Week 7 of the Derbyologist Triple Crown Fantasy League has drawn to a close. For once, things are beginning to look up.
Three of my eight horses ran last week, with two in the same race. And — two of them finished in the money, giving my stable points.
This was somewhat miraculous given how my season has been going. But, on the other hand, it was completely expected given my assessment of the pair of fillies I had running in Arkansas.
Just six horses entered the Honeybee at Oaklawn on Saturday. Nickname was the Grade I winner of the bunch, and Marquee Miss had the stranglehold on the three-year-old stakes at Oaklawn so far, but I had a pair of the new shooters. Cosmic Evolution, one of my original draft picks for the league, had won an allowance on the Martha Washington undercard. That was her first race since last summer, but she had proven some stakes-level form last year with a win in the Debutante at Churchill. Terra Promessa made her first foray into stakes company, but had two wins at the mile and a sixteenth distance of the Honeybee already, including one at Oaklawn.
Both Terra Promessa and Cosmic Evolution also faced another foe for the first time: mud. Nickname was already a Grade I winner over a wet track, and Dorodansa was stakes placed over wet dirt. Though neither of my fillies had tried an off surface yet, both did bring in solid breeding for it, allaying my concerns a bit.
One of the fillies in my stable did not embarrass herself. The other…I would be selling her short if I applied such a modest assessment.
I will not belabour the point: Terra Promessa dazzled in the Honeybee. She tracked the pace, made her move, and won with authority. This daughter of Curlin will likely be favoured in the Fantasy next month, and with good reason.
Cosmic Evolution also handled the race well. It was her first try at a route, and her first attempt in the mud. She sent to the front quickly. Nickname and Marquee Miss pressed her down the backside, but she held on to the rail and the lead. Coming into the stretch, she had no answer for Terra Promessa. Nickname eventually passed her as well, but she dug in and held third safely over Dorodansa.
Is Cosmic Evolution necessarily going to be another Terra Promessa? Probably not. But, am I hanging onto her through the Honeybee? Certainly.
I had one other horse see the starter over the weekend. Despite it being a grass race, the Florida Oaks (GIII) was a points affair. I dug through the field, and though I decided that a certain horse with an Italian name was overmatched (oops), I picked up Gamble’s Ghost.
She was solid enough for it being her first run since November. She mustered some late rally, and was beaten only two lengths by Baciami Piccola for the entire thing. However, that put Gamble’s Ghost sixth, not quite enough for any points.
Gamble’s Ghost has serious upside going forward…but, on the other hand, this puts her in a bit of a questionable place given the paucity of turf races that give league points. She could be an ace in the hole there, but her utility in the league is limited by which turf points races she actually targets.
As for who to try and claim? I cast a wide net, but zeroed in on a pair.
I was bullish on Surgical Strike for the WEBN, but it turned out I had him one race too early. He proved his mettle going long, and absolutely rolled in the Battaglia on Saturday night. That made him attractive for the Spiral, particularly because another large field stands to see the starter again.
I also took a swing for Adore. Perhaps she was a little bit of a silly stab for me — after all, it’s not like I don’t already have a bumper crop of Fair Grounds Oaks types (Stageplay, Midnight On Oconee), or a bumper crop of Steve Asmussen fillies (Stageplay, Terra Promessa). However, her work at Oaklawn has been as solid as it gets — perhaps she would be the next Terra Promessa, the next filly to rise up from the Oaklawn allowance ranks to the Kentucky Oaks trail.
That said, I still did not love either enough to dump a large bucket of claiming money on them. I did my usual: $1 on each. If I got outbid, so be it. I expected it more for Surgical Strike than for Adore, since he had so clearly marked himself as a serious Spiral contender. But, either way, I did not love either enough to bid a lot.
I was outbid for both. Surgical Strike, who I thought there may be a fight on, drew a trio of claims. Both were pretty high-dollar: a $26 bid got him, and a $21 bid fell between. What surprised me was the high-dollar action on Adore. Four of the twelve of us in the league bid for her. Another stable also put in a $1 stab, like me. However, one bid $11…and another bid a whopping $79 of their $500 seasonal budget on Adore.
Good on them if Adore ends up being worth that much, but for so much, I am happy to leave my Fair Grounds Oaks hopes with Stageplay and Midnight On Oconee at the moment.
Things stand to be far quieter for my stable next week. The only remaining points race this weekend is the Rebel. Thanks to Dazzling Gem’s setback, I have no one likely for the Rebel.
The three-year-old races at Sunland have been stripped of points status in the league, just as they have been stripped of Derby and Oaks points. This is understandable given the circumstances — though, I find that a bit of a bummer. I hit a nice second-prize with Where’s the Moon in the Sunland Derby last year, and thanks to Molly Jo, I have been following and scouting Sunland big time this meet.
If anything, this makes it a bit fortuitous that I did not make an early move for either of the Sneaky Sunland Horses I had in mind to claim, K P Wildcat and Cowboy Cool. That’s something, at least?