2016 Fantasy Stable: week 1 postmortem

The Derbyologist Triple Crown Fantasy League got underway last week.  My stable had a tough start.

Three of my horses ran in points races last week, all at Gulfstream.

All three of them missed the board.

In a league in which points are awarded for finishing first, second, or third, this leaves my team on the duck.

Thinking about my stable going forward, it also gave me a lot to ponder.  If any of my horses’ races had been particularly good, it would have been disappointing from a points perspective, but left me with something clear and strong on which to build moving forward.  Unfortunately, none really fit that mold.

Both Conquest Babayaga and Conquest Big E were coming off of layoffs of about two months, giving them a marginal (yet unsatisfying and unconvincing) excuse.

Conquest Babayaga raced for the first time since November 21 in the Forward Gal (GII).  She lagged behind from gate to wire, finishing a lackluster fifth.  Though it turned out no one was being Cathryn Sophia that day, at no point did it look like Conquest Babayaga was making a real run.  Perhaps it was the layoff.  Perhaps she did not like the dirt.  Perhaps it was something else.  Time will tell.

Conquest Big E ran for the first time since his allowance win at Churchill Downs on November 28.  He was farther off the early pace than I expected to see him; that may not have been his best running style in the Holy Bull.  Though he got little pace into which to rally, it was a bit disappointing to see him outfinished by Fellowship for third.

Noholdingback Bear, after his fourth in the Swale (GII), does not hold a lot of league appeal.  He faded badly after stalking Awesome Banner.  It was a step back after his second-place finish in the Hutcheson (GIII).  Noholdingback Bear does not seem the type to stretch out, and the list of fantasy league points races is light on sprint races going forward.  He was one I very specifically drafted in the last round because I thought he had a shot in the Swale, and he disappointed.

With claims every week, there will likely be a bit more shuffling around in my stable than there has been in previous years.

I did not consider dropping Conquest Big E.  Though drafting him with my first-round pick may prove to be a questionable move, I still believe in the talent he showed last year.  It was his first race of the year, and I will give him at least one more race to prove himself.  Perhaps a different trip, a rider change, a little bit better start out of the gate, a step forward second off the lay…something may help him along next out, and I am not giving up quite yet.

That left Noholdingback Bear and Conquest Babayaga.  Noholdingback Bear was an obvious drop, as a sprinter with little league-related upside going forward.  Conquest Babayaga was a bit more marginal.  The fact that she has not tried two turns yet remains a looming question, as is the fact that she hardly ran a step in her lone dirt race.  Still, she has a bit more upside than Noholdingback Bear, given the second-off-the-lay factor she will bring into her next start.  I put her as a potential drop, but second.

I zeroed in on two horses to try and claim.  Cutacorner was one I considered drafting in a late round, but I ended up trying my luck with a few horses running sooner than that Oaklawn allowance winner.  He looked good enough in the allowance win, and trainer Jack Van Berg has been hot enough at Oaklawn, that he was my main claim.  Still, with it being so early in the season, I only put out $11 of my $500 claiming budget for him.

Land Over Sea was not one I considered drafting, but I saw a bit of upside in her for the coming week.  She has not raced since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.  But, she has a regular worktab at Santa Anita, hot West Coast connections (Doug O’Neill/Reddam Racing), and a “second to Songbird” medal in her only start over the Santa Anita dirt.  She seemed worth a $1 flyer.

I got outbid in a three-way bidding war for Cutacorner, but I was the only one to put in for Land Over Sea.  So, Noholdingback Bear is out of my stable, and Land Over Sea is in.

Here’s hoping the second week of the league goes better than the first.  I am hoping that Land Over Sea actually does enter the Las Virgenes (GII).  And, I am anticipating seeing Cosmic Evolution in the Martha Washington at Oaklawn.

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