fantasy stable update: week 19

We are nineteen weeks into the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league, and the day of reckoning is near.  There’s just one more day of points races left, this Saturday, and then the league is over.  Just in time for this final day of points races, there are a few new faces in my stable, who I introduced last week.  As Murphy’s Law would suggest, however, I made what may possibly be a crucial mistake in my claiming strategy.  I stand behind all three horses I claimed last week.  However, I set up my drops based on the best information I had — and the best information I had included absolutely no scuttlebutt that General a Rod would be headed to the Belmont.  He was fairly late in declaring that he would go to the Preakness, but at least there were people whispering about whether he would be headed out there or not.  I heard no rumours, and I saw no works back since the Preakness, so I assumed he would not be Belmont-bound.  Saturday?  He worked a five-furlong bullet in 1:00.20 over the Churchill training track, and his connections proclaim him Belmont-bound.


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fantasy stable: week 18 update

This has been another fairly slow week for my fantasy stable in the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league.  We’re making it down the home stretch, though — the final claiming day is this Thursday, and the final points races (the Belmont Stakes, the Acorn Stakes, the Woody Stephens, and the Easy Goer) all unfold on June 7th.  Nominations for the three-year-old Belmont undercard races (Acorn, Woody Stephens, and Easy Goer) came out today, and most of my stable appeared in at least one of those nominations lists.  With the next claim coming up this week, though, I am hoping they proceed from “nominated” to something more definite shortly.  Even a definite “no” would be useful, since I still have a good amount of claiming budget in order to try for some horses who are running in the big Belmont races and not yet owned by any of my competitors.

Let’s see how my stable is doing!

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fantasy stable: week 17 update

This past week was a huge one for my stable in the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy horse racing league.  Three of my horses raced for points: Stopchargingmaria was in the Black-Eyed Susan, and both Ride On Curlin and General a Rod ran the Preakness.  All three of them ran big, and two of the three of them brought my stable points.  Alas, that only puts my stable back to about mid-pack after a dreadful mid-season stretch, but there’s still a chance I can hit the board if I have some horses run big Belmont weekend.

Without further ado, let’s see how my horses are doing!

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fantasy stable: week 16 update

This past week was a relatively quiet one for my stable in the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league.  After so many of my horses raced Derby weekend, none of them hit the track this week.  However, this weekend will be a big one, with not one but two of my colts headed to the Preakness Stakes, and one of my fillies resurfacing in the Black-Eyed Susan on Friday.

Without further ado, let’s see what the horses of Iron Bard are up to:

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fantasy stable: week 15 update

This was a huge week for my stable in the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league, in that there were five of my horses running.  This was a less-than-huge week for my fantasy stable, in that no one from my stable hit the board, and one of my fearsome fivesome didn’t even start her race — though she provided us with the scariest moment of the weekend.

With that, let’s see how it all unfolded.

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fantasy stable: week 14 (Derby week!) update

It’s finally here: Derby week!  In a sense, the entire Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league has been building up to this season.  There have been tons of points races over the last few months, but the biggest ones are still to come.  The horses in my stable have changed a bit since my last update, though they’re ready to hit the ground running: one of my new horses has already won a race, and two more are in the starting gate for the Kentucky Oaks this Friday.

I am still stressing out about how I ordered Please Explain, Stopchargingmaria, and Conquest Titan in my drops, which ended up meaning something because I only ended up getting three of my five claims.  I kept Stopchargingmaria and Conquest Titan, since I am so leery of Please Explain after the medication violation and then the poor run in the Fantasy that I thought Stopchargingmaria and Conquest Titan were less of a risk should either point to a minor race for the league.  I knew Please Explain was working at Churchill Downs.  However, I misunderstood how the points system worked, and thought points were required to enter a horse in the Derby or Oaks.  However, that isn’t the case: they’re preferred.  If not enough horses with points enter the race, anyone can.  If I had understood that, I’d have interpreted Please Explain’s Churchill works for what they ended up being: crumbs leading toward a surprise entry in the Kentucky Oaks.

For Please Explain’s sake, I’m still worried about this move.  I hope whatever was hurting her, whatever led to her being medicated, has been healed.  I hope she runs well, and strikes a long-shot blow for the awesomeness of Curlin babies.  For my fantasy stable’s stake, I feel really dumb for not understanding the points rule correctly, and may have ranked differently had I understood the rule.  That said, I feel I made the best ranking decision I could have at the time, given my assessment of the situation.

With that out of the way, let’s check in on my stable:

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fantasy stable: week 13.5 update

We had a claiming day this Thursday, and I had to get busy, since so many of my horses were off the Derby or Oaks trails.  I had Ride On Curlin and General a Rod who are in the Derby starting gate, and She’s a Tiger pointing toward the Eight Belles, but that was it as far as horses of mine who were clearly pointing toward races that could advance my standing.  I had to get my hands on at least a few horses who would be in some more points races, since my current point total in the league is nothing if not middling.  Fortunately, I had the most money left out of anyone: $468 out of the $500 in Monopoly money that we got at the beginning of the season for claims.

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fantasy stable: week 13 postmortem

Things were a little slow for my stable in the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league, but it’s the calm before the storm.  The big Derby and Oaks preps have wound down, and everyone is bearing down for the Derby and the Oaks in a week and a half.  Still, big things are afoot, and the April claiming date is this Thursday.  So, here’s one last look at how my stable stands, before a probable personnel (horsonnel?) shake-up later this week.

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looking back at Keeneland and Oaklawn

This past weekend’s contest races for both Danonymous Racing and Public Handicapper were concentrated in two places: Blue Grass weekend at Keeneland, and the big closing weekend at Oaklawn.  Seven of the eight of them were graded stakes, and even the eighth contained a handful of horses who were familiar faces from the Derby trail.  Let’s see how the races went, and how my selections did!


Commonwealth Stakes (GIII, four-year-olds and up, seven furlongs on the synthetic)

In this race, my first choice was Undrafted, and my second was Laugh Track.  Since he raced, Undrafted was my contest horse.  I expected Undrafted to stalk close to the early lead, and find his form as he returned to his preferred surface.

