The last two weeks of fantasy stable action have brought us back to a familiar refrain: a significant lack of on-track action by my horses.
Among the horses in my stable entering that claiming period, only three of my horses were clear keepers. Keen Ice has been actively training for the Louisiana Derby, and the longer races for which he is best suited still lie ahead. Ekati’s Phaeton has punched her ticket to the Kentucky Oaks, and though distance limitations remain a possibility, her gameness and her affinity for the Gulfstream track make her a must-keep. Ami’s Flatter improved with blinkers and Lasix in the Tampa Bay Derby last out, and could threaten in another prep down the road.
The rest of my stable was on the chopping block leading into the March 9 claim.
I was willing to consider sticking with Hashtag Bourbon if he improved second off the lay, but he turned in another uninspiring last-place finish in an allowance. As a fan I’d like to see him find his place soon, but he does not look like a Derby horse. Curlin’s Fox is in cracking form, but she looked like she was staying on the grass. Frosted may be back in training, but his epic collapse in the Fountain of Youth made him completely unattractive further along the Derby trail. By the Moon and Instant Replay were both working, but questions remained as to whether they would turn up in another points race. It was a coin flip how I ordered those, though I decided to keep Instant Replay in case I only got four of my claims.
Who to bid for going forward was tough. As the Derby draws closer, so many of the top horses early have remained tough contenders. No rising star had emerged over the previous weeks who looked like a major Derby Horse. However, I had to take some stabs: my stable was gathering dust.
Just before the claiming day, Kentuckian scored a sharp maiden win. Though the competition he beat at Golden Gate may have been questionable, and Tapeta form does not always translate to dirt, he looked fantastic and had turned up in the nominations for some points races. He was my big bid; I put in $37 for Kentuckian. Another who looked attractive was Tiz Shea D. He had only raced twice so far, but he dug in tenacioiusly for second in the Gotham and looked very well bred for the stretch out. He would need another race to be assured enough points for Derby day, but Tiznow out of an A. P. Indy mare suggests even Belmont potential. With that sort of breeding, I figured there would be some stabs at him, and bid $27. I considered both Why Two and Where’s The Moon as possibilities for some points in the Sunland Derby; I opted to put in a $22 claim for Where’s The Moon, since he actually had a win over the Sunland track. Royal Son had won the Battaglia convincingly enough that he was worth a $12 claim — enough to beat a light flyer, but I wasn’t emptying the bank for a horse who could either be the real deal or a massive bounce risk. Finally, I took a $1 flyer on Eh Cumpari, since I had five horses clearly on the chopping block. Though Eh Cumpari’s best place is probably the turf, I figured his connections would be pointing him to a Derby prep after he annexed a graded stakes on grass, since he did have that maiden win over dirt.
For once, I was not repeatedly outbid. On the other hand, I did a rotten job anticipating who people would bid on. Out of the five horses for whom I made bids, the only one anyone else bid on was Royal Son. However, I am still in a good place in terms of claiming budget; at this point in the season, I still have the most money left in my claiming budget out of anyone else in the league.
Without further ado, let’s check in with my stable:
- Where’s the Moon (Malibu Moon – Aldiza, by Storm Cat) – One of my new additions, Where’s the Moon, is the only one scheduled to run this coming weekend. He drew post 3 in a field of 8, though that will scratch down to 7 with the defection of Lord Nelson. The likes of Firing Line and Tiznow R J will be a class test for him, but his stalking style should be helpful, and he has won twice over the Sunland track.
- Ami’s Flatter – Ami’s Flatter worked back from the Tampa Bay Derby on March 17, breezing four furlongs in 49.45 over the dirt at Palm Meadows. There is buzz that Ami’s Flatter may go to the Blue Grass (GI) at Keeneland on April 4. Hopefully that bears out, and he takes another step forward from a solid Tampa Bay Derby outing.
- Eh Cumpari (Elusive Quality – Bells Are Ringing, by Sadler’s Wells) – Eh Cumpari has yet to work back since winning the Palm Beach Stakes (GIII) at Gulfstream on March 7. There has been chatter about him heading to either the Wood Memorial (GI) or the Blue Grass Stakes (GI), both of which are slated for April 4. Hopefully he returns to the worktab soon, and ends up starting in one of those points races. He is a long shot to beat real dirt horses on dirt, but was worth trying in my fantasy stable due to the stamina in his pedigree.
- Ekati’s Phaeton – Ekati’s Phaeton has worked twice since the last update. On March 12 he breezed five furlongs at Gulfstream in 1:01.73; on March 20, she returned to Gulfstream for a five-furlong drill in 1:00.72. She is expected to return in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) on March 28 for her final Kentucky Oaks prep.
- Instant Replay – I put him lowest on my drop list last claim since I was holding out hope that he would go in the Rebel. He did not draw into the Rebel, and he has been absent from the worktab since March 8. He went an easy four furlongs in 52.80 that day. As much as I liked his allowance win, I somehow doubt that the Cat Man is going to send him against the likes of American Pharoah and Far Right in the Arkansas Derby, and I probably need to give up the ghost on this one.
- Keen Ice – Keen Ice remains on the worktab at Gulfstream, and has worked twice since the last update. March 12 saw a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.03; he returned on March 20 to work five furlongs in 1:02.06. He should return in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 28.
- Kentuckian (Tiznow – Forest Music, by Unbridled’s Song) – Kentuckian is a prime example of why I should have waited until later on the claiming day to send my choices. Not even an hour after sending my claim, word started to come out that Kentuckian would be going to an allowance, and possibly only a stakes after that. Given that Kentuckian is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, that seems likely to happen. The good news is, he seems on track; he worked back from his impressive maiden win, going four furlongs in 48.00 at Golden Gate. Still, his prospects of going to a stakes (much less a points race) before the season is out are looking questionable, leaving me already wondering whether to keep him.
- Tiz Shea D (Tiznow – Ender’s Sister, by A. P. Indy) – Tiz Shea D has yet to work back from his second-place finish in the Gotham Stakes (GIII) on March 7. There have been rumblings about either the Wood (GI) or the Blue Grass (GI) for him on April 4. Either way he goes, hopefully he gets a maintenance work in soon.
Stay tuned for next week. There’s another claiming day this coming Monday, so there may be a bit more personnel change yet!