fantasy stable: week 5 postmortem

Week 5 of the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy horse racing league has ended, which  means it’s almost time to put in my claims.  I am still trying to finalize how I will approach this first claim, and keeping that information under wraps until after the claiming deadline on Thursday.  However, what I will say is that I am having a much harder time deciding who in my stable I will put up for trade than I am zeroing in on horses I’m interested in claiming.

The last week has been eventful for several of my horses, so let’s get to it!

  • General a Rod – The conveyor belt that was Gulfstream was his friend this weekend, as he and Wildcat Red were head and head from wire to wire in the Fountain of Youth.  Even though the photo finish went Wildcat Red’s way, General A Rod showed himself to be very fast and very game.  I noted last week that the Fountain of Youth would prove whether he was legitimate Derby trail material or not; it will be interesting to see how he fares on a track other than Gulfstream, but for right now, he has done nothing wrong, and he looks like a real contender.  Even with the head bob loss to Wildcat Red, I would still take the General in a heartbeat over Wildcat Red for my fantasy stable, since his pedigree is just better for distance than Wildcat Red’s is.  He was my seventh round draft pick, a horse I picked more on the strength of his second-place finish behind Conquest Titan in a November AOC than on thinking he beat much of anyone in the Gulfstream Park Derby.  He, so far, looks like a great risk to have taken.
  • Stopchargingmaria – She was my other horse to race this weekend, and has the distinction of being the first horse from my stable to run in a points race and not hit the board.  She finished a disappointing fifth in the Davona Dale, 14 1/4 lengths behind the wire-to-wire winner Onlyforyou.  She was caught a little wide, but nothing that should have caused her to tire out like she did, and lose that many lengths to the winner.  This was her first race since the Demoiselle on November 30, but I wasn’t expecting her to be quite that rusty because she has been a regular fixture on the worktab since early January.  It could be racing rust, or maybe the track just didn’t suit her.  It would not surprise me in the least to see her pointed toward the Gazelle next, since it’s at Aqueduct: the site of her two graded stakes wins as a juvenile, at the same distance as the Demoiselle.  In fact, after the Davona Dale flop, Todd Pletcher would be insane not to point her toward the Gazelle.
  • She’s A Tiger – Saturday, February 22, she finally returned to the worktab for the first time since her Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies run; she worked three furlongs in 38 flat at Santa Anita.  She had been doing some galloping at Santa Anita, but it’s a relief to finally see a published work.  There is no reliable information about the specific race to which she is pointing, though I would be surprised to see it any earlier than late March.  I am hoping the next race will be before the March claim date, and nervous about how little room this schedule leaves for error, but she’s so talented and has never run a bad race.  Assuming she returns fit, she is likely to run nicely.
  • Noble Cornerstone – After his flop in the Sam F. Davis, I was hoping to see him run another race before the claiming date.  That clearly did not happen.  He did post a sharp work at Gulfstream on the 19th, going five furlongs in 1:00.56.  However, he is shipping up to Aqueduct to face a stacked Gotham Stakes field on March 1, a field that includes stakes winners Samraat, In Trouble, and Extrasexyhippzster, as well as other promising horses like Uncle Sigh and Deceived.  He is still the biggest question I have to answer between now and Thursday: am I willing to risk him in the Gotham, or am I going to cut him loose for a better prospect?  Stay tuned.
  • Tamarando – There’s not much new with him, and that’s just fine after his big El Camino Real win.  He returned to the worktab on February 23, working four furlongs in 49.80 on the Tapeta at Golden Gate.  He is still being prepared for another Derby prep on synthetic; most of the scuttlebutt around identifies that as the Spiral out at Turfway, with Russell Baze still aboard.
  • Ride On Curlin – There’s nothing new with him since his third in the Southwest Stakes.  He hasn’t returned to the work tab, which makes perfect sense since the Southwest was just last Monday.  I have heard some chatter about him pointing to the Rebel on March 15, which is another 1 1/16 mile race on the Oaklawn dirt.  That seems like a perfectly logical race, since it’s a racetrack he clearly knows, and does not dislike.
  • Conquest Titan – Mark Casse is a smart, smart man.  Gulfstream has been a conveyor belt lately, and early speed has been carrying the day.  Conquest Titan is a closer.  Instead of keeping Conquest Titan pointed toward the Florida Derby at Gulfstream, Casse changed his game plan, and is now pointing him toward the Tampa Bay Derby on March 8.  Hopefully this means he is getting rested up; he has been training so continuously that part of me thought he would appreciate the two month rest between the Holy Bull and the Florida Derby.  However, the break from the Holy Bull to the Tampa Bay Derby is still a significant six weeks, and leaves more room for error should the Tampa Bay Derby not go well.  All in all, I like this news.  The only other Conquest Titan news this week is a nice return to the worktab; on February 22nd, he worked four furlongs in 48.30 at Palm Meadows.
  • Shared Belief – Another week, another week without a published work from Shared Belief.  He has so much talent, and his two-year-old season was dynamite, but I’m getting impatient here.  It would be rash to drop him yet, and I am almost certainly hanging onto him for at least another month, but I want to see some works, and some credible information about a race (read: Blue Grass Stakes) in his future.

There’s a lot to think about between now and Thursday.  I feel I’m in a good place, since I am tied for first in league points and am confident in the majority of my stable.  That said, I’m looking forward to getting as close as possible to a solution to this puzzle between now and Thursday, and will likely post a mid-week fantasy update with the effect that the claim has on my stable.

last weekend’s handicapping contests!

Last weekend I played two handicapping contests: the one at Danonymous Racing, and the one at Public Handicapper.  There were eight races in the Danonymous contest and four in the PH contest, though with the overlap of the El Camino Real in both contests, it meant a total of eleven races I had to handicap between the two contests.  The formats were a little different in each: Danonymous Racing allows a win/place on one horse per race with two choices in case one scratches, whereas Public Handicapper allows a straight win bet only on each chosen horse, but three choices in case the first two scratch.

Unlike last weekend, I actually picked a couple of winners this time around.  Not as many as I’d like (then again, isn’t that always the case?), but I’m quite pleased not to be on a streak of two zeroes in a row.  Without further ado, here are a few words about each of the races from last weekend.

Saturday, February 15

Golden Gate Fields: El Camino Real Derby (GIII, 1 1/8mi. on the synthetic)

This race was part of both contests.  In the Danonymous Racing contest, Tamarando was my first choice, and Enterprising was my second.  In the Public Handicapper contest, I had Tamarando first, Enterprising second, and Dance With Fate third.  Since he raced, I had Tamarando in both contests.  I was nervous to be so doubled down on Tamarando for the reasons I discussed in my preview — that the pace wouldn’t likely be so great for Tamarando’s deep closing style.  However, the combination of Tamarando’s love for the synthetic track and Russell Baze’s beautiful ride on him got him up and past Dance With Fate just in time.  Though he came from the back, he didn’t come from so far back as in any of his previous route races; he was never more than five lengths off the lead.  That was key, given the slower early fractions set by I’ll Wrap It Up.  Speaking of that, I was not expecting I’ll Wrap It Up to be the early speed in this race — I was expecting that from Dance With Fate, almost by default.  Dance With Fate stalked, pushed ahead of I’ll Wrap It Up coming into the stretch, and then got nabbed by Tamarando just before the wire.  Enterprising stalked closely throughout, clearly his preferred racing style.  He just didn’t have quite as much in the tank at the end as Tamarando or Dance With Fate did; he finished third by 2 3/4 lengths.

This was the only race in which all my selections managed to hit the board, though that did not come as a large surprise because they were pretty clearly the class of the field.  Craftsman, the most intriguing of the horses I didn’t select, stalked the pace until the far turn, but then faded badly to finish behind everyone but I’ll Wrap It Up.

Gulfstream: The Very One Stakes (GIII, 1 3/8mi on turf, fillies and mares)

In this race, I had Dame Marie as my first choice, Aigue Marine as my second choice, and Inimitable Romanee as my third choice.  Since she raced, I had Dame Marie as my contest horse.  I didn’t get Inimitable Romanee quite right: I thought she’d be a speed horse in this race, though she had won previously from off the pace before, as well.  I noted that I’d want to use her in exotics, that she had a good chance of hitting the board, but probably wasn’t going to win today — given that her last-out win in the Long Island was her first since July of 2012, and she only had three career wins in 20 starts leading into The Very One.  Instead, she didn’t set the early speed, she had a nice stalking trip, and she held up to win gamely.  Dame Marie, who I thought would be a live long shot, just didn’t fire.  (Ironically, Inimitable Romanee went off at a better price than Dame Marie did — which makes no sense at all, as Dame Marie was on a class jump, but Inimitable Romanee won a Grade III last out.)  Dame Marie wasn’t distanced — she was never more than about seven lengths off the lead — but she just couldn’t sustain the run she was trying to mount coming into the stretch.  Aigue Marine, my second choice, had a much better time of things.  She stalked the pace a few lengths back, as expected.  She ran strongly near the end, getting up there for the place, but just couldn’t catch Inimitable Romanee.