Dimension broke to the lead early, along with Spring to the Sky and Gunderson.  Dimension, clearly on form in this first start off the winter lay,  was the only one in that early pack who was able to carry on late, though.  He hearkened back to his form and style in last year’s Play The King (GIIT-Can), and held that lead stubbornly.  Inside the sixteenth pole, however, he was nabbed by the strong late run of Occasional View, who had been racing a few lengths back in the pack, but made up ground in a big, wide move through the far turn.  He pulled even with Dimension, and kicked in to win by a length in that last half-furlong.  While handicapping, Occasional View hadn’t been completely off my radar, especially since he was cutting back from routes in his last three races.  However, he was also in his first race off a three-month lay, and facing tougher company than he had in his last few.  That was enough to knock me off him.

My first choice, Undrafted, didn’t have such a great race.  It wasn’t awful, but he still wasn’t able to quite get it together in stakes company.  He got bumped at the start, and settled midpack.  He ran evenly enough, and passed some tired horses late, but was still only able to get up for fifth, four lengths behind Occasional View.  Laugh Track, my second choice, fared a bit better.  He had a ground-saving trip early, came out, and accelerated some late.  It wasn’t anything like Occasional View did, though, and he never seriously threatened even Dimension.  He checked in third, beaten 2 3/4 lengths.

Shakertown Stakes (GIII, four-year-olds and up, five and a half furlongs on the turf)

In this race, my first choice was Havelock, my second choice was Gantry, and my third was Hogy.  Since he raced, Havelock was my contest horse; he was tough to find any good reason to pick against, given his past affinity for the Keeneland turf.

I noted while handicapping this race that Marchman would at least have to find what he had in his last start (a close third in the Colonel Power at Fair Grounds) in order to have a chance here.  He wasn’t a huge bounce risk, since he had strung together good runs before, but wasn’t consistent enough to seem like a good bet that he’d again find form that would give him just some chance.  However, that was my loss: Marchman wired this race.  He set the pace with Go Blue Or Go Home close behind: which means I pegged perfectly the two horses in this field with the most affinity for the lead.  Go Blue Or Go Home faded, as I thought might happen first off the lay.  Marchman, however, would not be caught.  I thought he’d be slow enough that he’d be swallowed up late, but instead he repelled the late charge of Positive Side along the rail, and scored by a neck.  Positive Side, coming off his second place finish in the Colonel Power, did not bounce the way I expected.  He started gaining from his midpack position through the far turn, found space to angle over to the rail, and just missed nabbing Marchman.  Something Extra, who stalked the pacesetters a couple lengths back in third for almost the entire race, showed decent form in his first start off a nine month lay.  He was rolling a bit more late, but was only able to get within a length of Marchman.  It was good enough for the show.

My hopes that Havelock would again show himself as the horse for this course did not come to fruition.  He was far back early, eight or nine lengths, but that was not in itself strange, since he does tend to close from far back.  However, he didn’t fire anywhere near soon enough.  He was still just about bringing up the rear once the field turned for home; normally he starts making up distance through the far turn.  Havelock was only able to close enough to finish seventh, four lengths behind Marchman.  Gantry, my second choice, never really fired either.  He stayed in the middle of the pack throughout, and even gained a little ground in the dash for home, but finished sixth beaten 3 1/2 lengths.  Hogy, my third choice, actually had a decent run given the bad trip he got.  He was over half a dozen lengths back early, much farther back than he normally runs.  He made a move through the far turn, but got bumped by No Silent coming through there, which sent him out a bit.  He kept closing, though, and crossed the wire just 2 3/4 lengths behind Marchman, in fourth.

Madison Stakes (GI, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, seven furlongs on the synthetic)

In this race, I had Eden Prairie as my first choice, and Judy the Beauty as my second.  Since she ran, Eden Prairie was my contest horse.  Even though I thought Judy the Beauty probably had the best chance to win, I thought the upside to Eden Prairie here was more than enough to justify trying for a price in the contests, and took her as my first choice in both contests.

Eden Prairie shot to the lead early as expected.  She was joined by Wildcat Lily, with Cozze Up Lady stalking them outside in third.  Through the far turn, though, Judy the Beauty came out around all three of them, and as the field turned for home it was Judy the Beauty and Eden Prairie up front.  However, one of them was hitting their best stride, and the other struggled to keep up.  Judy the Beauty opened up daylight quickly, and crossed the wire 2 1/2 lengths in front of her closest competition.  Eden Prairie tried to keep on along the inside, but several horses had more left late than she did.  She ended up fifth, 5 1/4 lengths behind the victor.

Second went to Better Lucky.  who surprised me here as she hasn’t shown much sharpness off the lay.  She did cut back in distance here from her previous races, though, which probably helped.  She made a wide move through the turn and closed with some strength, though couldn’t get more than 2 1/2 lengths from Judy the Beauty.  Apropos, who stalked a couple lengths off, struggled a bit to find room coming into the stretch, but was able to get in for third, beaten 4 3/4.  Heir Kitty, last early, didn’t quite have enough in her closing run; she was only able to get up for fourth, a nose in front of the fading Eden Prairie.

Jenny Wiley Stakes (GI, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles on the turf)

In this race, I had Discreet Marq as my first choice, Centre Court as my second, and Fitful Skies as my third.  Since she did not scratch, Discreet Marq was my choice.  I wasn’t sure if she was going to get that early lead or stalk close to it, but either way, she had shown the ability to run gamely in Grade I company.

Discreet Marq put up another nice race here.  She didn’t have the best start (she, Cloud Scapes, Hard Not To Like, and Centre Court all bumped early), but she was able to get up near the front, and then settled in to stalk Cloud Scapes’ early fractions.  I had expected Cloud Scapes to try to stalk early, but her connections must have been trying a new style.  Cloud Scapes gave it up through the far turn, giving Discreet Marq the lead, though Centre Court was then right on her to challenge.  Discreet Marq got the best of her, too, just in time to face challenges from Abaco on her outside and Hard Not To Like on her inside.  Hard Not To Like, in mid-pack most race, found enough room to get through and past Discreet Marq, and ended up taking the race by a length.  Abaco had great momentum, and it looked on first watch that she nipped Discreet Marq at the wire.  However, the photo showed Discreet Marq had gotten her nose up on the wire just barely before Abaco; she held the place.

