For my stable in the the Derbyologist Triple Crown Fantasy League, this week was a quiet one on the racetrack…but an active one at the claim box.
With the reworking of Sunland’s three-year-old stakes into non-points races, the only points race this week was the Rebel. Dazzling Gem was originally slated to go there, but a setback pushed him back a week. The revocation of points from the Sunland races was a bit of a bummer for my stable, however. Though I had not drafted any Sunland horses before it was announced that the races would have no points, I had been scouting Sunland’s sophomores all meet. My pick of Where’s the Moon last year proved a fruitful one, and I had made notes on the likes of K P Wildcat, Cowboy Cool, and Concord Fast as possible pick-ups.
Anyway, what’s done is done. My reasons for putting Gamble’s Ghost and Conquest Big E up for drop last week continued to hold water this week, and it was time to look at a few more claiming options.
My strategy of “try for a local horse for the course to get a piece” makes even more sense at Turfway than it does at Sunland. After all, every polytrack is a bit different thanks to weather and maintenance, so that angle can be strong. No real world-beaters have announced their intention to go to the Bourbonette Oaks (GIII), either — making it an attractive race to find a local.
American Doll (Tiznow – Magic Appeal, by Successful Appeal) has been streaking at Turfway this winter. A maiden at New Year’s, this filly has rattled off three straight victories at Turfway. She broke her maiden while sprinting over the polytrack in early January, and then has rattled off two straight allowance wins at a mile, including in the de facto local prep allowance for the Bourbonette on March 12. Being by Tiznow, perhaps she stretches out another sixteenth. She was not the sort of horse on whom I would break the bank, but she made sense for a $1 try, since I doubted anyone else would be scouring Turfway for Bourbonette fillies.
My other $1 flyer went on a somewhat more famous horse: Smokey Image (Southern Image – Special Smoke, by Free House). Yes, his outing in the San Felipe was dreadful. It was dreadful enough that the stable who previously owned him dropped him right after the race. However…his performances against California-breds earlier in the year were brilliant, particularly his Cal Cup Derby. It could be that he is not the class of horse he needs to be to go forward in graded stakes company. However, his connections plan to try him in the Santa Anita Derby. And, I heard enough chatter that he was somehow sweaty, worked up, before the San Felipe…perhaps the real Smokey Image did not show up that day? The market for Smokey Image is at an all-time low, and if no one else was going to make a bigger move for him, I was willing to take a flyer on a horse I liked enough before, and who was pointing for the Santa Anita Derby.
No one put in claims for either American Doll or Smokey Image. Gamble’s Ghost and Conquest Big E are out of my stable, and those two are in.
This coming weekend only contains two points races: the Louisiana Derby (GII) and the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) at Fair Grounds. Both of those races have already drawn, and I have a veritable herd of horses racing this Saturday.
I have three fillies in the Fair Grounds Oaks. Midnight On Oconee, second in both preps at Fair Grounds so far, returns in the big one. Convincing Silverbulletday winner Stageplay seeks to redeem herself after a relatively flat outing in the Rachel Alexandra. And, Land Over Sea seeks to break her streak of “second to Songbird” medals on the West Coast by trying the more wide-open crowd in New Orleans.
I have just one in the open complement. Though Dazzling Gem missed the Rebel, he entered the Louisiana Derby, just as his connections suggested he would. It seems a bit riskier spot than the Rebel in the sense that he has not tried the course yet…but, on the other hand, no one has a stranglehold over the Louisiana Derby the way Bob Baffert owns the Rebels, so perhaps that will end up a blessing in disguise. He has fired off two solid five-furlong moves at Oaklawn, suggesting he should be fit to give this race the old college try.
Plan B is never the most comforting thing, but in this fantasy league, Plan B is better than not seeing my horse enter a points race at all.