Gulfstream: Mac Diarmida Stakes (GII, 1 3/8mi on turf)

In this race, I had Suntracer as my first choice and Twilight Eclipse as my second choice.  Since he did not scratch, Suntracer was my contest horse.  I knew he was a risk of sorts: both because Twilight Eclipse is a fast horse with stamina from here until forever, and because Suntracer seems to like races longer than the 1 3/8 miles of the Mac Diarmida.  However, I figured Twilight Eclipse would be bet down a lot given that he’s the world record holder at a mile and a half; sure enough, he went off at 1.4-1.  I also thought there was some bounce risk, since he was coming off the win in the McKnight.  That wasn’t a huge risk, given that he was the class of the field, but it made him worth trying to beat if I saw a decent priced horse up to that bill — I thought that horse was Suntracer.  Suntracer didn’t win, but he didn’t win a bad race.  He finished fourth by a narrowing 2 1/4 lengths behind Twilight Eclipse, Amen Kitten, and Slumber.  Although that did me no good in the contest today, his race gives me something to look forward to in the Stars and Stripes and the American St. Leger — two even longer turf races that I plan to attend in person at Arlington this summer.  As for the winner, Twilight Eclipse got caught way further back at the beginning than I expected — six lengths back half a mile in.  However, he slowly gained ground through the backstretch, powered past Alpha through the far turn, and stayed in front.  Amen Kitten ran the closing style that his past performances suggest, and closed strongly to place.  Slumber, just behind Twilight Eclipse for almost the entire race, got up for the show though he never quite looked like he was going to get into first.  Unlike Twilight Eclipse, Slumber was exactly the horse I expected to see about five back, and then try to come up later.

Alpha, the horse whose mere presence in the race fascinated yet confused me, set the early fractions, with Bingo Bango Bongo right on his tail.  I surmised that it would be these two on the early lead, and that was correct.  Still, though, I’m not quite clear what Alpha was doing in a 1 3/8 mile turf race.  We’ll see where he goes next, but the Mac Diarmida did nothing to get us closer to the question of where Alpha races best.

Laurel: Barbara Fritchie Handicap (GII, 7f on the dirt, fillies and mares)

This race was postponed, just like everything at Laurel on Saturday, due to the weather.  Therefore, it was scratched from the competition.  However, it has been redrawn, and will be run this coming Saturday with a slightly different field.  In the original field, my first choice was My Wandy’s Girl, and my second was Centrique.  We shall see how they end up doing this weekend; both of them are in the redrawn Barbara Fritchie field, as well.

Oaklawn: Essex Handicap (1 1/16mi on the dirt)

In this race, I had Right To Vote as my first choice, Stealcase as my second, and Mavericking as my third choice.  Since he ran, Right To Vote was my contest horse.  (My second choice, Stealcase, did scratch.)  I got quite a bit right about this race, including the winner.  I thought it would be Right to Vote and Jaguar Paw wanting the lead, and those were the two who went up to the early lead.  Jaguar Paw faded, Right To Vote held on and won the race by half a length.  I thought Street Spice would be a few lengths off, and that’s exactly what he did.  I considered picking him as one of my horses, but I talked myself off of him because I thought being high on him was a question of my bias toward horses I know from the Chicago circuit.  He had a nice late run, though, and almost picked off Right To Vote.  Voodoo Storm came in third; he ran in from the middle of the pack, made up ground up to the far turn, but didn’t quite have as much as Right To Vote or Street Spice.  That said, he ran the style I expected, but a lot more strongly than I expected him to.  A horse who did not run as well as I thought he would was Mavericking.  He was bumped at the start, but just didn’t have anything.  Seeing him near the back of the pack early was no real surprise as he tends to close, but he just didn’t fire at all.  He only finished ahead of Win Willy, who I correctly expected would not be in such good form.

Oaklawn: King Cotton Stakes (6f in the dirt)

In this race, my first choice was Picko’s Pride, my second was Alsvid, and my third was Bull Dozer.  Picko’s Pride was my contest horse in the race, though Bull Dozer did scratch.  It was almost a coin flip as to whether Picko’s Pride or Alsvid would be my first choice; I though they both had the capacity to run strong stalking races.  I went with Picko’s Pride because he has historically handled outside posts better than Alsvid has.  Picko’s Pride did have the sort of trip I was guessing he would, at least to start; he spent much of the race just off the pace, but just faded badly in the stretch.  Alsvid, on the other hand, was strong coming down the stretch, and finished second to Apprehender by just half a length.  Apprehender, the winner of the race, came as a surprise.  He was running in good form last year, but the King Cotton was his first race back since pulling up injured in last year’s Count Fleet.  He does like this distance, but I wasn’t willing to gamble that he would be the same horse first time back out after his injury.  Turns out, he had enough in him to make a five wide move through the far turn, and hold the lead through to the wire.  He ran a solid one, period, which is particularly impressive given that it’s his first back after the layoff.  Black Bear, who finished third, had a decent run despite not getting the kind of trip  he would have wanted.  He got caught in the crowd, but found his way to the head of the rest of the pack to cross the wire third.

Santa Anita: Santa Maria Stakes (GII, 1 1/16mi in the dirt, fillies and mares)

In this race, Ondine was my first choice and Fiftyshadesofhay was my second.  Ondine was my contest horse; Fiftyshadesofhay was a relatively late scratch.  I wasn’t expecting Iotapa to shoot straight to the lead; she did just that, and wired the field.  I expected her to hit the board, but wasn’t expecting her to be fast enough to hang with Ondine (or Fiftyshadesofhay, pre-scratch), especially since it looked like she generally ran better on synthetic than dirt.  I was wrong; Iotapa proved best, simple as that.  Let Faith Arise had a stalking trip; she didn’t make up much ground from where she stalked, but showed enough ability to stay the distance to hold the place.  Even though she had been sprinting before the La Canada, her second-place finishes in both that race and this one show that she has some promise at routes.  Stanwyck did run from the back of the pack and attempt to close; she only had enough time and space to get up for the show.  This I got right; I figured the pace wouldn’t be great for a closer.  It wasn’t, and Stanwyck is a pretty pure closer.  My pick Ondine stalked the pace, and was only a couple of lengths back going into the far turn, but she couldn’t make up any ground and faded to cross the wire fifth, 6 1/4 lengths behind Iotapa.  Running just off the pace was her more common racing style, and probably the smarter one to try given the likely pace scenario.

Monday, February 17

Aqueduct: Hollie Hughes Stakes (6f on the inner dirt, restricted to NY-Breds)

In this race, I had Mine Over Matter as my first choice and Notmyfirstime as my second.  Since she did not scratch, Mine Over Matter was my contest horse.  I was right that Freudian Dilemma and Marriedtothemusic would want to get up front early, and that Notmyfirstime would hang back.  I expected to see Mine Over Matter a few lengths off as well, but instead he got caught way back, and a little wide.  He fired on the stretch to claim third beaten 5 lengths, but couldn’t catch up to Be Bullish or Marriedtothemusic.  Notmyfirstime, my second choice, was a few lengths back to start, but he just didn’t fire, and lost ground to the rest of the field.  I was probably wrong in assessing that he was ready for this jump in class.  The winner of the race, Be Bullish, I just plain discounted.  I did notice that he specialized in this distance, his barn (Drawing Away/David Jacobson) was very hot at the meet, and his jockey (Taylor Rice) has been, too.  However, I thought he was going to need the lead, and just not be fast enough compared to the rest of the field to keep it.  Instead, Be Bullish came from a few lengths off the pace to win.  I underestimated this nine-year-old gelding’s versatility, and his ability to channel some of his old form against this field.  Marriedtothemusic, the second place finisher, I avoided mainly because I thought I’d get a terrible price on him — which, I would have, as he went off at 0.85-1.  I was right to try and beat him; I just picked the wrong horse.

Laurel: General George Handicap (GIII, 7f in the dirt)

In this race, I had Well Spelled as my first choice and Service for Ten as my second choice.  Since he did not scratch, Well Spelled was my contest horse.  I got some things right about the shape of the race; I was certain that Smash and Grab would be the early speed in the race, and he was.  However, he didn’t hold as far as I expected he would, and was passed by most of the field come the finish line.  My second choice, Service for Ten, didn’t run a terrible race.  It wasn’t too surprising to see him that far back early, since he won the six furlong Dave’s Friend last year from ten lengths back early.  However, the fractions were a little slower here, so the horses closer to the lead may have had more left in comparison.  He got as far as third, beaten 4 1/2 lengths by Bandbox and only half a length behind Tenango.  My first choice, Well Spelled, was a complete bust.  I thought he’d run a good one second off the five-month lay, but he just didn’t.  He hung out on the rail throughout, and completely failed to fire.  Bandbox, the winner, was hardly on my radar.  He hasn’t won a race since 2011, and this was his second race back from a seventeen-month layoff.  I usually like the second-off-the-lay angle, but I thought the extreme length of the lay was enough to override that second-off factor.  His first race back from the lay was against weaker company than this, and he finished third beaten 2 1/2 lengths.  However, the way he won the race — coming in from a handful of lengths off — was at least the shape I expected he liked, so I got at least one tiny thing right about Bandbox.  As for the second-place Tenango, I was just…lukewarm on him.  He fit the field just fine, he wasn’t racing poorly, but there wasn’t anything that stood out about him.  He’s one I thought had a great chance to hit the board, but not to win, given his failure to string together two consecutive career wins combined with the fact that he won last out.  I did correctly identify a vulnerable favourite in Palace — he went off at 1.1-1, and I wasn’t in love with the fact that he hadn’t won at a distance longer than six furlongs in over a year.  Sure enough, he faded a bit down the stretch in this longer race, and finished off the board.