My second and third choices both missed the board, but neither finished far up the track.  Centre Court made a run, and briefly got her nose in front down the stretch, but had a whisker less late run than the top three and Emotional Kitten did.  She finished in fifth, 3/4 length behind Hard Not To Like.  Fitful Skies settled back early, in front of only the deep closer Abaco, but no further back than she has been able to handle before.  She did gain a bit on the lead in terms of distance late, but never fired enough to improve her position.  She finished ninth, beaten 3 1/4 lengths.

As a final aside, I did note in my preview that whether or not I was correct about this race, it would be a joy to watch.  It was.  All ten horses in the field fought, and no one looked completely out of it until very late in the game.  The top five horses all crossed the wire within a length of each other; the last-place horse, Class Included, only finished four and a half lengths behind the winner.  This is exactly the sort of thing that’s beautiful to see in any race, but especially a race intended to be of the highest calibre.  This year’s Jenny Wiley certainly fit that bill.

Blue Grass Stakes (GI, three-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles on the synthetic)

In this race, I had Dance With Fate as my first choice, Harry’s Holiday as my second, and Coastline as my third.  Since he raced, Dance With Fate was my contest horse.  For as big a field as the Blue Grass attracted, Dance With Fate was a surprisingly easy top pick for me to make: he is a true synthetic-track horse, the pace looked favourable, and he had shown the ability to stay at the distance.  I knew I wasn’t going to get that too-good-to-be-true 12-1 morning line on him.  I predicted he’d go off at 7-1 or 8-1; his final odds were a bit less, 6.4-1.

Dance With Fate ran exactly the way I expected he would.  He was near the rear early, about a half dozen lengths off the pace.  That pace was set by Pablo Del Monte and stalked early by Bobby’s Kitten, Extrasexyhippzster, Harry’s Holiday, and Coastline.  He started making up ground through the far turn, despite having to go extremely wide; Medal Count was just inside of him, also having made a similarly wide move around the field through the far turn.  Most of the speed contingent faded badly as the stretch approached; the only one still standing as the field came for home was Pablo Del Monte.  Dance With Fate found his next gear passing the eighth pole, though, and pulled past Pablo Del Monte then.  It took a bit longer for Medal Count to do so, but Pablo Del Monte grudgingly gave up second inside the final sixteenth.  Dance With Fate pulled away to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Medal Count, with Pablo Del Monte another 1 3/4 lengths back in third.  Pablo Del Monte still had the rest of the field very well-beaten; he was still over five lengths in front of fourth-place Big Bazinga.

Playing the angle of synthetic horses was a smart way to go in this race.  The top five horses (Dance With Fate, Medal Count, Pablo Del Monte, Big Bazinga, and Coltimus Prime) each had at least one win on synthetic (and, on Polytrack specifically), and at least two starts on synthetic surfaces.  The highest-ranking horse with no synthetic starts was sixth-place Gala Award, whose three previous career starts all came on the Gulfstream turf.  My second- and third-choice horses both had significant synthetic experienced, but managed to underscore the weakness of the Spiral Stakes this year.  Harry’s Holiday and Coastline both got close to the pace early, but faded badly through the far turn.  Harry’s Holiday finished 13th beaten 28 1/4 lengths, ahead of only Vinceremos.  Coastline was 10th, beaten 16 1/2.


Northern Spur Stakes (three-year-olds, 1 mile on the dirt)

In this race, I had Sheltowee’s Boy as my first choice, and Fabulous Kid as my second.  Since he did not scratch, Sheltowee’s Boy was my contest horse.  I noted that Bourbonize was the class of the field, and may like the cut back in distance, but didn’t think the pace was going to quite set up well for him.  I thought Sheltowee’s Boy would likely stay a little closer to the pace, and have a better chance of picking off Fabulous Kid, Knock Em Flat, or maybe Unstoppable Colby.

It was Sheltowee’s Boy who got too far back early.  It was Bourbonize who didn’t, and Bourbonize who picked the frontrunners off.

The fractions were decent: not blistering, but not crawling either.  Fabulous Kid got up front early, and Knock Em Flat stalked just behind — something the latter had not done with any success in previous races.  (Unstoppable Colby, the other horse I thought had any chance of wanting to be near the early lead, never got near and never contended.)  Fabulous Kid had the lead for most of the way, but just didn’t have enough late to carry the field wire to wire.  He faded a bit down the stretch, and crossed the wire a length behind the winner.  Bourbonize, never further off the pace than about five back, was wide through the turn.  Still, he started making up ground as the field turned down the long Oaklawn stretch, and pulled past Knock Em Flat just as Knock Em Flat was overtaking Fabulous Kid.  He ran a race that was just right for the field, and won by a neck over Knock Em Flat.  Fabulous Kid crossed another 3/4 length back, in third.

Sheltowee’s Boy was too far back late.  He was second to last early, ahead of only the far outclassed Northern Merit, and didn’t start his run until too late.  He gained ground down the stretch, and finished fifth just 2 1/4 lengths behind Bourbonize, but kicked into gear too late to ever threaten the top three finishers.

Oaklawn Handicap (GII, four-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles on the dirt)

In this race, I had Golden Lad as my first choice, and Will Take Charge as my second.  These were made before the scratch of Moreno, but Golden Lad looked like an even better possibility to beat the favourite once Moreno scratched since it left him only Right to Vote to dispatch with on the front end.

The pace shook out just as expected early.  Right to Vote set the early fractions, with Golden Lad stalking about a length back.  Carve and Prayer for Relief stalked further back, and Will Take Charge and Revolutionary brought up the rear.  That’s the shape which more or less remained until the far turn.  Will Take Charge made his move around the field coming into the stretch, but went into Golden Lad: he brushed Golden Lad a bit at first, got off him, and then pushed him into Revolutionary as he made his move past.  Despite all the bobbing and weaving, Will Take Charge managed to pull ahead late, and cross the wire 3/4 length ahead of the gaining Revolutionary.  Carve, who had pulled from his stalking place to contend for the lead early in the stretch, didn’t quite have as much left as the top two; he finished third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Will Take Charge.  There was a stewards’ inquiry into that stretch run, and the riders of both Golden Lad and Revolutionary also lodged claims of foul against Will Take Charge.  After over five minutes of deliberation, however, the stewards allowed the results to stand.

