With as many Derby and Oaks preps as are on the horizon for this weekend, there is some action on the horizon. Unfortunately, there is a bit less action than I hoped there would be: with six points races on the schedule, I have a grand total of three horses drawn into a race this weekend.
Once I see what happens this weekend, big decisions await. The second claiming date is February 23. My stable has had a slow start so far, and if most or all of my runners over the weekend fail to fire, this will be a particularly critical draft. It is still early enough in the prep season that it is feasible to get in on the ground floor with a runner without blowing my entire claiming budget…though it will require some luck both in spotting such runners and in not getting outbid for them. With several horses looking questionable at best after disappointing performances, there may be some changes afoot after this week’s preps conclude.
Without further ado, let’s check in with my stable.
- Hashtag Bourbon – Hashtag Bourbon was the only member of my stable to run last over the last week, though it was not in a points race. Unraced since the Breeders’ Futurity (GI) on October 4, he had been working at Tampa Bay since early January. He turned up in a two-turn allowance optional claiming race at Tampa on February 14. It was not pretty. He was near the pace early, but rank, and had nothing left for the drive. He faded to last in a field of seven. This, of course, leaves open the question: will he improve second off the lay (with or without a move away from Tampa) sufficiently to make him competitive in a points race? Some of his two-year-old races looked good, but that allowance was a disaster, even given the four-month lay.
- Ekati’s Phaeton – Ekati’s Phaeton returned to the worktab since last we checked in on her, drilling a sharp five furlongs in 1:00.51 at Gulfstream on February 14. Fourth in the Forward Gal last out, she returns to the races on Saturday in the Davona Dale. Unfortunately for her, the Davona Dale drew absolutely loaded: a strong field of fourteen. Ekati’s Phaeton does like the track, but this is the toughest field she has faced by far. For fantasy purposes, I would love to see her hit the board. In reality, it will surprise me if she does. I left open the possibility of dropping her in the last claiming period; I am glad I get another shot with her, but this race will be her real litmus test as to whether she can stretch out against classy company, or needs to step off the Oaks trail and back into sprints.
- Frosted – Frosted returned to the worktab on February 15, going four furlongs in 48.75 at Palm Meadows. As expected, he plans to take the next step down the Florida segment of the Derby trail, having entered Saturday’s Fountain of Youth Stakes. Classwise he fits the field nicely, though there are a few other tough contenders. Upstart returns in the Fountain of Youth, along with a pair of impressive allowance winners in Gorgeous Bird and Itsaknockout. The field is no slouch, but on paper he stands a decent enough chance. Even if he finishes second yet again? That still means points. The way this fantasy league is structured, the odds don’t matter, whether a horse is an underlay (which Frosted surely will be) does not matter…we get points for horses finishing first, second, or third. If Frosted keeps hitting the board like Ride On Curlin did for my fantasy stable last year, he will easily keep a spot.
- Keen Ice – Keen Ice stayed in Florida long enough to drill five furlongs in 1:03.34 at Gulfstream on February 15. However, after a fifth-place finish in the Holy Bull, Keen Ice’s connections probably did the right thing by taking their confirmed closer and getting him out of Dodge. Keen Ice races this weekend, but he turned up in the Risen Star a Fair Grounds. That track should suit him a bit better than Gulfstream. The scratch of J S Bach does not help Keen Ice much, since it takes one speed type out of the equation, but enough other speed remains (Hero of Humor, Big Big Easy, St. Joe Bay, Tiznow R J) that he remains in with a shot. Even if he does not win,
- Instant Replay – The most interesting thing to happen with Instant Replay this week was, unfortunately, the relative silence from his corner. He did work back after his allowance win, going five furlongs in 1:03.20 at Oaklawn on February 11. However, he did not enter the Southwest despite having been tabbed as a probable runner. After the Southwest was delayed, I hoped he would end up in the redrawn version: no such luck. Without any clear word on whether he is pointing to the Rebel instead or there has been a setback…he is one about whom I need to think, particularly since there are two claiming periods between now and the Rebel.
- Ami’s Flatter – Ami’s Flatter returned to the worktab on February 15 going four furlongs in 49.35 at Palm Meadows. He had been nominated to the Fountain of Youth, but did not actually enter the race. Given the fact that he raced at Tampa Bay last (finishing 4th in the Sam F. Davis), he may be holding off for the Tampa Bay Derby. If that is the case, the timing works well in terms of the fantasy league: that race is on March 7, just before the first claiming date in March.
- By the Moon – There is good news and bad news about By the Moon. The good news is that she has finally worked back from the Forward Gal. She went five furlongs over the Palm Meadows dirt in 1:02.40 on February 15. However, she is conspicuously absent from the Davona Dale this Saturday, and there has been no clear word as to where she is pointed next. Nominations are not yet out for the next few Oaks prep races (the Santa Ysabel at Santa Anita and the Honeybee at Oaklawn). She confounds me a bit at the moment: she has talent, but I do not like the fact that she did not turn up anywhere in this round of preps.
- General Bellamy – General Bellamy has not worked back from his sixth and last place finish in the Withers on February 7. Even as well beaten as he was when he finished third in the Jerome, he showed far more that time out than he did during his steady fade last out. It does not bode well for any future attempts against classier company. Trainer Bill Mott is sharp, and his breeding is good for a stretch-out…but making a splash on the Derby trail would require such swift and emphatic improvement upon that effort in the Withers as to be…quite improbable.