Oaklawn: Southwest Stakes (GIII, 1 1/16mi in the dirt)

In this race, I had Ride On Curlin as my first choice and Paganol as my second.  Since he raced, Ride On Curlin was my contest horse.  My first choice, Ride On Curlin, finished third: good enough for fantasy league points, but not quite enough for points in the contest.  I already wrote quite a bit about Ride On Curlin’s trip on Monday night; the long and short of it is that I wasn’t surprised that he stayed near the front, but I would have liked to see a closing trip more like the Champagne.  Ride On Curlin was able to stave off the rest of the field — save Tapiture and Strong Mandate.  Tapiture, the winner, was clearly a strong contender.  In the Southwest, he got a very similar trip to his Kentucky Jockey Club win: hanging just off the lead, pulling ahead through the far turn, and being clear down the stretch.  (As an aside, it will be interesting to see how Tapiture handles getting a different trip.)  Despite drifting down the stretch, he still won by daylight over second-place Strong Mandate, who was switching leads down the stretch but still running fast enough to stay ahead of everyone but Tapiture.  I expected Strong Mandate to be either on or just off the early lead; he was a few lengths off, which given this field and the length of the race was a wiser move than if he had bolted right in front.My second choice, Paganol, I had expected to see hang off the early lead and overtake them (or, at least, come near overtaking them) late.  Instead, he stayed a few lengths off the lead as long as he could, but faded badly coming into the stretch — finishing a disappointing tenth, beaten 17 1/2 lengths.

Santa Anita: Buena Vista Stakes (GII, 1mi on the turf, fillies and mares)

In this race, I had Egg Drop as my first choice and Moone’s My Name as my second.  Since she ran, Egg Drop was my contest horse — and one of two horses to put me on the board in the Danonymous contest.  I expected Tapicat and Egg Drop on the lead early; instead, it was Miss Serendipity right on the early lead, with Egg Drop, Pontchatrain, and then Tapicat behind.  I had been expecting to see Miss Serendipity just off, maybe near where Tapicat was early; having her on the early lead like that was a surprise.  Egg Drop, as usual, ran a solid race; on the distaff side, there’s not a more consistent turf miler than Egg Drop.  She was just off the early lead, stayed up around the front, and held the place gamely.  My second choice, Moone’s My Name, couldn’t really rally her way out of the middle of the pack.  She bobbled a bit going into the far turn, and just couldn’t muster what she needed to in order to make ground.  She finished sixth, beaten five lengths.  The horse I could not have gotten more wrong was the winner, Pontchatrain.  I did not think she was going to like the mile as much as some of these horses in the race who were more accustomed to it.  She had won an allowance at 1 1/16mi at Del Mar last year, but had not faced a field of this kind of class at a route distance — only at sprints, which she had been owning as of late.  All of this, combined with all those sprinters in her pedigree (War Front, Dominica, Housebuster…) led me to think that she’d be outclassed at a mile, and better off going back to six and a half furlongs.  I was not right about that, at all — Pontchatrain had plenty in the tank, pulled ahead coming into the stretch after being caught three wide out of the far turn, and showed some serious class in the Buena Vista.

And, that’s what happened with the races I picked for last weekend.  Next stop: this weekend!  There will probably be another slate of Public Handicapper contest races; these are usually announced Thursday, and I will likely handicap them Thursday evening.

Furthermore, live racing at Hawthorne resumes this Friday, which is the best news I’ve heard since Illinois renewed ADW.  I can’t make it there on opening day, but I will be at the track on Sunday, and will discuss my picks and bets for that card.  I cannot wait to get back to Hawthorne; it has been dark since the end of December, and I miss going to the races on the weekends.  I miss hanging out in the paddock.  I miss seeing the horses run right in front of me.  I miss chatting face to face with people as excited about racing as I am.  I miss everything about it, and I am looking forward to returning to what is fast becoming my home away from home.

what’s better that one fantasy stable?

…two fantasy stables!

For the sixth year, Brooklyn Backstretch is doing a fantasy league to raise money for the equine charity of the winner’s choice.  (This is my first year playing it, however.)  Unlike my other league, there was no draft — anyone can pick any of the horses, provided that you pick the correct number of horses from each group (A, B, C).  Of course, as with any system that ranks horses, there’s always going to be some subjectivity — for example, the horses I’m highest on in my stable for this league, Top Billing and Conquest Titan, are both B-group horses, not an A-group horse.

As for the horses who are in my stable for this league, there are a few who are overlaps from my Derbyologist league stable, and a few who are not.  As my stable choices are already public in the comments to the post announcing the contest, here they are:

  • Group A — These are the horses intended to be the best of the best, at least as of this relatively early point in the Derby trail.
    • Candy Boy – I have been pretty high on this guy since his second-place finish in the CashCall Futurity last year.  His win in the Lewis only made me like him even more.  It showed that as good as he was on the synthetic, he could bring it on the dirt.  I was tempted to taken him in my other league, but I just didn’t take him fast enough.  Since that race he has shown what I’d love to see, and he was my first Group A grab here.
    • Tamarando – He’s an overlap with my stable in the Derbyologist league, and I have already talked and talked and agonized and talked about this guy.  He’s a beast on synthetic, so he’s probably going to be good for some big points in a later Derby prep on synthetic.  He doesn’t run poorly on dirt, either, so even though I don’t necessarily think he’s going to win if he runs the first Saturday in May, I think he has a decent shot of closing in to hit the board.
  • Group B – These are intended to be the next level down from the Group A horses, but some great (possibly better than Group A) horses are in here.  They show promise, but may not have won as many Derby points yet.
    • Conquest Titan – He’s yet another overlap from my stable in Derbyologist’s league.  Between his win in the Swynford last year (by five and a quarter lengths, in a field that included Ria Antonia) and his AOC win on November 30 (in a race that included General a Rod), I have been pretty high on him for a while now.  His ability to close from last in the Holy Bull to overtake everyone but Cairo Prince, combined with the classic-distance blood flowing through his veins, mean that I want to ride this horse as far as he will go.
    • Ride On Curlin – He is the last of my three overlaps from the other league.  I have a certain affinity for the Curlin babies…but, on top of that, this is one horse who has shown some serious ability to race.  He came in third in the Southwest yesterday; I discussed in detail why I was less than happy with his trip.  That said, I love a horse who shows strength on multiple kinds of trips, and he brings it whether he’s on the lead or closing in.
    • Top Billing – He is the one horse I wish I had in the Derbyologist league, but do not.  Out of three races, he has a huge maiden win at Laurel, a loss in an AOC at Gulfstream by a neck to Commissioner, and a stylish 2 3/4 length AOC win at Gulfstream over Surfing U S A.  He is slated for the Fountain of Youth this weekend, and I will be surprised if he does not prove himself in stakes company.
  • Group C – Most of these horses are marginal at best.  The challenge here was picking out the proper diamonds in the rough.  Hopefully, these are my diamonds.
    • Bayern – This is the first of my two horses who I would put in my “blah blah curse of Apollo blah” category.  He was out in January, and won a Maiden Special Weight at Santa Anita by 3 1/4 lengths first out — and 7 1/2 lengths over Hopportunity his first out.  In short, he romped.  He then won a 3-year-old N1$X allowance at Santa Anita over a mile on February 13 by fifteen lengths.  Even if the second place horse was the known head case Tap It Rich, he won by a huge amount of daylight on a dirt course, and is therefore promising going into Derby prep stakes.  Compared to many of the horses in this league’s C group, Bayern seemed the class.
    • Coltimus Prime – He is my true risk horse in this stable.  I don’t see him as a risk based on how he runs; I watched his Display run at Candice’s mention, and he ran a very game second.  I cannot wait to see him race again.  Despite the fact that I have no reliable scuttlebutt over what race he’s pointing to next, he’s a regular on the worktab at Palm Beach Downs, and he is nominated to the Triple Crown.  I am hoping he points to a stakes race soon, and if he does, he could make a nice run.  I wasn’t quite sure who to pick in this spot — it eventually came down to Extrasexyhippzster (the winner of the Miracle Wood) and Coltimus Prime, and I decided to roll the dice on this almost Certainly Special son of Milwaukee Brew.  If I knew he were pointed to a specific points race, he’d have been an obvious pick; that said, I feel he’s still worth the chance.
    • Hoppertunity – I don’t love Hoppertunity, but I like him.  He is my second “blah blah curse of Apollo blah” horse.  His first out, he wasn’t as impressive as the rest of my stable here; his first out was that aforementioned fifth place behind Bayern.  However, his next out (January 30) he scored a nice three-length maiden mile win at Santa Anita.  He is slated for the Risen Star on Saturday; even though I’m not 100% sure he is going to win, he has shown enough so far to seem a legitimate contender there, which is as much as I need there.

And, so end my comments on my stable choices.  That said — registration is still open!  If you’re interested in giving fantasy horse racing a shot, what are you waiting for?  This is quite laid back, as far as a fantasy league goes: only two horse selection rounds, a relatively short list of major Derby preps as races, and a pay-what-you-want entry that’s a donation to a good cause.  Head on over to Brooklyn Backstretch, take a look at the rules, and pick a stable by noon CST on Saturday.

Good luck!

fantasy stable: week 4 postmortem

Week 4 was nothing short of eventful for my fantasy stable.  There were two points races this weekend, and I had a horse in each: Tamarando in the El Camino Real Derby, and Ride On Curlin in the Southwest Stakes.  Both of them did me proud: Tamarando caught Dance with Fate close to the wire to win the Southwest, and Ride On Curlin held on for third behind Tapiture and Strong Mandate in the Southwest.  I’ve had some good luck so far — only three of my eight horses have run points races so far (these two, and Conquest Titan back in the Holy Bull), but all three have hit the board and brought some fantasy points home for me.  It’s still early, but it’s nice to be building on a good foundation like this.

Here is where each of my horses stand.  Since the last post about my stable there have been events, or at least news, for quite a few of them.