Golden Lad didn’t fade badly, but he was never able to pick up the pace after the bumps from Will Take Charge.  Whether Will Take Charge stopped Golden Lad from being able to improve his placing is a matter that can be debated, but he definitely lost momentum as a result of that bumping down the stretch.  He ended up finishing fifth, 3 1/4 lengths from the winner.

Arkansas Derby (GI, three-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles on the dirt)

In this race, I had Ride On Curlin as my top selection, Conquest Titan as my second, and Commissioner as my third.  Since he raced, Ride On Curlin was my contest horse.  I expected there to be gangbusters early speed, and a winner to come from off the pace.  It turns out, the winner did come from off the pace, though not as far off as I thought.

Unsurprisingly, Bayern and Thundergram shot out to the lead; Bayern was in front, and Thundergram stalked close behind, egging him on.  Danza and Strong Mandate were right behind them early, with the rest farther back.  This is notable, in that after so many of Ride On Curlin’s recent races had been run on or near the pace, Jon Court actually took him back this time to make a late run!  He wasn’t deeply back, only about four lengths, but it was refreshing to see him off the pace.  He got into a decent spot despite having been bumped by Thundergram at the start.  Approaching the turn for home, Bayern and Thundergram veered a little farther from the rail, opening a hole.  Danza and jockey Joe Bravo, who had been hanging out there the entire time, knew a good thing when they saw one; they shot through that hole, and pulled away to a 4 3/4 length victory.  Ride On Curlin, with only space outside, pulled outside of Danza, Bayern, Thundergram, and Tapiture.  He came down the stretch down the centre of the track, and was able to catch everyone but Danza despite covering that added distance.  Bayern held on for third, half a length behind Ride On Curlin.

Conquest Titan tried to make a move coming into the stretch, but it didn’t work out as well as hoped.  Borel got Conquest Titan to the rail and saved ground, and coming into the stretch it looked like he was trying to come through behind Danza.  However, he lacked the late energy to improve his position, and lost ground on the leaders late.  He finished fifth, beaten 10 1/4 lengths.  Commissioner, my third choice, was never much of a factor at all.  He was anxious before the race, never improved from his position near the back of the pack, and only passed the badly tiring Thundergram and Strong Mandate.  He finished sixth, 11 lengths behind Danza.

fantasy stable: week 12 postmortem

We are now 12 weeks into the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy horse racing league, and the pictures for the Derby and the Oaks are getting clearer and clearer.  There are still a few points available in the Lexington Stakes this Saturday at Keeneland, though so far it does not sound like any of the horses on the Kentucky Derby bubble within ten points of Cairo Prince’s 24 will be running in it.  Even if they did, it would not change whether any of the horses in my stable were in or out of the Derby starting gate.

That said, let’s dive in and see how my horses are doing.  There is a hodgepodge of good news, bad news, and confusing news.

  • Ride On Curlin – Ride On Curlin needed to finish at least fourth in the Arkansas Derby to keep his Derby dreams realistically alive, and this consistent Curlin baby did not disappoint.  Jockey Jon Court kept him off the pace set by Bayern and Thundergram — exactly what I was hoping to see.  He made a wide move to get around the leaders and Tapiture, the same time as Danza was coming through on the inside.  He couldn’t catch Danza (who finished 4 3/4 lengths in front), but he came down the middle of the track and caught everyone else to claim second.  This put him at 55 points — more than good enough to punch his ticket to Kentucky!  In fact, he has already shipped to Kentucky, and will get some works over the Churchill track.  However, there is one slightly less exciting bit of news to go along with this.  Today, trainer Billy Gowan announced that Calvin Borel was getting the mount on Ride On Curlin.  It’s logical in a sense, since Borel has ridden him in five of his nine career starts, including both career wins.  However, after the nice ride Jon Court gave him in Hot Springs, it’s a disappointment that he will not maintain the mount in Louisville.
  • Conquest Titan – Conquest Titan needed at least a third place finish to advance on the road to the Kentucky Derby, but sadly, it did not happen for him.  He settled in the rear early, as he normally does, and tried to make a run coming into the stretch.  He improved his position approaching the stretch, passing Commissioner as well as the tiring Thundergram and Strong Mandate.  He couldn’t sustain his run, though, and finished fifth beaten 10 1/4 lengths.  There is no clear indication about where (if anywhere) he is heading next, but it will not be the Kentucky Derby.
  • General a Rod – General a Rod did not race last weekend.  General a Rod did not hit the worktab last week.  However, there is still news about him, and it’s the best news possible: he is officially Derby bound!  He sits at 40 points, seventeenth in the standings.  Even if the horses immediately below him were to actually run in the Lexington Stakes and claim points, he is still a mathematical lock for the starting gate.
  • Please Explain – The news about Conquest Titan was disappointing.  The news about Please Explain was even more disappointing.  Last week, Please Explain was disqualified from third place in the Honeybee, and her trainer Tom Proctor fined $1,000 for a medication positive.  The medication involved was methylprednisolone, a synthesized adrenal steroid.  This information posted by Robert Yates, the horse racing reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is all I know.  There seems to be a dearth of information about this, which is distressing since it involves a drug violation in a significant Oaks prep.  I feel awful for Please Explain, I’m disappointed in the barn, and I hope my further efforts to find information about this don’t come up empty.
  • Stopchargingmaria – Stopchargingmaria ended the Oaks prep season with 22 points, after her fourth place finish in the Fantasy Stakes.  This would not be enough to qualify her outright for the Oaks, but would place her in eighteenth place.  Since fourteen horses get into the Oaks gate, only four ahead of her would have to scratch (or decide they were not pointing for the Oaks) for her not to get in.  However, she is stricken through in the official Oaks standings list.  This came as a surprise, as I had not seen any announcements or even scuttlebutt that she was being taken off the Oaks trail, officially.  Hopefully, information will come out soon as to why she is off the list, and where (if anywhere) she is pointing next.
  • She’s a Tiger – On April 10, She’s a Tiger fired a bullet at Santa Anita, working six furlongs in 1:13.20 in the Santa Anita dirt.  There hasn’t been any news over the last week to contradict previous reports that she is pointing toward the Eight Belles Stakes (GIII), which is on the Kentucky Oaks undercard this year.
  • Tamarando – On April 12, Tamarando returned to the worktab.  He’s still at Santa Anita, and he worked five furlongs in 1:01.80.  However, this was on dirt.  His last workout, on April 6, was on turf.  This leaves me a bit confused.  The Derby is almost certainly out, since his twelve points put him thirty-first on the list, and I doubt Hollendorfer will be shipping him to Churchill in case of an opening like Giant Finish had last year.  There’s no good word on where he is heading next, and the workout pattern is puzzling.
  • Shared BeliefLast Friday, Jerry Hollendorfer said that Shared Belief will work at Golden Gate Fields on Tuesday, for the first time since January 3rd.  He also stated that a comeback race in June or July was a possible time frame.  However, this is not the first time that Hollendorfer has said Shared Belief would work, so I am not holding my breath until I actually see him on the worktab.  I’m looking forward to his return — Shared Belief was my #1 draft pick for a reason.  His two-year-old season was dazzling, and I just want to see him running again if he is sound.

