Last week was yet another claiming week in the Derbyologist Triple Crown Fantasy League. Again, I had some thinking to do.
Instant Replay was quite an easy toss; as much as I liked his Oaklawn allowance win, his spotty presence on the worktab and his failure to turn up in either the Southwest or the Rebel meant I needed to move on and find someone else to take the spot he had occupied since the first claiming period.
Other decisions required a bit more thought. I had spent the biggest chunk of my claiming budget to date (a whole $37!) on Kentuckian, and he was back to burning up the worktab at Golden Gate, but his connections had made it quite clear that he was heading to an allowance next. That left precious little time for him to point to a stakes race during the term of the league; asking him to win an allowance race and then ship east for a points race seemed like more than The Dorf was likely to do with him between now and June. The 7.4% of my season’s budget I spent on Kentuckian was a sunk cost, and I was not going to gain anything by keeping him there instead of looking for a horse more likely to be in a points race. Where’s the Moon also found himself on the chopping block, albeit for different reasons. I claimed him specifically because he had won the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland, and had a shot to hit the board in the Sunland Derby (GIII). He did as much as I could expect him to do; he won the race for second behind Firing Line. He is a solid Sunland horse, but his class is questionable to take him any further down the Derby trail. With some more class-proven horses still available, I had to do the same thing with Where’s the Moon as I had to with Kentuckian: turn an eye toward the future.
No one available merited completely emptying the coffers; the big shooters in all the Derby preps about to happen were all taken by one stable or another. Just one horse jumped out as being worthy of more than just a token bid: St. Joe Bay. He showed some serious fortitude in the Risen Star. Though Keen Ice just nailed him for the show, he was the only one from the hot early pace to stay on. That showed gameness and an affinity for the track, and that made him the most attractive dark horse for the Louisiana Derby. I put in a $17 claim for him: not huge, but enough to eclipse the sorts of smaller-sized claims that others in the league had made for other horses. Other than St. Joe Bay, there was no one I loved, but a few who I thought were possibly worth a try. One of them is a bit of a familiar face: Curlin’s Fox. I claimed her for the Santa Ysabel, she drew in, but she scratched to run in the China Doll instead. She finished second that day, and is now possible for a dirt try in the Santa Anita Oaks. This may be a “fool me twice, shame on me” situation, but I have enough faith in her class and her distance abilities to have taken at $1 stab on her yet again. I also put in a $1 claim for Taylor S. She won the Any Limit S. at Gulfstream impressively. Though that race is a sprint, she could potentially stretch out — she is, after all, a half to Liam’s Map. Even if she does not, there are a few shorter races like the Beaumont and the Eight Belles that offer fantasy points. With Dale Romans being a trainer who tends to place his talented horses in big races, she seemed like a good risk for a small claim.
I ended up getting all three of my claims. No one else tried for Curlin’s Fox or Taylor S, so I got them for $1 each. Candice put a $13 claim in for St. Joe Bay…meaning my $17 claim did exactly what I intended for it to do, to outbid other stables’ smallish claims. These three are in; Instant Replay, Kentuckian, and Where’s the Moon are out. So stands the roster of my stable until April 27, the next claiming date.
With that known, let’s check in with my eight:
- Ami’s Flatter – Ami’s Flatter returned to the worktab on March 23, drilling four furlongs over the Palm Meadows dirt in 48.90. This was his final work before the Florida Derby (GI) on March 28. Ami’s Flatter drew the rail in the nine-horse field. He will have to take a step forward to contend with Upstart. Still, he looked on the right track last out at Tampa Bay, having shown good improvement with first-time blinkers and first-time Lasix. Another step forward, and he should hit the board.
- Ekati’s Phaeton – Ekati’s Phaeton has not worked since her five-furlong drill on March 20, but she is entered to race this weekend. She hopes to build on her game victory in the Davona Dale (GII) last out by annexing the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) as well. She drew post 3 of 8, but looks to have a tougher task ahead of her this time around. There looks to be a bit more speed to contend with this time out, and the race will be the longest of her nascent career. In my handicapping I landed elsewhere, but it would be great for my fantasy stable if she proved me wrong.
- Keen Ice – Keen Ice last worked on March 20, but he is entered this weekend. He heads back over to the Fair Grounds for the Louisiana Derby, having drawn post 7 of 9. With as many front-end types as are signed on for the race, combined with the extra half-furlong of ground, this race should play perfectly to Keen Ice. Keen Ice sits at just twelve Kentucky Derby points, making this race a do-or-die situation. With that the case, the race could not have drawn better for him.
- St. Joe Bay (Saint Anddan – Dream Ride, by Honor Glide) – St. Joe Bay last worked on March 21, going six furlongs over the San Luis Rey dirt in 1:12.00. That was his third work since his fourth-place finish in the Risen Star. He has entered the Louisiana Derby, and got gate 8 out of the nine in the race. The field was as unfavourable for St. Joe Bay as it was favourable for Keen Ice — as a speed horse, he will have a lot to contend with up front. Still, his performance in the Risen Star suggests that he has a better chance to hang around than some of the others, as he dug in and kept on after a hot early pace in his last start. A win seems ambitious, but hopefully he can finish on the board.
- Curlin’s Fox – Curlin’s Fox last hit the worktab on March 21, drilling four furlongs in 47.80 over the Santa Anita dirt. This was her first published workout since her second-place finish in the China Doll Stakes at a mile over the Santa Anita grass. She is currently possible for the Santa Anita Oaks. Hopefully she actually stays in it this time; she is classy enough that I will take that risk.
- Eh Cumpari – Eh Cumpari drilled five furlongs in 1:02.40 at Palm Meadows on March 21. There had been some idle chatter about Eh Cumpari possibly heading to the Florida Derby, but he did not enter at Gulfstream for Saturday. At this point, he is on neither the possible list nor probable list for the Blue Grass, so I expect to see him turn up in the Wood.
- Taylor S (Medaglia d’Oro – Miss Macy Sue, by Trippi) – Taylor S still has yet to work back from her commanding win in the Any Limit S. at Gulfstream on March 14. Trainer Dale Romans has not stated publicly what her next race plans are, making this claim a speculative one. Hopefully she turns back on the worktab soon, and points toward one of the points races.
- Tiz Shea D – Tiz Shea D returned to the worktab on March 22, firing a bullet four furlongs in 47.96 over the Belmont training track. This was the fastest of 88 at the distance that day. Keeneland lists him as possible for the Blue Grass; I expect him to turn up either there or in the Wood next weekend.
That concludes the fantasy update for this week. Hopefully the news from Florida and New Orleans is good!