  • Tamarando – I was petrified going into the El Camino Real, because of the lack of early speed.  I was even more petrified (though not exactly surprised) during the race as I’ll Wrap It Up clicked off some early fractions that weren’t that swift.  I knew Tamarando was going to come from behind, because that’s how he always runs, but I was just hoping Russell Baze wouldn’t keep him too far back to catch up.  It turns out that I had no need to worry.  He was never nearly as far back as he was last out in the California Cup Derby, and had plenty of space and energy to nab Dance With Fate for the win.  He sure does like his synthetic tracks.  Hollendorfer has stated that he plans to send Tamarando out east for a prep on the synthetic, likely the Spiral Stakes in March.  He’s also said that the current plan is to keep Russell Baze on the mount.  I have had my doubts, and I’m still not sure about the Triple Crown races themselves (as he has been so much better on synthetic than on dirt), but he showed in this race that he can adjust pace for a race without massive early speed.  He looks like a keeper.
  • Ride On Curlin – Ride On Curlin went off in the Southwest today, and I was a little surprised to see how he raced.  I say a little because he was right up near the lead relatively early, which is how he has garnered his two career wins.  However, given the horses in the field and the proclivities that so many of them had for speed (combined with the fact that Calvin Borel had the mount!), I was expecting him to run a more closing style, like he did in the Champagne last year.  The race seemed like a perfect time to deploy that strategy again.  I don’t quite understand why his connections didn’t; the best conjecture that I’ve seen so far involved the possibility that he’d get caught behind a wall of horses back there with nowhere to go.  That’s legitimate.  My thoughts on his racing style today aside, however, the fact remains that he got caught eight wide on the clubhouse turn, three wide on the far turn, and still managed to come in third.  I will take it.  I’m looking forward to his next race — both to see how he races in general, and (hopefully) to see what he does if he gets a better trip.
  • Stopchargingmaria – She has been a regular on the worktab since the beginning of January, and worked again this week, five furlongs in 49.25 on February 16 at Palm Meadows.  Despite her regular published works, I had found no good information about where exactly she was pointed — she’s the one horse in my stable who, try as I might, I could find no scuttlebutt on anywhere.  This changed today, in the best possible way: she is confirmed for the Davona Dale.  Not only is the Davona Dale this Saturday (in other words, a few days before the stable claiming deadline!), but it’s a points race for the league.  The Davona Dale is a mile and a sixteenth — a distance at which I have no worries about her, since she won the Tempted last year at a mile as well as the Demoiselle at a mile and an eighth.  She won’t have to ship anywhere, since the race is at Gulfstream.  All in all, this makes perfect sense as a race to start her three-year-old campaign, and I am looking forward to see how she has come out of the winter.
  • General a Rod – As usual, General a Rod got his work in again this week, working five furlongs in 1:00.12 on February 16 at Gulfstream.  It had sounded like he was pointing to the Fountain of Youth, and sure enough, he is confirmed for the race.  This will be his first race since his win in the Gulfstream Park Derby on January 1, and his fourth overall.  A handful of the horses from the Gulfstream Park Derby return for the Fountain of Youth (second place Wildcat Red, third place East Hall, and ninth and last place Best Plan Yet), though the field will be significantly stiffer with horses such as Top Billing, Commissioner, We Miss Artie, and Casiguapo in the mix.  He is stretching out past a mile for the first time in his career, but there’s nothing glaring in his pedigree or his past performances to suggest that he will have particular trouble at a mile and a sixteenth.  I am interested in the Fountain of Youth — this is the race that will likely prove if General a Rod is legitimate Derby trail material or not.  A lot of my planning for the first claim period hinges on how he does in this race.
  • Conquest Titan – The draw for the Fountain of Youth happened this morning, and there was a notable absence: Conquest Titan.  As of last week, Mark Casse had stated that he was pointing that way.  However, this morning, he announced that instead, Conquest Titan would be pointing straight to the Florida Derby.  Even though it’s a little frustrating in a fantasy league context to lose a horse in a points race in which he’d have a good chance at a good run, it’s probably best in the long run that he takes this little break.  He has been training and racing through the winter, and Casse noted that he lost a bit of weight after the Holy Bull.  He has been off the worktab this week, but Casse anticipates working him later this week.  There is still quite a bit of time until the Florida Derby – the race is not until March 29.  Even though this means Conquest Titan will have no chances at league points through March, that doesn’t affect my strategy when it comes to him — signs point to him being a serious contender on the trail, and he’s staying right here in my stable where he belongs.
  • Noble Cornerstone – What in the world am I going to do with Noble Cornerstone?  That is a question I face, and probably the biggest at the moment.  There was chatter last week about Noble Cornerstone pointing to the Fountain of Youth, but that didn’t happen.  That race was drawn today, and Noble Cornerstone is not on that list.  He hasn’t been back to the worktab since February 12th, the work I mentioned last week.  I was hoping to have one more race to help me evaluate him before the claiming deadline a week from Thursday, but unless he is being pointed under the radar to some allowance race coming up, I will have to make the best conjecture possible from limited information.  (I know, I know, there’s a word for that, and it’s called handicapping.)
  • Shared Belief – Today, there was finally some useful news about Shared Belief.  He has been off the worktab with the foot injury (which is still unclear, though I don’t exactly buy that it was just a grabbed quarter), but was finally back at Santa Anita galloping last week.  Today, the word is that he will be back on the worktab later this week.  Furthermore, it sounds like he’s going to be pointing toward one of the synthetic track prep races out east — either the Spiral at Turfway or the Blue Grass at Keeneland, probably whichever one Tamarando isn’t running.  I am happy with this plan, assuming it comes through; all three races he has won have been on synthetic, so he clearly likes the surface.  I’m also happy, for purely fantasy-related reasons, that both Shared Belief and Tamarando have the same trainer who sounds likely to point them to different races.  The last thing I want is these two going against each other before Derby day, when they’re both talented enough to have an honest shot at winning.
  • She’s a Tiger – Not a whole lot has changed.  She’s a Tiger is still galloping at Santa Anita, though has no published works yet, and there’s no good information out there suggesting what race she’s pointing to.  Hopefully she will show up on the worktab as soon as this week, but there’s nothing particularly credible that I’ve heard either way.  She’s not one I’m really considering dropping, despite still being on a lay — she’s too talented a horse, and there’s nothing that has come up to imply that this is anything other than coming back from a well-deserved winter break after six races as a juvenile.

So, there’s where Iron Bard Stable stands after week 4 of the contest.  Week 4 was an exciting one, with Tamarando and Ride On Curlin hitting the track — and next week stands to be at least as thrilling (and informative!), with Stopchargingmaria making her three-year-old debut, and General a Rod coming back to face some tougher company.  Until then, it’s time to make sure that I know how everyone else who is not in my stable did this last weekend, and continue to identify good possibilities among unowned horses since the first claim date is coming up February 27!

handicap ALL THE THINGS!

Maybe I’m crazy.  Maybe I’m getting too antsy because live racing at Hawthorne starts back up this coming Friday (HOORAY!).  Whatever it is, I’m doing two handicapping contests this weekend: both the one at Danonymous Racing and the one at Public Handicapper.  The Danonymous Racing contest covers four races on Saturday and four races on Monday; the Public Handicapper one covers four races on Saturday.  However, only one of the races (the El Camino Real Derby) overlaps between the two, so that meant that I picked a total of seven races for Saturday.

Golden Gate Fields: El Camino Real Derby (GIII, 1 1/8mi. on the synthetic)

This is the big Derby prep of the day.  There aren’t many in this race who like being the early speed, which makes Tamarando’s deep closing style a threat most to Tamarando himself.  However, Tamarando has performed better on the synthetic than he has on the dirt, and Russell Baze (a jockey who probably knows Golden Gate Fields better than anyone else on the planet) has the mount.  Enterprising and Dance With Fate may go up near the lead for this one; I’d say Dance With Fate would be more likely to be right on the early lead than Enterprising, but they both fall into the “likely to be the early speed by default”.  If one or the other gets there and is able to keep the pace at a manageable level, they may manage to thwart Tamarando’s deep closing style.  Craftsman is a bit of a question mark; it remains to be seen whether he has come into his own, since this is only his second race stateside, after shipping here from Ireland.

Gulfstream: The Very One Stakes (GIII, 1 3/8mi on turf, fillies and mares)

There are enough horses who want to be on the lead early in this one (Seanchai, Viva Rafaela, and likely Inimitable Romanee) that there’s a good chance the pace will favour a horse who prefers to come up from the back, especially in a race as long as this.  If one of the frontrunners in this race us going to take it, it will probably be Inimitable Romanee; she did manage to wire the field at a mile and a half last time out, in the Long Island Stakes (GIII).  I am more interested in someone stalking or closing, though.  Algue Marine looks nice coming into this race, especially given her particular success at the 1 3/8 mile distance.  She has also been in the States long enough to have come into whatever form she’s going to come into after shipping here from Europe.  Dame Marie is an interesting long shot, as well.  It’s the toughest field she has faced in her career, but she has shown enough speed in previous races to be likely to hang with this crowd, and she’s working well at Palm Meadows.  She isn’t a lock by any stretch of the imagination, but she’s a legitimate enough contender in this race that she is bound to be an overlay.