At this point, there is a lot to think about between now and April 24, which is the next claiming date.  I can guarantee there will be claiming attempts, though their structure will of course depend on what information I can glean between now and then about who is pointed where, and how I can get the best Derby-month bang for my buck.

to Keeneland! to Oaklawn!

This weekend, Danonymous Racing has a contest going on this weekend, covering eight stakes races: five at Keeneland, and three at Oaklawn.  Public Handicapper has four races this week; they all overlap with races in the other contest, however, so my weekend stakes preview this weekend will cover a total of eight races.  This, of course, includes both of the big Derby preps.

Enough with the intro, though.  Let’s talk about the races!


Commonwealth Stakes (GIII, four-year-olds and up, seven furlongs on the synthetic)

There is a lot of early speed in this race, and no one in particular is a lock to get it.  There isn’t a great closer in this field.  However, there are several horses who consistently bring enough speed to the table, can rate from a bit off the pace if necessary, and have shown some ability not only at the seven-furlong distance but also on the synthetic.  Laugh Track (1), the 2-1 morning line favourite, returns to his favoured synthetic surface after three tries on the dirt.  He finished second beaten just a neck in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last fall, though his subsequent two starts on the dirt haven’t matched that success.  All four of his career wins come on the polytrack, and he looms large here.

Among the rest of the field, Undrafted (5) has a good chance to come home at a nice price.  It has been since his three-year-old year since he has raced on the synthetic, but has seen some good success on it in the past.  He broke his maiden at Keeneland in April of his two year old year, in a Wesley Ward special: four and a half furlongs on the poly.  Since then, he also has a third place finish in a stakes at Hollywood Park last year.  This is his second race of his four-year-old season, off the winter layoff, and his sharp works on the Keeneland poly suggest he’s ready to go, and happy to be back on the polytrack.

Shakertown Stakes (GIII, four-year-olds and up, five and a half furlongs on the turf)

The pace scenario is rather interesting here for a short turf dash: normally many of the horses in such a field are take-the-lead-and-run types, but here nobody absolutely needs it.  Marchman likes it, Go Blue Or Go Home likes it, but they can both rate.  I’m curious to see how the pace shakes out here — my guess is that it’ll be those two at the front and others chasing.

As for who’s going to win?  I want to see local favourite Hogy (9) win, but there are a few more likely.  Top on my list is Havelock (6), who probably likes five and a half furlongs over the Keeneland turf more than he likes peppermints.  He’s coming in off his winter layoff, but won this race by a nose off the winter lay last year, as well.  He went across the pond to race at Ascot and Newmarket and didn’t have much success, but shipped back here — and won the Grade III Woodford — at five and a half furlongs on the Keeneland turf — right off the ship.  He’s working well going into this, his speeds hang with this field decently, and he’ll love being back home.  I’m also interested in Gantry (13) here.  A couple factors weigh against him: he is moving up in class from his last few starts, and he drew the 13 post in  at 13-horse field.  However, he is very consistent: he has been first or second in every race since late November of 2012, including a try in graded company.  If he can overcome the post, he’s a great shot to hit the board here.

Madison Stakes (GI, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, seven furlongs on the synthetic)

Judy the Beauty is the chalk here, and not a bad choice.  She is second in off the winter lay, and won the Las Flores (GIII) at Santa Anita in her first race back from the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint last year.  She has never missed the board on the synthetic, and is a perfect 3-3-0-0 on the Keeneland main.  She has two nice works at Keeneland since her last race, and is coming into this one ready to go.

That said, I’m looking for some value here, and I’m going to try and beat Judy the Beauty with Eden Prairie (9).  I love Eden Prairie in this spot.  After three really nice runs in stakes-level turf routes at Fair Grounds over the Winter, she returns to seven furlongs on the synthetic – a distance and surface she loved at Arlington and Keeneland last fall.  There is a decent amount of early speed in this race, but she has enough early zip to get close to it early, even from the 9 gate.  Her last workout at Keeneland was a bullet four furlongs in 45.60, over the poly.  Finally, she has had a couple of good runs from double-digit gates recently, including finishing second by just a neck in the Raven Run (GII) at Keeneland last year, at this distance.  If someone’s going to bust the chalk here, it’s going to be Eden Prairie.

Jenny Wiley Stakes (GI, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles on the turf)

This race was tough to handicap, though it’s going to be a joy to watch.  This is an honest, big, quality Grade I field of turf fillies and mares, and I cannot wait to see them run!  I may be more excited about this race than I am about any of the others today.

Pacewise, much of the field likes to stalk off the lead.  There is really only one horse who has a consistent desire to get right up on that early lead, and that’s Discreet Marq (8).  If she gets on the lead and sets the early fractions, she’s going to be tough to catch.  Even if, somehow, she doesn’t get right on it, she has shown the ability to rate, giving her a backup possibility for doing well here.  This is her four-year-old debut, and her first race back since that short nose defeat by Egg Drop in the Matriarch (GI) past December; that Matriarch was her first attempt against older horses.  She won a Grade II last year off her winter lay, so expect her to come in fresh and ready to go.  She’s my top pick here.

