The second week of the Derbyologist Triple Crown Fantasy League has come to an end, and the first claiming deadline has passed. It has been a busy few days.
The only points races this week were the Las Virgenes and the Martha Washington, neither of which featured any of my horses. Ami’s Flatter raced in the Sam F. Davis (GIII), which was not a points race. It was not an earth-shattering performance, but it also was not the sort of disaster that would get me to turn on him, especially given that it was only his third start.
From the perspective of who to keep versus who to release, I had to figure out who had a chance in Triple Crown or Oaks Prep races going forward, versus who would not likely score me points. Frosted has the clear class to at least keep hitting the board in preps. Keen Ice was pointed late to a race too short for him, and could improve with maturity and distance. By the Moon moved a bit too early in the Forward Gal, and was also first off the lay. Ami’s Flatter could have shown more in the Sam F. Davis, but was running nicely enough late and still sufficiently inexperienced that he could improve off of the performance. General Bellamy has not raced yet since the league started, and is pointed to the Withers. All five of them were easy keeps.
Popover was an easy drop. She showed dazzling promise in her maiden win, but remains on the California vet list and off the worktab. I hung on to horses who were not working yet for too long last year, and would like to avoid that mistake this year. Lucky Player flopped in the Smarty Jones, which would not alone be a deal-breaker. However, his trainer stated that he would be pointing to turf races going forward; there are no points races on the grass. That made him a clear drop, too.
Ekati’s Phaeton was the only one who made me wonder. She had shown a lot of aptitude over the Gulfstream track. Though her best future probably lies in sprints, she was moving well enough at the end of the Forward Gal in light of some trouble late that she is not without upside. She probably won’t be an Oaks horse, but could possibly hit the board in a prep along the way. I did not love keeping her, but I did not love dropping her, either.
I decided to put Popover, Lucky Player, and Ekati’s Phaeton on the chopping block, in that order. If I won all three bids, all three were gone. However, if I was outbid for one horse, I’d keep Ekati’s Phaeton; if I got outbid for two, Lucky Player would stay as well.
The decision of who to draft was tougher. Khozan was the obvious breakout Derby Horse of the last two weeks, at least among the yet-to-be-claimed set. Still, I only had $500 league dollars for seven drafts, and figured it would cost me somewhere near (or over) three figures to get him. That seemed excessive.
After hand-wringing, chart-reading, replay-watching, and winnowing, I landed on three horses I was interested in taking. My big play was for Sarah Sis, second in the Martha Washington. I loved how, as someone who had previously looked like a speed horse, she overcame a bad break to come off the pace and come within a head of upsetting some very classy lone speed. It also showed promise at two turns, a must going forward. I did not want to blow a large amount of my bankroll early, but was willing to put a $28 bid on her. It was around the magnitude of a bid that made me look silly last year in the first claim (Please Explain, for whom I paid $32 on an uncontested claim), but there was enough to like to make her worth what I thought was a big bid.
My other two claim attempts were a little lower profile. Instant Replay closed into perfectly reasonable fractions to win a two-turn N1X at Oaklawn on January 19. Though he was not nominated early to the Triple Crown, there is some scuttlebutt that he could be pointing to the Southwest, which is a points race. He likes the track, he gets two turns, and he runs for classy connections (trainer Wayne Catalano and owners Gary and Mary West). I liked his allowance win enough to take a chance. I only bid $1 for him — his unproven and non-nominated status suggested he was not worth a bidding war, but I doubted anyone else would bid on him.
My third bid was one I thought was a bit nutty, but worth a stab: $1 for Hashtag Bourbon. I was not sure I would get him for such a low bid, but stranger things have happened. He remained a free agent after the original draft, after all. I did not want to spend a lot on him, since he is coming back from bone chip surgery and working at Tampa Bay. Who knows if he will race before the Tampa Bay Derby? Still, he showed a lot in his first few races, and if his Breeders’ Futurity flop could be traced to an injury, I would be happy to make a small bet that he will improve on return. Across my three bids, he was the one I thought I would be least likely to get, but I was fine with that. If that little play failed, I could ride Ekati’s Phaeton for one more race.
Claims did not happen quite how I envisioned.
I was outbid for Sarah Sis. Scott wanted her even more than I did, and put in a $52 bid for her. On one hand, I am glad someone whose handicapping opinions I respect so much wanted her that badly. On the other hand, it was disappointing to see that my “big” play was not big enough.
Both of my $1 bids, however, went through. As expected, no one went for Instant Replay. As I did not exactly expect, but still hoped, no one went for Hashtag Bourbon. Out went Popover and Lucky Player, and in came Instant Replay and Hashtag Bourbon.
As for Khozan? I was correct in my assessment that he was going to cost more than I wanted to pay. Stables bid $99, $50, and $41 for him. It would have cost me a fifth of my entire season’s claiming allotment to get him: a terrible gamble this early in the trail, at least in my relatively conservative opinion.