries two turns on the dirt. I am less than optimistic about that, as her female line suggests sprinting. Still, her sire did win at distances as long as a mile and an eighth, suggesting a remote chance. For league purposes, she is possible for the Forward Gal (GII) — perfect, as it is still just a seven-furlong race. If she runs and acquits herself well there, she could be worth trying longer. If not, she may be leaving my stable early.
I’m putting quite a bit of faith into some younger sires here, with two Lookin At Lucky babies and one Tale of Ekati baby in my stable. Among more experienced sires Awesome Again also takes a role in this early stage of the season: both Keen Ice and General Bellamy are out of Awesome Again mares.
The first league races are this coming weekend, the Holy Bull and the Forward Gal at Gulfstream. My next update will come after these races.