Other horses I’m interested in here are Centre Court (10) and Fitful Skies (6).  Centre Court, last year’s winner by two lengths, is coming off a nose win over Kitten’s Point in the Honey Fox last month.  Julian Leparoux, who rode her in that last win as well as her streak of three graded wins over last winter and spring, rides her here.  If the early fractions are fast, she could very well get her head up there from mid-pack late to take the race.  Fitful Skies races here in only her second North American start, and her first start at all since finishing second by a head in the GI E. P. Taylor Stakes at 1 1/4 miles over the Woodbine turf.  She is working really nicely over the Palm Meadows turf coming into this, and she is a consistent 10-4-5-0 lifetime over the turf — the only off-board finish being a fourth place finish, beaten just 1 3/4 lengths, at 1 15/16 miles against males.  This distance is shorter than she normally runs, but it’s a good spot for her to come in off the lay, and she is game.

Blue Grass Stakes (GI, three-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles on the synthetic)

A ragtag bunch of fourteen last-ditch Derby hopefuls will head postward today in the Blue Grass, trying one last time to get into the starting gate at Churchill in May.  The field is a mix of turf horse, synthetic horses, and the occasional dirt horses who just haven’t been able to get it together for points, but for whom this looked a more favourable spot than Arkansas (I’m looking at you guys, Extrasexyhippzster and Casiguapo).  Bobby’s Kitten (5) is the morning line favourite, but the fact remains that he has never run a race on the synthetic, and never raced past a mile.  His speed figures are good, his breeding suggests he can stretch out, and if I were to bet exotics, I’d probably use him.  However, I’m not going to get the price on Bobby’s Kitten that I want for this contest as just a single horse, and there are some quality chances to beat him.

Dance With Fate (8) is my top selection.  He has shown versatility in style, having run very nice races from early speed, stalking, or closing positions.  There will be a lot of early speed in this race, so I’m expecting to see him rate from somewhere off of it here.  His last out, in the El Camino Real Derby (GIII), he stalked the pace, pulled ahead going into the stretch, and just got nipped by Cal-bred synthetic monster Tamarando late.  That El Camino Real was at 1 1/8 miles — the same distance as this race.  That may have been Tapeta, but he also broke his maiden over the Del Mar polytrack, so has had experience with this as well.  The biggest question I have with Dance With Fate is the ship from California, but if he handles that well, he’ll be tough.  Harry’s Holiday (4) also interests me a lot here.  He’s a local horse, who saw success through the winter on the Turfway polytrack.  He won the 96ROCK Stakes by a widening eight lengths in February, regressed a bit in the Battaglia, and then last out finished a hard-fighting second in the Spiral (GIII), where We Miss Artie just nosed him out.  The Spiral, just like the Blue Grass, was at 1 1/8 miles on the poly.  He is going to try to get near the front early, and the Spiral suggests that he has the zip to get near there, and the stamina to stay.

Finally, if my picks fail miserably, I’m hoping it is because Coltimus Prime (6) freaks and wins this race.  He’s a long shot for a reason, but he will relish the return to the synthetic, and nothing would make me happier than to see him channel a repeat of his hard-fighting effort in the Display Stakes.  I doubt this is likely, especially since he was reportedly very nervous while schooling earlier this week, but I am still a fan of this horse.


Northern Spur Stakes (three-year-olds, 1 mile on the dirt)

Bourbonize (2) is the class of this field, but there’s just not enough early speed to suggest that the pace is going to set up for a horse who has been coming from as far back as Bourbonize has been in his last few starts.  He has won at this distance before, and may not drop quite so far back, but I’m interested in a horse who’s going to be at least somewhat closer to the pace.

I like Sheltowee’s Boy (6) quite a bit here.  He drops back in class after a fifth-place finish in the Rebel, where he was no match for the top four (Hoppertunity, Tapiture, Ride On Curlin, and Strong Mandate), but got in ahead of the rest.  He has run multiple race shapes — he dropped far back early in his allowance win, though made up ground relatively early, whereas in his maiden win he was up near the lead early to pull away.  He is coming off a sharp five-furlong work, and cutting back to the one-mile distance of his allowance win.  This is a suitable race for Sheltowee’s Boy, and he has a good chance here.  This race also has a few wild cards who are coming in off their maiden wins, and among them there is none more interesting than Fabulous Kid (8).  He broke his maiden in a six-furlong MSW March 29 at Oaklawn, at first asking.  He got on the lead fast and held on wire-to-wire, and then has posted a bullet five-furlong work at Oaklawn since that race.  He stretches from six furlongs to a mile here, but being by Congrats out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare suggests that two more furlongs shouldn’t be an issue.

Oaklawn Handicap (GII, four-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles on the dirt)

Here Will Take Charge (2) returns for the third race of his four-year-old year, though it feels more like it’s another race in one very long campaign, as his winter lay was only about two months (between the Clark and the Donn).  He faces a softer field here than he did in his last few times out, which suggests he may be able to break through for his first win of the year.  He also cuts back in distance here compared to the Big Cap, back to the 1 1/8 miles of the Clark and the Donn.

The drawback to Will Take Charge here is, of course, the price — he’s 1-1 on the morning line, and likely to be bet down even further than that come post time.  A horse with a great chance to beat him at a good price is Golden Lad (6), who won the Razorback Handicap (GIII) in huge fashion last month.  He should be stalking just off the early lead (likely to be set by Moreno and Right To Vote), and has shown enough improvement coming into his four-year-old season that suggests he can stay up with them.  He has never won at 1 1/8 miles before, though he attempted the distance in an AOC at Saratoga last summer, and only got beaten a neck.  He is one consistent horse: he has never finished worse than second since last July, and the most he was beaten by for second has been a length.  He goes up in class here, but he shows up every time he runs, and is my top choice here.

Arkansas Derby (GI, three-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles on the dirt)

Here we have a relatively small field for a late Derby prep, but it’s a good field.  Eight horses will run, as Knock Em Flat is scratching out to run in the Northern Spur instead.  There should be plenty of early pace, with Thundergram (5) and Bayern (8) shooting out to the early lead, and Tapiture (3), Strong Mandate (9), and potentially Ride On Curlin (4) stalking behind.  Those are a lot of quality horses, and I’m interested to see what Bayern does in his first crack at stakes company, but I’m looking off the pace to some horses who have a bit of stakes experience under their bridles.