Gulfstream: Mac Diarmida Stakes (GII, 1 3/8mi on turf)

Bingo Bango Bongo and Alpha are going to want the early lead; neither of them have much success in races without it.  Twilight Eclipse is also likely to be either on or just stalking this early pace; among the speed horses, Twilight Eclipse has proven himself to be the classiest, and the most likely to stay on for this distance.  However, there’s enough speed and enough distance in the race that a horse from farther back who can handle the distance is a real threat.  Suntracer is a closer with plenty of experience in longer turf races.  This is the shortest race he has run since last June; though he has not won since the 2012 Carey Memorial, last summer he finished a strong second in both the 1 1/2 mile Stars and Stripes (GIIIT) as well as the 1 11/16 mile American St. Leger last year.  The distance is no worry, and he is reunited with Julian Leparoux, who rode him in the Stars and Stripes.  Another closer who may have a chance is Amen Kitten; he has acted in shorter races like he may want the extra distance of this one.  If he wants that distance, he could be a threat as well.

As an aside, I’m fascinated by Alpha’s presence here.  Alpha has been trying a variety of different mile and route races on the dirt, and took a less than impressive stab at the synthetic at Meydan last year, but hasn’t tried turf yet.  This will be Alpha’s first race on the turf.  He has had some brilliant races over his career, and he has had some flop races, but he hasn’t quite found a specialty.  I don’t know if he’ll fly or flop on the turf, but either way, it will be interesting to see.

Laurel: Barbara Fritchie Handicap (GII, 7f on the dirt, fillies and mares)

There are so many horses in this race who like early speed that I’m hesitant to think that early speed will win this race.  Baragah, La Verdad, Sunlit City, Winning Image…they all want to be up there, and up there early, making it likely that there’s going to be enough of a fight for the lead that it will benefit a horse farther back.  My Wandy’s Girl is interesting here.  She loves the 7 furlong distance, she likes being a handful of lengths off the pace, and if she proves on this second start back after a long lay that she’s the same horse she was before her lay, she’ll be hard to beat here.  Centrique has an inside post position, something she really likes, and her recent speed compares favourably with this field.  She tends to stalk the pace, and she’s fast enough to stalk any of those speed horses and have a good chance to get there.

Oaklawn: Essex Handicap (1 1/16mi on the dirt)

This race does not have much in the way of early speed at all, so anyone who can get there, control the fractions, and have enough in reserve to get down the stretch is going to have a good chance of winning this one.  Right to Vote and Jaguar Paw like the front more than the other horses in the field, though Right to Vote seems to be more consistent than Jaguar Paw is, and Jaguar Paw may be bet heavy because Calvin Borel is riding.  Stealcase probably won’t be right on the early lead, but if he can stay up there and stalk a few lengths off, he’ll be dangerous.  As for horses who are likely to be off the lead…if any of the closers are going to do it, I’d probably go with Mavericking.  He looks to be pretty happy with the turf-to-dirt transition he has made after winning the Buck’s Boy Handicap (a race washed off the turf), but he has been relatively consistent about mustering enough speed to hang with the field, and is likely best among the closers in this field.  Win Willy as a six-year-old would have blown him out of the water, but his form through his seven-year-old year and into this year hasn’t quite been the same.  He isn’t awful, but there has been enough decline in his statistics over the last year or so that makes me think he won’t be who he used to be.

Oaklawn: King Cotton Stakes (6f in the dirt)

Unsurprising for a six furlong sprint, most of this field either wants to be right on the early lead, or right near it.  Two of the horses in this field look primed to run a really nice one: Alsvid and Picko’s Pride.  Alsvid, who finished second in last year’s King Cotton, really likes six furlongs — he is 10-6-3-0 at the distance.  He has been working very well at Oaklawn recently, and even though his last race out wasn’t so great, it was also not at his preferred sprint distance, but rather a mile.  The last time Alsvid cam back from a similarly disappointing effort (a sixth place finish, beaten 6 1/2 lengths, in the May 2013 Honor the Hero Stakes), he smoked the field in an AOC35 at Prairie Meadows by sixteen lengths.  Picko’s Pride has been on a lay since July, but the last time he was on a lay of approximately equal length (about a year ago), he won a 6 furlong AOC65 by two lengths.  He ran some of the best races of his career last year, and if he comes back from that in anywhere near the form he had as he went on lay, he’ll be a threat in this race.

Although the handicapper in me says he’s not going to win, there is no horse in this race that the pure fan side of me wants to see win more than I want to see Wildcat Country win.  Last March he was claimed for $7,500, and claimed again out of his next race for $6,250.  Since then, he has started to race better, and he has won his last two outings: a 6 furlong Starter Allowance for horses who had started for a $7,500 claiming tag or less, and before that a $40,000 claimer at Oaklawn.  Few things make me happier than seeing horses rise through the ranks…and even though I know he is a long shot given this field, I really hope he does well.

Santa Anita: Santa Maria Stakes (GII, 1 1/16mi in the dirt, fillies and mares)

There’s likely to be very little early speed in this race.  The only one who seems to really need the front early is Golden Production.  If she were one of the faster horses in the field, I’d be likely to want to select her.  Unfortunately, she isn’t.  It doesn’t seem to stack up well for a deep closer, but one of the faster horses who generally runs just off the pace is more likely to take it.  Fiftyshadesofhay is consistently fast, but is likely to be bet down a lot despite the fact that she hasn’t gotten her nose across the wire first since last summer.  Iotapa is a solid horse who may like the distance (she has finished second at both attempts at 1 1/16 miles), though she’s probably a little better on the synthetic than she is on the dirt.  Ondine is 4-2-0-2 at a mile and a sixteenth, and is coming off a close call in the La Canada.  Any of these three horses have a decent chance to do well, though Ondine and Iotapa are likely to do it at a better price than Fiftyshadesofhay.

There are four more races on Monday for the Danonymous Racing contest: the Hollie Hughes at Aqueduct, the General George Handicap (GIII) at Laurel, the Southwest Stakes (GIII) at Oaklawn, and the Buena Vista Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita.  Later this weekend, I will discuss those four races.

fantasy stable: week 3 postmortem

Last weekend was the third weekend of points races in the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy horse racing league.  There was only one points race last weekend, the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.  Since Shared Belief missed the race, I had no horses in it.  It also had no real impact on claiming strategy, since the top four horses in the race (and five of the seven competitors altogether) are all drafted by other stables.  This coming weekend will be a more exciting weekend for my stable, since both the El Camino Real Derby and the Southwest Stakes are points races, and my stable is likely to be represented in both of those races.

As of this evening, here is where my eight horses stand:

  • Tamarando – He posted a zippy work, five furlongs in 59.40, at Santa Anita on February 8.  As of last week’s post, the San Vicente was possible for him, though that plan has changed in the light of the injury to Exit Stage Left.  Jerry Hollendorfer was originally going to run Exit Stage Left in the El Camino Real Derby, but since a tendon injury has knocked him off the Derby trail, he has opted to run Tamarando there instead.  This is all-around good news for my stable, since the El Camino Real is a points race for the league, as well as a good chance to evaluate him before the draft.  It will be Tamarando’s first attempt at the 1 1/8 mile distance; he has run several times at 1 1/16 miles, but nothing longer yet.  Russell Baze has the mount — though it will be the first time he has ridden Tamarando, I will never, ever complain about seeing Russell Baze on my horse at Golden Gate Fields.
  • Ride On Curlin – There is nothing unexpected here, and that is a good thing.  He is still on the work tab at Oaklawn; he posted a five furlong work in 1:03.40 on February 5th.  He was nominated to the Southwest, and there has been nothing to imply that the plan to point him toward the Southwest has changed.  The Southwest hasn’t been drawn yet, since it is scheduled for Monday, February 17.
  • Conquest Titan – He returned to the work tab for the first time since the Holy Bull, breezing five furlongs in a minute flat on February 8 at Palm Meadows.  Trainer Mark Casse has confirmed that he is pointing Conquest Titan toward the Fountain of Youth, at Gulfstream on February 22nd.  It won’t be an easy race, since several serious contenders in the Florida circuit are pointing there as well, but Conquest Titan shouldn’t be in over his head there.
  • General a Rod – He has been a regular on the work tab at Gulfstream; last working five furlongs in 1:02.81 on February 9.  It still seems like he is heading to the Fountain of Youth, along with Conquest Titan (and Top Billing…and Commissioner…and Wildcat Red…and Almost Famous…).  It will be good to evaluate him in a relatively tough race before the claiming deadline; hopefully he acquits himself well.
  • Noble Cornerstone – Just today, he returned to the Gulfstream work tab for the first time since his disastrous Sam F. Davis run.  It was a brisk one, five furlongs in 59.82.  The latest scuttlebutt says he may be headed to the Fountain of Youth as well.  If that’s the case, I’ll be annoyed that three of my horses are all running in the same race, but glad to see one more run before the claiming date.  After that clunker of a race last out, this should help answer some questions as to whether the Davis can be tossed, or if he is just not up to snuff on the Derby trail.  I really want to be high on him like I was before the Sam F. Davis, but lacking an obvious excuse for the race, I need to see another race from him.
  • Shared Belief – He is back in training, finally; he has been galloping at Santa Anita.  However, there is still no word from Jerry Hollendorfer about what his racing plans are, or whether there are lingering effects from his injury.  It’s good to see him back on the track, but my optimism will be tempered at best until I see him slotted for a race.
  • She’s a Tiger – She’s still off the work tab, though she has returned to Santa Anita and is starting to do some galloping there.  She has been nominated to the UAE Derby, though I have seen nothing credible to say that she is actually going to run in Dubai.  We shall see.  I am getting anxious to start seeing works and more concrete plans for where she’s racing, but it is still early enough that I am not overly worried yet.
  • Stopchargingmaria –  She is still a regular on the Palm Meadows work tab; her last work was a four furlong breeze in 48.40.  However, there is still no information about when her three-year-old debut may come.

