Last weekend, two of my recent acquisitions in the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league took to the track. They were the two I had acquired specifically for the polytrack preps at Turfway: American Doll in the Bourbonette, and Don’t Be So Salty in the Spiral Stakes.
Unfortunately, neither had their best day on Saturday.
American Doll had rattled off three straight wins at Turfway, and came into the race in strong form. She had done her best work forwardly placed, and stood to do so again. In the Bourbonette, she broke from the 10 gate, but hustled to track the pace. She was three wide, outside of both early leader Wonderment and the pressing Marquee Miss. American Doll was situated there for much of the race, until the field turned for home.
At that point, she could not quicken like Wonderment, Marquee Miss, or even Miss Meteor. She kept plugging away, and finished a clear fifth. It showed she had enough heart to keep trying, but she just was not quite the class of her foes that day. I do not regret taking her, given the horse-for-course angle, but she seems better suited to allowances or perhaps small stakes than the Oaks trail.
Don’t Be So Salty raced next in the Spiral. In the early stages, he was in a rather unexpected place: near the rear of the field. He came out of the gate a step slow; relatively inside in a field of twelve, the others began to close in for position in the split second it took Don’t Be So Salty to recover. He did get a spot along the rail to save ground, but was pulling keenly by the time the field made its way into the clubhouse turn. He started trying to advance through into the backstretch, but looked to be under a very tight hold, with no room to go.
With the field coming into the far turn, some room finally opened up to his outside, enough for him to angle off the rail and try to get around the sputtering Airoforce. Turning for home, he finally had some clear run, and he kept going. Unfortunately, he did not have enough left to challenge the top five, all of whom finished within three quarters of a length of each other. However, Don’t Be So Salty ran on better than expected, in light of how keen and held he was early. A Derby horse, he may not be…but there could be a few stakes at Woodbine or Presque with his name on them.
However, after this, it was time to seek out replacements. Based on the lists of probables and possibles that were available before the claiming deadline (Monday evening)…I did not see any free agent I loved. That seems to be a motif. On one hand, it is getting worrisome, since the Derby is coming and I am getting less and less sure that there will even be a horse I like enough to make a big move for. But, on the other — why start frittering away my claiming budget out of fear? I am not far off the league lead, and in case a horse emerges who I really like somewhere, I should be prepared.
I ended up taking a $1 stab on a pair of Gazelle probables. Dreams to Reality rallied nicely for second in the Busher behind Mo d’Amour, and is still lightly enough raced that improvement is a credible possibility. Behrnik’s Bank was a disappointing second in a New York Stallion Stakes event back in December, and is taking a jump in class here. However, her performances at Penn National were just so freakish that I was willing to make a tiny stab, and hope she could show that side on Saturday. I was not willing to bet a lot on that proposition, but it was a better proposition than clinging onto synthetic mavens after the synthetic portion of the points race schedule had ended.
This time, I got neither of my claims. One stable dropped $22 on Behrnik’s Bank, and another put out $28 for Dreams to Reality. I do not regret trying for either of those horses, but those were more than just token bets — and neither of them have such great chances in the Gazelle that I regret not outlaying more to get them.
As it stands, I have three of my eight horses racing this weekend. Terra Promessa and Cosmic Evolution, the 1-3 finishers in the Honeybee Stakes (GIII) last month, rematch in the Fantasy. It’s Terra Promessa’s race to lose. Cosmic Evolution could get a share, but it will probably require her rating her speed far better than she did in the Honeybee, with Ready to Confess joining the fray. Out west, Smokey Image tries one more time to prove his class against open company in the Santa Anita Derby. Will he? I don’t know. But, between the brilliance of his Cal Cup Derby win and the reports that he may not have quite been himself on San Felipe day, he was (in that parlance so familiar to my fantasy stable, come claiming day…) worth a flyer.