I say potentially Ride On Curlin, as I am still hoping to see him make one big run, like he did in the Champagne.  I have said this every time, and am beginning to sound like a broken record.  However, I think that’s his better style.  That said, after his run in the Rebel, I’m a little less nervous about seeing him on or near the early speed.  He pressed hard down the stretch there, and fought gamely to hold third after being right near the lead throughout.  He showed stamina and grit.  He has also come back with some good, long works over the track since the Rebel.  He is my top choice here, given his familiarity with the track, and his consistent ability to contend with the Arkansas Derby Prep crowd all spring.

Conquest Titan (7) is another good choice here, because of all the early pace.  It’s clear what we’re going to get from him: a closing run.  Casse even has a rabbit in the field, Thundergram, to help ensure this is the case.  The outside post will help him a lot here, and assuming he handles the Oaklawn track well and fires sharply, there’s no reason Conquest Titan shouldn’t at least be able to punch his ticket to Kentucky here, if not win the whole thing.

fantasy stable: week 11 postmortem

Week 11 of the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league has come and gone, and it was a tough one on the distaff side for Iron Bard Stable, with two horses — and two off-the-board finishes.  Despite there being six league points races this past Saturday, they were the only two horses in my stable running, and my stable’s status has plummeted as a result.

Things are looking a bit more promising at the moment on the colts’ side, with a couple of promising works leading to the Arkansas Derby.  No matter what, I’m going to have a lot to think about in a couple of weeks, come the April claiming day.  It’ll be the last claim before the Kentucky Oaks, the Kentucky Derby, the Black Eyed Susan, and the Preakness, so I’ll have to use my bankroll to score some late-emerging stars if I’m to have any shot at sniping my competition.

Here’s how my stable is doing as of this week:

  • Please Explain – The Fantasy was not what I was hoping to see from Please Explain, simple as that.  She started far back early, and she never made up much.  She was eighth of eight most of it, and only managed to overtake the fading, straggling Haveyougoneaway to finish seventh.  There was no clear excuse for this, especially since she hadn’t shipped out for the race or even raced all that recently.  I am not sure whether she needs a new jockey or easier company.  Either way, she failed to get any much-needed points, and my hopes of seeing her there come Oaks day are pretty well dashed.  I haven’t given up on her, since maybe she will improve late like her sire Curlin or her sire’s currently most prominent offspring, the excellent Palace Malice, but things aren’t looking good for the spring segment of her three-year-old year.
  • Stopchargingmaria – Her Fantasy was slightly better than Please Explain’s, but not particularly good.  She was fairly far back early, though not quite as far as Please Explain was, and steadily made up some ground.  Stopchargingmaria broke slowly, and was wide the whole way through.  That said, she was not so far wide that she couldn’t (or shouldn’t have been able to) make a move.  Stopchargingmaria just never fired much, though, and crossed the wire fourth.  I am still a bit confused that she didn’t run the Gazelle instead, given her love for the New York tracks (including Aqueduct!), but what’s done is done, and Repole and Pletcher sent her to Oaklawn.  We’ll see what she does next.
  • Ride On CurlinAs expected based on Billy Gowan’s previous comments, Ride On Curlin returned to the worktab for a long one this week.  On April 6, he worked 7 furlongs in 1:26.80 at Oaklawn.  Other than that, there has been nothing new, which looks to be for the best.  All systems are go for the Arkansas Derby.  Ride On Curlin currently sits at 15 Kentucky Derby points, 23rd in the standings.  First or second place will get him in the starting gate.  Third will give him a good chance.  Fourth place will mean a few things will have to fall his way to get him in.  Off the board, and he has to hope he’s as lucky as Golden Soul and Giant Finish were last year.
  • Conquest Titan – Conquest Titan is still pointing toward the Arkansas Derby.  He shipped out to Kentucky, and on April 7th worked a bullet 4 furlongs in 47.40 at his dearly beloved Churchill Downs.  Today it was confirmed by Mary Rampellini of the Daily Racing Form that he has shipped down to Oaklawn for the race.  He will need a big effort there, since he’s still sitting in 36th place with only nine points.  First or second gets him in the Derby.  Third, he hopes.  Fourth, he hopes against hope.  Fifth or worse?  He’s out.
  • Tamarando – Tamarando has shown back up on the worktab for the first time since his disappointing finish in the Spiral.  He has shipped back to California, and worked five furlongs on April 6 in 1:02.40.  What’s interesting about this work is that, for the first time since I’ve been following him closely (in other words, since January), the work happened over the turf.  This suggests Hollendorfer may be considering Tamarando for the green stuff, and suggests he is probably not going to run in any further points races for the league.
  • She’s a Tiger -April 3, She’s a Tiger returned to the worktab with an honest, long workout: 6 furlongs in 1:12.80 along the Santa Anita dirt.  There was some suggestion that she may run in this Friday’s Santa Paula Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs over the Santa Anita dirt, and the official press feed from Santa Anita noted that she was nominated, but the draw came out without her in there.  There has been no further word about what prep, if any, she may be running before the Eight Belles.
  • General a Rod – General a Rod still hasn’t returned to the worktab yet after his third-place finish in the Florida Derby.  The General hasn’t lost any ground practically speaking; Wicked Strong leapfrogged ahead of him on the points list, but Toast of New York declared himself off the Derby trail for sure, so he’s still sitting at 14th on the official list.  Other than Wicked Strong, the other big-point horses from the weekend already sat ahead of him on the standings: California Chrome, Hoppertunity, and Samraat.  Barring an injury or a freakish amount of new horses who leapfrog him (combined with no drops from the Derby trail), The General should be in the starting gate on Derby day.
  • Shared Belief – The biggest news about Shared Belief this week is that Derbyologist will offload his future wager ticket to one lucky sap on Twitter who makes him an offer.  I offered him a song for it.  He still hasn’t responded.  I’m pretty sure that’s the best offer he’s going to get for that slip of scratch paper, since Shared Belief still hasn’t shown up on the worktab yet.

That’s how things are going for my horses this week.  So ends this week’s recap — and good luck to Ride On Curlin and Conquest Titan in the Arkansas Derby!

fantasy stable: week 10 postmortem

Somehow, it’s already ten weeks into the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league.  The same eight horses remain in my stable from March, putting me into a possibly slow position at the moment.  However, since I have the most claiming money left, this puts me in very good position to snipe any late-storming Triple Crown candidates coming into May.