As it stands, Week 4 is going to be a big week for my stable, and Week 5 may be even bigger given how much I have riding on the Fountain of Youth.  Here’s hoping my horses run well!

fantasy stable: week 2 postmortem

The Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy horse racing league has reached the end of the second week of points races.  This weekend, there were three: the Withers, the Las Virgenes, and the Busher.  Alas, I had no horses racing in any of them.  However, there was still some action involving the horses in my stable this week, and so there are still at least a few words to say at the end of the most recent week of competition.

  • Noble Cornerstone – I was looking forward to the Sam F. Davis this week, but that race was a nightmare for Noble Cornerstone.  He didn’t start out the race particularly fast, and did nothing to catch up.  Of course, this was only Noble Cornerstone’s third career race, but he got farther back than he did in any of his races.  In his maiden win he was never more than a length or so off the lead, and he took it within a scant few furlongs.  In his Remington Springboard Mile second he started out almost ten lengths back, but closed to within a neck of the winner.  In this race, he started over thirteen lengths off the lead, and never got within ten.  I’m worried as to why, and I hope he runs another race between now and draft time so I can figure out whether this was an issue of one bad race, a hatred of Tampa Bay Downs, or something more foreboding.  I have seen a bit of scuttlebutt about the Risen Star; I hope that actually happens, so I can see him run again before claiming time.
  • Conquest Titan – Not much has changed about Conquest Titan.  He’s still coming off his second in the Holy Bull (G2), and he has had no published works since.  Per @horseracinghl, his trainer Mark Casse said this week that, “If you put a gun to my head today… I’d say we’d probably run in the Fountain of Youth”.  That’s the clearest current indication of where he’s running.  That would be fantastic, since the Fountain of Youth is a points race in the league — and one before the first claiming date, no less.  I am pretty sure I am hanging onto this horse no matter how he runs in the Fountain of Youth (assuming he runs), but I’m glad there is a chance he may return to the track sooner rather than later.
  • General a Rod – There is not a ton new with General a Rod this week.  That is not to say there is nothing.  This week, he fired a bullet work at Gulfstream: a five furlong breeze in 59.13 on 2.2.14.  The word is that he is heading to the Fountain of Youth as well; even moreso than Conquest Titan, I’m glad to see him pointed toward a race this month.
  • Ride On Curlin – Nothing new has happened this week.  His last work was January 27, a five furlong breeze in 1.03.00 at Oaklawn.  It still sounds like he’s heading to the Southwest Stakes on 2.17.14.
  • Stopchargingmaria – There is little new with her.  She did breeze on 2.2.14, 5 furlongs in 1:00.60, 3/28 at Palm Meadows that day.  There is nothing credible to indicate her next race; she still has not raced since the Demoiselle.  She was one of the fourteen fillies nominated to the Triple Crown this year, though it is hard to tell whether or not she is actually pointed to the Derby, due to Todd Pletcher’s NOMINATE ALL THE HORSES strategy.  (Five of the fourteen fillies nominated to the Triple Crown are Pletcher trainees; the others are Onlyforyou, Got Lucky, Dame Dorothy, and Our Amazing Rose.)
  • Shared Belief – He is still not on the work tab, and there is still no word from Jerry Hollendorfer.  The Lewis is not going to happen.  Someone posted on Horse Racing Nation that he is possible for the San Felipe on 3.8.14, but I have nothing to substantiate that.  No matter what, he’s not working, and he’s currently a big question mark in my stable.
  • She’s A Tiger – She is another horse in my stable who has not returned to the work tab recently — and, in her case, she hasn’t been on the work tab since her two year old year.  There is little else to say about her at the moment, which is starting to frustrate me.
  • Tamarando – There is no real news since the California Cup Derby the weekend before last.  I was confused about him then, and I’m still pondering.  The San Felipe sounds like the most likely race for his return.  I would love to see him in a race before the claiming date, though if his next ends up being the San Felipe, I may consider keeping him into March.  It’s still an open question, though.

This week’s three points races were the Withers, the Las Virgenes, and the Busher.  The Withers didn’t give me any really great ideas for drafts — Samraat and Uncle Sigh were the only horses who came out of that race as clearly promising prospects, and they are both taken in the league.  I was considering Classic Giacnroll if he had done well in the Withers, but he was thoroughly unimpressive there, and I don’t think I’m particularly interested in him after that race.

Just as last week, it was the filly races that gave me a bit more interesting information.  Fashion Plate is interesting.  She was seventh and third her first two times out, at Del Mar and Hollywood Park respectively, but then won a six-furlong maiden race as well as the mile-long Las Virgenes at Santa Anita.  I am interested to see where she points next; if this ends up being a sustained love for dirt and distance, she’s a threat.  She’s got plenty of dirt on her sire’s side, but more turf on the closer generations of her dam’s side.  However, that Las Virgenes win over Streaming — a known quality horse — speaks loudly.  As for the Busher, I am looking into many of the horses in there just for tracking purposes, but I can’t deny: Joint Return coming from last to five wide around the turn to then win by over four lengths was a really pretty sight.  I have some more studying to do with respect to her previous races, as well as her pedigree (I can’t just automatically love her because she’s 4×5 to Hoist the Flag, right?!), but I may be buying what she’s selling.

Thus end my thoughts on where I stand this week, with respect to my fantasy stable.

handicapping contest recap

Last week, I posted my thoughts on the ten races in the Danonymous Racing handicapping contest.  Formatted like many handicapping contests, we had to pick a horse in each of the ten races, and we had a hypothetical $2 win bet and $2 place bet on the horses we chose.  The results are in; when all was said and done, I didn’t do so great, but I didn’t come in dead last either.

Here are a few observations about the races, including who I picked in each — since even though it was probably relatively easy to narrow my likely choices down to a couple based on my discussions of the races last week, I wanted to keep who exactly I was picking for the contest at least slightly under wraps.


  • Forward Gal Stakes – In this race, Aurelia’s Belle was my first pick, and Onlyforyou was my second pick.  (The secondary horses were picked in case the first one scratched; this week, none of my first choices scratched.)  These were the 1-2 horses, but Onlyforyou won and Aurelia’s Belle came in second.  I picked Aurelia’s Belle because I thought Onlyforyou and Resistivity would get into a speed duel, with Aurelia’s Belle the beneficiary.  That didn’t happen.  Onlyforyou led basically the entire race, and Aurelia’s Belle was second basically the entire race.  She stalked Onlyforyou, but it became clear she wouldn’t be able to catch up.  I was correct, however, in my thought that the aforementioned three horses would be the better ones; there was an approximately five length gap between third-place Resistivity and the other three horses bringing up the rear.
  • Holy Bull Stakes – In this race, Conquest Titan was my first pick, and Our Caravan was my second.  Conquest Titan, though probably too far back early, managed to close strongly enough to catch everyone but the winner, Cairo Prince.  I said last week that I would be equally unsurprised whether Our Caravan did well or didn’t — and, he flopped.  He finished 8th, and wasn’t ever really a factor.  I was correct in my guess that Coup De Grace would be early speed, though incorrect in assessing that it would be Cairo Prince and Wicked Strong up there with him from the start.  Instead, Almost Famous and Mr. Speaker were likewise on the lead early.  Cairo Prince stalked and then took control coming toward the stretch; Wicked Strong just didn’t fire at all.


  • Miracle Wood Stakes – In this race, Jessethemarine was my first pick, and Master Lightning was my second.  Neither of these horses were much of a factor.  Jessethemarine finished fifth after just plain failing to fire, and Master Lightning was entirely too far back early to make up.  I had expected Master Lightning to be a speed horse in the race; that turned out to be completely wrong.  Once the gate opened, neither one was anywhere near the winning Extrasexyhippzster or second-place Joint Custody.
  • Native Dancer Stakes – In this race, Indian Jones was my first choice and Managed Account second.  Indian Jones finished well — he was the closer I expected him to be, but he just couldn’t catch the winner.  Managed Account wasn’t the speed in the race like I expected (that was mainly Warrioroftheroses, as Mail scratched), but he stalked the pace, was a head from the lead coming into the stretch, but then faded a bit.  I made a point of talking myself off of Bold Curlin, forcing myself not to be too swayed by the fact that I am a raving Curlin fandork, and what did that get me?  Throwing out a winner at a pretty nice price, that’s what.  I was completely wrong to think he was outclassed here.
  • What a Summer Stakes – In this race, She’s Ordained was my first choice, and Winning Image was my second.  They filled out the exacta, though in the less advantageous order since Winning Image won.  I was dead-on with picking the horses who would do well in this race, but rubbish at predicting how the bettors would direct their money.  I thought I’d get a better price on She’s Ordained than I would with Winning Image; that’s why I placed her first.  Turns out, She’s Ordained went out at odds-on, Winning Image went off at 3.7 to one, and I made a costly mistake.

Sam Houston

  • John B. Connally Turf Cup – In this race, Admiral Kitten was my first choice, and King David was my second.  This was my only winner among my first choices.  I nabbed the Kitten as the strongest of the closing-style horses in the bunch, and he did not disappoint, catching Fredericksburg just in time.  King David, who I thought to be the other class of the field, was second behind Fredericksburg most of the race but just couldn’t stay the distance, and faded to fourth.  All in all, I didn’t do a terrible job of predicting how this race would go, and I was glad to see Admiral Kitten prove himself once again to be the classy closer I thought he was.
  • Houston Ladies Classic – In this race, Awesome Flower was my first choice, and Rose to Gold was my second.  This was a risk that blew up in my face, hard.  I knew that Awesome Flower was a gamble: if she got the lead straight out she’d be a force to be reckoned with, but if she didn’t, it was over.  She didn’t get that lead; she finished sixth, beaten over ten lengths.  Rose to Gold looked like the class of the field on paper, but I placed her as my backup instead of my primary because I thought I was going to get a terrible, terrible price on her.  Turns out, she actually went off at a better price than Awesome Flower, and won the race to boot.

