This weekend featured some exciting races, some disappointment, and a bumper crop of draft anxiety.
Three of my horses raced over the course of the weekend. One of them, Ekati’s Phaeton, sprung a wire-to-wire surprise that netted my stable a healthy injection of points. Another, Keen Ice, bolstered the cause. A third, Frosted, looked like an easy eight points turning for home in the Fountain of Youth…but sputtered and finished fourth.
Going into the last claim, I was left with some tough decisions.
Out of the eight horses in my stable, only two were easy keeps: Keen Ice and Ekati’s Phaeton. Keen Ice has upside as he stretches out and gets older. Ekati’s Phaeton may be a sprinter yet, but she looked so determined during the stretch run of the Davona Dale that I had to keep her. Between her drive to win, her affinity for Gulfstream, and the fact that she has what will likely be enough points to get her into the Oaks? She is a keeper. I also, in the balance, decided that Ami’s Flatter was worth one more race. His fourth in the Sam F. Davis was a bit disappointing, but that race was not enough of a disaster for me to give up on him before the next race…especially because the next draft was so soon after the Tampa Bay Derby, a logical next race since he contested the local prep.
The other five in my stable? They were all on the chopping block. By the Moon had enough upside after the Forward Gal to consider keeping her, but the fact that she did not enter either the Davona Dale or the Busher raised alarms. She was the least priority to drop, though. Instant Replay fell in a similar category: he had upside after his sharp allowance score at Oaklawn, but he did not enter the Southwest as expected, leaving him short on points with time ticking. The other three runners in my stable had turned in efforts so disastrous that they hardly looked like Derby prospects anymore: General Bellamy finished dead last in the Withers, Hashtag Bourbon finished dead last in his return allowance, and Frosted finished a staggering fourth after looking home free in the Fountain of Youth.
In their places, I considered a range of runners. My big play was for Metaboss, and I bid $56 for him. Though dirt remained a question, his distance aptitude looked strong, and his El Camino Real looked to set him up nicely for a try in the Spiral. I made a $17 swing at Pangburn, a sharp winner of an allowance at Oaklawn in her first start since finishing second in the Pocahontas (GII) at Churchill last September. My other bids were for runners who had not been tested in stakes company yet, but were worth small and speculative stabs. I put a $6 bid on recent maiden winner Danzig Moon, and took $1 stabs at both Curlin’s Fox (a stamina-bred turfer who looked possible for the Santa Ysabel at the time) and Oceanwave (a strong Oaklawn allowance winner who may enter the Honeybee).
I took five tries at new horses for my stable, and among all of them, I only got one. Danzig Moon had four bidders, with another stable going to $145 for him — out of the $500 budget for the whole season. Pangburn also had three bidders, and I was again the lowest; other stables bid $42, $41, and $40 for her. Oceanwave attracted three bids, with both a $21 bid and an $11 bid that overtook my $1 attempt. For once, I was not the lowest bidder on Metaboss, but another stable bid $79 for him.
At least Curlin’s Fox went otherwise ignored. I got her for the princely sum of $1, making her the third horse I have claimed this season — and the third who I have successfully gotten for $1. I gave up General Bellamy for her. In retrospect I wonder whether it would have been better to give up Frosted or Hashtag Bourbon for her instead, but I was keen to swap out all three of them, as all three of them looked less than Derby-worthy in their last three races.
As frustrating as it was to get just one of my five picks, at least this means I have a lot of money left for the five remaining claiming periods: $497 of my $500 for the season.
Without further ado, let’s check in with my stable.
- Ekati’s Phaeton – Sent off in the Davona Dale at a nigh-on ignored 26/1, Davona Dale got to the front, set the pace, repelled a challenge down the stretch, and crossed the wire in front of Birdatthewire and Eskenformoney. This made me very happy that I did not lose her in the last claiming period. I risked it because I thought (and still think) that distance limitations may exist, but she clearly likes the track and runs with tenacity. I’m going as long as she will take me.
- Frosted – Turning for home in the Fountain of Youth, it looked like Frosted was going to leave everyone else eating his dust. Inexplicably, he…stopped. Upstart got to him, It’saknockout got to him, even Frammento danced by before the wire. What at one point looked like a sure win for Frosted became at best a surprise, and at worse an embarrassment. No clear word as come out as to why that happened. There have been hypotheses about a deep or tiring track. Still, it cannot bode well for Frosted going forward that he just stopped like that. He looked sharp in the Remsen and somewhat okay in the Holy Bull…but, the stoppage in the Fountain of Youth was so worrisome that I wonder how wise it was that I dropped General Bellamy and not Frosted first in the last claim.
- Keen Ice – As hoped, Fair Grounds was a friendlier place than Gulfstream, given Keen Ice’s running style. He ran on to finish a respectable third in the Risen Star, and thus reasserted his position atop my Kentucky Derby list. He showed he could handle the track, and he mustered a run despite getting boxed in late. Keen Ice’s connections have not announced where he will go next, but staying at the Fair Grounds would make a lot of sense after what he showed on Saturday.
- Curlin’s Fox – Curlin’s Fox is the only one in my stable who entered a race this weekend. She debuted going down the hill, but entered to try the dirt in the Santa Ysabel — against a field that includes two other daughters of Curlin, Stellar Wind and Danette. She was even installed as the morning line favourite. However, the word is that she is likely to scratch and await the China Doll instead. For fantasy stable purposes, that is a bummer; the entire reason I drafted her was that she was probable for the Santa Ysabel, and bred to stretch out. Still, it makes sense that she will point toward the China Doll instead, since the underside of her pedigree screams grass.
- Ami’s Flatter – Ami’s Flatter turned in another work last week, going five furlongs over the Palm Meadows dirt in 1:01.85. He is nominated for the Tampa Bay Derby, and hopefully he goes off there. Since that race goes off just before the next claiming date, that will be the litmus test for whether it will be worth keeping Ami’s Flatter in my stable, or moving on.
- By the Moon – By the Moon did work again over the last week, breezing five furlongs in 1:02.30 over the dirt at Palm Meadows. However, the silence with respect to where she will race next is deafening. Hopefully, she runs before the next claiming period. If that does not happen, hopefully word comes out before the next claiming date about whether she is actually pointing toward an Oaks prep. If she is, I am happy to keep her for one more race. If there is no word, I have a difficult decision.
- Hashtag Bourbon – Hashtag Bourbon returned to the worktab at Tampa Bay on February 25, going four furlongs in 48.80. The Tampa Bay Derby does not appear to be in the cards after that allowance debacle last weekend; he is not nominated. Between now and next claim, hopefully some information arises as to where he will go. The flat performance last out makes me wonder whether that information will matter at all, but the fact that the race was first off the lay makes me at least slightly amenable to giving him one more shot if he does clearly point to a points race, especially since any next points race would not be at Tampa Bay.
- Instant Replay – Things have been completely quiet on the Instant Replay front. He has not entered a race, and he has not worked since February 11. He was a bit speculative to begin with, having been a longer-shot winner of an allowance when he came onto my radar. He looks less and less interesting every day that he does not hit the worktab or clearly point toward a points race. I put him lower on my “potential drops” list in hopes that he would race between now and next claim. Hopefully, he returns to the tab and shows up in the Rebel nominations. If not, it seems almost certainly time to part ways with Instant Replay.