Santa Anita

  • Santa Monica Stakes – In this race, Teddy’s Promise was my first choice, and Heir Kitty was my second.  Teddy’s Promise finished third; she had the lead going into the stretch, but just couldn’t stay up to remain ahead of Scherzinger and Iotapa.  Heir Kitty stalked and tried to make a run for it on the far turn, but just couldn’t mount enough of a bid, and faded to fourth.  My prediction that Lexington Pearl would be the spoiler was no good; she was never any factor.  When handicapping the race, I wasn’t feeling Scherzinger at all — I thought she was significantly outclassed, and likely to bounce off her AOC63 win earlier in January.  In short, there wasn’t a whole lot I got correct about this race.
  • California Cup Turf – In this race, Jules Journey was my first choice, and Stoney Creek was my second.  Neither of them ran a bad race.  Jules Journey closed to cross the wire third, and Stoney Creek closed to finish second.  I was right to try and beat Summer Hit, both because he would go off at a bad price and because I had worries about the distance.  He went off at 1.2 to 1, and he weakened down the stretch.  Weewinnin, I wasn’t going to touch with a ten foot pole — this race was the longest of his career, and he was well beaten in his only attempt at a mile.  I had him pegged for a decent Cal-bred sprinter, nothing more.  Instead, to my surprise (and that of most of the bettors, as he went off at better than 20-1…), he found nine furlongs in him, and won by daylight.
  • California Cup Derby – In this race, Lucky Views was my first choice, and Aotearoa was my second.  I got approximately nothing right in this race.  I said Lucky Views would do well in a race without a lot of early speed.  The fractions were not as slow as I thought they’d be, Lucky Views kept drifting all over the place, and he finished last of all of the horses who finished the race.  Aotearoa, who I knew was somewhat of a gamble because it was his first dirt race, absolutely hated the dirt and didn’t finish the race.  I blew off Tamarando, despite his presence in my fantasy stable, because I knew the price would be bad, and I wasn’t sure how he would do.  I was right in that his price was bad; that was about the only thing I got right in this race.  He’s a deep closer, and did close to make second place, but couldn’t catch California Chrome.  There was no favourite or near-favourite who I felt as strongly would fail as that horse.  Instead, he proved me wrong, and won the race in an absolute blowout.

My overall biggest lessons?

One, I am still a total newbie when it comes to handicapping races based on pace, and I think I put too much emphasis in my selections on horses who I thought would close well.  Though more speed horses help the closers, closers are not going to win every single race in which there’s not merely a lone speed.

Two, I am completely inept at predicting the whims of the betting public, and need to pay attention to those patterns and adjust matters accordingly.  However, this second bit will be less of an issue in handicapping when I don’t have to turn in my bets hours in advance, as i did with this contest; this is what the tote board is for.

Since I spent a nice chunk of Saturday muttering at the TV about how my second choice horse had done better than my first, I calculated how I would have scored with my second choices.  There were fewer of my second choices who cashed (four for my second choices, versus five for my first), though more first places in my second choice list (three for my second choices, versus one for my first).  Turns out, it would have been significantly better.  Between wins from Rose To Gold, Winning Image, and Onlyforyou, combined with the second place finish of Stoney Fleece, I would have scored $47.00 — which would have placed me third, instead of close to the cellar.

You live and learn.  I, for one, am looking forward to the next contest.

fantasy stable: week 1 postmortem

Week 1 of points races for the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy horse racing league is in the books.  I can’t complain about where I’m sitting at the moment.  The Holy Bull netted me four points, since Conquest Titan closed well enough to cross the wire second.  I got nothing in the Forward Gal — but neither did anyone else in the league, since none of us had any of the fillies who ran it.

Here are my thoughts on the horses I’ve got, as of this weekend’s action:

  • Conquest Titan – I was high on this horse going into the Holy Bull, and I’m still high on him coming out of it.  Even though he was a clear second best in that race (no one was catching Cairo Prince there…), he made a strong run from far back to finish second.  It’s pretty clear coming out of it that closing is his preferred style — he ran his first few as a frontrunner, but these last few races as a closer have been strong.  I’m looking forward to seeing where he points next after this race…and hoping that it just so happens to be one of the races that gains me points in the fantasy league.
  • General a Rod – Originally the word was that he was pointing at the Holy Bull, but he wasn’t entered.  He’s still on the work tab, though, and there’s plenty of scuttlebutt saying he’s pointing toward the Fountain of Youth.  I can go for that; it’s a points race a few days before the claiming deadline, so hopefully he can show his mettle there.
  • Noble Cornerstone – The latest news on him is that he may be pointing to the Risen Star, though he was also nominated to the Sam F. Davis.  He’s active on the work tab at Gulfstream.  I’m interested to see where he goes…either way, he’s pointing to race sooner rather than later.  He was my last-round draft pick, and has a good shot at being my stable’s nice little dark horse.
  • Ride On Curlin – There is no real new stuff on him.  He’s still actively working at Oaklawn, and word is that he is pointing toward the Southwest Stakes.  I see this as a pretty important race for assessing his chances, since all of his wins so far have been in sprints.  He has run some routes, and even run them relatively well (see his third place in the Champagne), but I really want to see a route win.
  • Shared Belief – I wasn’t too worried after the first missed work.  Now, however, I’m getting a little nervous.  After proclaiming that Shared Belief would work last Friday, Hollendorfer didn’t work him, and then brusquely proclaimed that there would be no news for fifteen days.  This pretty well means the Lewis isn’t going to happen.  I’m nowhere near giving up on this horse — he’s staying in my stable for the time being, barring either a complete injury disaster or some disastrous racing when he returns.  I still think he’s legit.  But, for fantasy purposes, it’s frustrating seeing him in limbo like this.
  • She’s A Tiger – There is still radio silence since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.  I have no idea what kind of crack whoever is saying she’s running the Las Virgenes is smoking, but she’s not on the nominations list posted on the Santa Anita website, and has no published works.  There’s no reliable information as to where she’s actually pointing.  Hopefully she will return to the work tab soon.
  • Stopchargingmaria – There’s very little new to update on her.  She still hasn’t raced since her Demoiselle win, but she’s on the work tab at Palm Meadows.  I still haven’t seen any announcements about where she is pointing.
  • Tamarando – I am not sure what to make of this one.  I was hoping for one of two results in the California Cup Derby: either that he would win convincingly and mark himself as a solid contender, or that he would get utterly and completely smoked and get yanked off the Derby trail a la Coup De Grace after the Holy Bull.  Of course, things aren’t that easy.  He finished second in that race, with a nice rally late, but nowhere close to California Chrome.  I’m stuck with him at least until the end of February when the claiming date rolls around, and I really hope he has another race before then, so I can get a better idea of his chances on the trail.

The Holy Bull didn’t put any new colts on my radar; all of the legitimate contenders were already somewhere on my radar.  It answered a few questions about some of them, though for fantasy purposes I’m not sure how helpful that information will be given that most of the horses are already owned by other people in the league.  Still, I’m keeping tabs on all the horses, since there’s no way to predict who is going to be waived (and available for claiming) over the next few months.

From a claiming-period perspective, the Forward Gal may be the more interesting of the two races.  Onlyforyou made a strong showing, though I am not falling in love with her quite yet because that field wasn’t necessarily the strongest.  However, I will be tracking all six of these horses from here on out, and probably keeping a particular eye on both Onlyforyou and Aurelia’s Belle.

As a side note, the fact that I’m tracking all the horses from the Forward Gal may seem kind of weird, since at this point it does not seem that several of them might not have great chances at the Oaks.  However, I would rather spend the extra time researching more horses and keeping them all on my tracking spreadsheet, just to minimize the chance of being blindsided by a horse who might have had a not-so-great run come January, but get her act together come March or April.  As I mentioned in my intro post about the league, I am maintaining a spreadsheet of three-year-olds, with notes about past performances and upcoming races.  It’s a relatively large sheet — currently 161 horses and counting.  The drawback to this method is that it requires a lot of maintenance, and may lead to information overload.  However, right now I am less worried about that than I am worried about missing out on a potentially promising horse.  I am also making an attempt to rank the horses in the spreadsheet; I’m using broad categories for blue-chip prospects, quite good though not clearly blue-chip horses, ones that may be okay, and ones who can probably be ignored barring a major change.  The last list is pretty short now, though it will probably lengthen as time goes by; currently it only contains horses whose trainers have said they are off the Derby trail, or sticking to things like sprint races or turf races.

Anyway, that’s where I stand after week 1.  Week 2’s points races are the Withers and the Busher.  Both of them have been drawn.  I have no shot for points in Week 2, since none of my stable horses are racing in either one.  However, there are a few horses in these races who I already had my eye on and remain unowned in the league, so this week will be interesting for potential future claiming purposes.

Some Saturday Stakes at Santa Anita and Sam Houston

She Sells Sea Shells by the Sea Shore…oh, wait, wrong sentence with a ton of S’s in it.  Still, in preparation for this weekend’s Danonymous Racing handicapping contest (the first of them that I have entered), I have had my nose buried in PPs.  There are ten races in the contest.  Five of them I puzzled my way through tonight; the other five I shall attack tomorrow night.

This was my first attempt to handicap using PDF PPs instead of a paper program at a track.  It’s nice to handicap before race day (if nothing else, it means I will have a bit more sleep on Saturday before I wander out to watch the races!), but I felt like it took significantly longer to gather my thoughts this way than it does to mark up a program.  I’m such a luddite; if I am going to make a habit of handicapping from places other than the track, I really need to buy a cheap printer so I can have paper PPs to scribble all over.  Alternately, I may consider buying a tablet and a stylus, but even then I think I would prefer just paper and pen.

Also, it is the first time in a while that I have gone through the race handicapping process with so many unfamiliar horses.  I hung around Arlington and (especially) Hawthorne so much this year that by the end of the Hawthorne fall meet, it was rare to see a race in which I wasn’t at least somewhat familiar with at least half the field.  Today?  I knew a few horses here and there going in, but that was it.

Okay, enough with the meta-rant about the handicapping process, right?  You’re probably far more curious about my opinions about the races, so here those are:

Santa Anita

  • Santa Monica Stakes (GII) – Surprise, surprise: I like Teddy’s Promise and Heir Kitty in this one.  I like Teddy’s Promise a bit more, as she clearly loves this track, and I am afraid Heir Kitty could easily bounce after her La Brea win.  That said, they’re just the classiest horses in the field by a good margin.  Lexington Pearl’s last two races were of the type that makes sense in this company, so it’s not a surprise to see her there, and she is the most likely spoiler in this race.  However, there’s still a question as to whether those last two were an anomaly, or that’s how she’s going to race.  Passing on her in the contest format, although if I were actually at the track, she would go in my exacta box.
  • California Cup Turf – This race is wide open…there are plenty of horses I think have a legitimate shot of winning it, and then some who just don’t.  Summer Hit is the favourite for a reason, but I don’t exactly like him at what’s destined to be a mediocre-to-rubbish price running the longest race of his career save the Awesome Again, which was at the same distance as this.  He could do well, but I don’t love him enough to take that price.  Instead, I’m looking to Jules Journey or Stoney Fleece.  Jules Journey’s last two races after a long lay have been at a mile; he has been closing and gaining on the leaders, but run out of distance.  Looks like he may want a bit more, and the jock change may be exactly what he needs.  Though this is a clear jump in class for Stoney Fleece, his speeds rack up favourably with those in this field, and he’s got some experience at this distance.
  • California Cup Derby – For fantasy league reasons, I really want to see Tamarando do well here.  If he does well, he’s probably staying on the Derby trail, and more than likely staying in my stable.  If he flops this one, there’s a decent chance I’m giving up on him.  He has some quality wins, as well as some not-so-great outings, so how this will go is anyone’s guess.  However, for handicapping contest reasons?  There are two other horses in this field who I like just as much in this race, and I’m going to get way better prices on for the contest.  One is Lucky Views, who has only raced twice so far…but looks good in a race without a lot of decent early speed.  If he can keep the pace reasonable and hold on as a frontrunner, he has a good chance at this one for what’s likely to be a nice price.  Another is Aotearoa.  Even though he has never raced on dirt, he’s a solid horse, and when he’s running well he can probably smoke anyone in this field.  Furthermore, it’s a bit hard to count out Gary Stevens (who is riding Aotearoa) on the Santa Anita dirt.  California Chrome, on the other hand?  He’s got “vulnerable” written all over him.  He’s the morning line second favourite, he ran poorly his other time on the Santa Anita dirt, and he has bounced massively after both his wins.  I wouldn’t bet a penny on this one.

Sam Houston

  • John B Connally Turf Cup (GIII) – So many horses in this field left me scratching my head as to why they were running a graded stakes race.  Most prominent among the head-scratchers we find Arthur’s Court — if he cannot win an N1X, I cannot fathom why he belongs here.  But, since the goal is to pick horses that have a shot at winning this thing…I really think this race is Admiral Kitten, King David, and the rest nowhere.  The Kitten is the fastest of the bunch, and has been comparing favourably to much classier horses than this as of late.  King David, despite being two races back from a long lay, looks pretty good; his last out in the Diliberto wasn’t so hot, but he had a last-minute shoe replacement in the paddock.  I doubt he can beat Admiral Kitten, but he’s the best of the rest.  Vertiformer has shown a bit in the past, but it has been a while, and he’s coming off a yearlong lay.  There’s also Marine Patrol, who is in a legitimate position to try a GIII (especially this relatively weak one), but he’s going to run into a much stronger closing-style horse in Admiral Kitten.
  • Houston Ladies Classic – Rose to Gold looks to be the classiest of the bunch, though it’s precarious.  Her last two races back after a long lay have been less than good, but they were also both on turf — her only two races on it.  This time, she’s going back to dirt, a surface on which she’s proven, and not facing a particularly tough field compared to the ones she’s faced in the past.  She tends to win her races with early speed — like every decent horse in this race tends to win her races with early speed.  Unusual Way likes early speed.  Awesome Flower is positively screwed if she doesn’t get and hold the lead, though if she gets a good run on the lead, she’s going to dispatch even Rose to Gold, at what’s likely to be a better price to boot.  Moon Philly can maybe hit the board if she’s not early speed, though all her wins have shown it.  And Why Not is the closest thing this race has to a closer (which is sometimes enough, case in point Lakotadreamcatcher in the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante — the second dumbest bet I didn’t make this year!) , but she’s a career N1X who is in way over her head here.  So, I’d probably say Rose to Gold or Awesome Flower, but this one’s wide open, and if it’s weren’t a contest I’d either keep my money in my pocket or end up picking at least half the field if it were a leg of a Pick-N.

And, there are my thoughts on five of the ten contest races on Saturday.   Sometime tomorrow night, I will post a similar entry for the other five, the races at Gulfstream and Laurel.

Fantasy Road to the Triple Crown…it begins.

This past Friday night, we had our draft for Derbyologist’s fantasy horse racing league.  I have been slightly delayed in my recap of it — Shmoocon was this weekend, and when I’m not geeking out about the horses, I’m geeking out about computers.  However, the draft did happen, and I’m pretty happy about my stable.  These are the eight horses I’ll be watching like a hawk (though not necessarily like a Midnight Hawk or like a Gold Hawk), listed in order of when I drafted them:

  • Shared Belief
  • She’s A Tiger
  • Conquest Titan
  • Ride On Curlin
  • Tamarando
  • Stopchargingmaria
  • General a Rod
  • Noble Cornerstone

Given the way the draft is structured, there are fewer filly races than open ones, so I decided I wanted to shoot for two fillies and six colts/geldings/ridglings/horses generally considered as male.  That’s exactly what I ended up getting.  In fact, the two fillies I got were two of the four in my very top echelon of choices, so I’m happy with that.  (The other two, just to satisfy any curiosity, were Streaming, and Sweet Reason.)

The only time during the draft when I started yelling at my computer was the second round.  I was torn between She’s A Tiger and Top Billing.  I decided She’s A Tiger would be likelier to go first, and grabbed her.  The very next pick?  Top Billing, of course.  I feel like I fumbled that one…not that it’s a lock that She’s A Tiger would have lasted until my next pick, but Top Billing being taken next just plain stung, especially given the smaller-than-expected percentage of fillies versus colts who were taken in the league, since I was expecting each stable to take at least two fillies, and yet there were only eleven other fillies taken other than the two I drafted.)

Who is the pick I feel the best about?  At this point, Conquest Titan.  He doesn’t have the best record of my horses; the dead last in the BC Juvenile isn’t super exciting.  However, he has no shortage of classic or classic-distance horses (Birdstone?  Grindstone?  Unbridled?  A. P. Indy?)  in his pedigree.  Also?  I kind of love that he broke his maiden in a stakes, whose field included one Ria Antonia.  I am hoping that the promise he has shown as a two-year-old, combined with his pedigree, will lead to good results this spring.

On a happier note…I do love me some Curlin.  He’s one of my favourites.  I’m glad I got one of the promising Curlin babies on the Derby trail, in Ride On Curlin.  If there’s any of these horses I hope pans out more than any other, it’s Ride On Curlin.

I will admit that I am a little worried about the top rungs of my stable.  My top two picks were the two-year-old horses of the year — which is pretty exciting the day after the Eclipse awards, though knowing the history of two-year-old stars as three-year-olds, I am nervous as all get out, and will be shocked beyond belief if either of those remain stars.  A taunt in the chat room, comparing me to Dreaming of Julia, hit a bit hard…especially since I love Princess of Sylmar like crazy.  Dreaming of Julia was the horse everyone was buzzing about early in the season…and she sort of fizzled.  Here’s hoping that at least one of my fillies won’t, or I will find a diamond in the rough and acquire her via one of the monthly claims for the league.

However, I am still trying to figure out how to do this, and how to work within this draft format.  All I had to go on were PPs, and the list of races that count for points.  Among colts I drafted, I think I did that pretty well…all my colts’ PPs are decent to excellent, and they are all pointed next toward points races, with no more than two in my stable pointed to any given point race.  Fillies, I ended up going far more on PPs than points races — I still have no idea where She’s A Tiger or Stopchargingmaria are pointing next (other than vaguely being on the Oaks trail), but they have both shown a ridiculous amount of talent.  She’s A Tiger particularly scares me since she’s not back on the work tab yet, so I may end up seriously regretting this, but I figured she is worth the risk.

(As much as I love Ria Antonia, and am dying to see her do well on the Derby trail, I still think that so far She’s A Tiger has shown more, and was afraid to draft Ria Antonia because of the riskiness of her possible trail against the boys.  I would love more than anything to see Ria do well, but felt that She’s A Tiger was the safer pick for the sake of fantasy points.  We shall see.)

Anyway, that is my draft-related brain dump.  I will continue to write about works, plans, and musings related to my stable.