Without further ado, let’s see how all my horses are doing!

  • General a Rod – Saturday, General a Rod finished third in the Florida Derby, behind Constitution and Wildcat Red.  He dueled with Wildcat Red, as has been the recurring theme this winter at Gulfstream — but Wildcat Red got the best of him, as did the stalking Constitution.  This gave him twenty points toward the Derby, putting him at 40.  This currently places him 14th among nominated horses on the Derby leaderboard.  His connections are pointing him toward Kentucky, and 40 points should be enough to get the General in the gate, but it hardly feels like a lock yet.  At this point, I am hoping he works toward the Derby, and is trained to rate a little better between now and then.
  • She’s a Tiger – She’s a Tiger returned to the worktab on March 27, going five furlongs in 1:00.40 at Santa Anita.  For once, however, there’s more than just a work to report.  The good news is, She’s a Tiger is now being pointed toward a specific race.  The disappointing news is that this race is not a Kentucky Oaks prep: it’s the Eight Belles Stakes, a GIII sprint on the Derby undercard.  This is a points race for the league, though at the same level as an early-period prep, not a classic race.  Distance-wise, it’s a good first race of the year: seven and a half furlongs on the Churchill Downs dirt, and in plenty of time to possibly run the Acorn if all goes well.
  • Please Explain – Please Explain is one of two horses in my stable who are pointing to the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn this Saturday.  She has ten Oaks points from her third in the Honeybee; first or second should get her in the field in Kentucky, and third will give her a possibility to go.  She posted another work there on March 30, four furlongs in 48.80.  It’s her second posted work since the Honeybee, and a good sign that she has stayed at Oaklawn for her works instead of shipping back to Tampa Bay, and then back.  The scuttlebutt says that apprentice Drayden Van Dyke will have the mount again.  He normally rides at Santa Anita and Turf Paradise, but shipped to Oaklawn to ride her in the Honeybee as well.  Hopefully after a ride on her, he’ll know how to best run her this time around.  I’m hoping not to see her as far back early as she was in the Honeybee.  Depending on the likely pace of the field (not yet announced), I’m not sure she needs to try a wire-to-wire like the Suncoast, but I’m not sure ten lengths back early is exactly how she wants to run.
  • Stopchargingmaria – Like Please Explain, Stopchargingmaria is also pointing to the Fantasy.  She just shipped to Arkansas on March 31.  She is in a similar place points-wise; she currently has 12 points.  First or second should secure a place in the starting gate for the Oaks, and third should keep Stopchargingmaria in the running pending how other preps go.  She hasn’t posted a work in Arkansas, though she did go 4 furlongs in 49.65 at Palm Meadows on March 29.  It was only about median for the horses who worked that day (34/65).  However, she’s coming off a bullet on March 23, and it was probably wise not to expend too much energy in that last work before the ship.  Her jockey had not been announced yet.
  • Conquest Titan – Conquest Titan returned to the worktab on March 29, going 5 furlongs in 1:oo.70 at Palm Meadows.  He is still pointing toward the Arkansas Derby on April 12, and Calvin Borel has been named to the mount.  He replaces Shaun Bridgmohan, who has ridden him four times, including his last three races.  After the ride in Tampa, it is encouraging to see a jockey change, and encouraging to see a change to a jockey who has made some big closing moves in some big races.  It will be Borel’s first time aboard Conquest Titan — though they will be racing against Ride On Curlin, who Borel has ridden in five races.
  • Ride On Curlin – On March 30, Ride On Curlin put up the ever-so-rare published work.  He went 5 furlongs in 1.00:60 at Oaklawn.  According to trainer Billy Gowan, he’ll be back out to work 7 furlongs on the track next week.  Jockey Jon Court, who has not ridden Ride On Curlin in any of his races, rode him during this workout.  He also has the mount for the Arkansas Derby.  I keep my fingers crossed that he will try a big late run like he did in the Champagne, though after the Rebel I am less nervous about him running a frontrunning style.  It will be interesting to see the field announced in the middle of next week, and figure out how the races he is capable of fit in with the likely pace.
  • Shared Belief – Shared Belief is still off the worktab, although David Grening of the Daily Racing Form mentioned March 31 that Jerry Hollendorfer said he may return to the tab next week.  However, this is not the first time Hollendorfer has suggested such a thing, and I will believe he’s returning to the worktab when Horse Races Now alerts me that he has returned to the worktab, and not a moment before.
  • Tamarando – The biggest news about Tamarando this week is that there is no news about him.  He hasn’t returned to the worktab yet after the Spiral, which isn’t particularly surprising since it has only been just over a week since the race.  However, Blood-Horse reported on a list of probables for the Blue Grass on Sunday, and Tamarando’s name was nowhere to be found.  I haven’t found anything reliable to indicate where he is; not seeing him in the Blue Grass probables list, though, makes it sound like he is probably back in California.  It hurts to say this, given that he’s a solid and promising horse, but it sounds like the Derby trail may be over for Tamarando.

fantasy stable: week 9 postmortem

The rubber is hitting the road:  100 point Derby preps start this weekend, which means that races which mean even more in the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy horse racing league start this week!  It’s also a claiming week; claims are due at 5pm Central time today, so expect an update shortly about my stable’s claiming activity.  Before that, though, here’s how the horses who are currently in my stable are doing:

  • Tamarando – Maybe it was the ship.  Maybe it was the natural cycle of performance.  Who knows what it was?  But, the fact remains that Tamarando didn’t fire at all in the Spiral, which blew his best chance yet for points.  I haven’t seen any information as to whether he’s shipping back (or has shipped back) to California, or if he’s going to hang out in Kentucky and wait for the Blue Grass.  He is nominated for the Blue Grass, and out of the remaining Derby preps, that’s clearly the best one for him to point to if he is still on the Derby trail.  I hope he is: this was a bad time to fire a bad race, but especially if he doesn’t ship out of Kentucky and then back for the Blue Grass, he could very well improve.
  • General a Rod – The General returned to the worktab on March 23rd, going five furlongs in 1:01.14 before taking a well-deserved roll in the sand.  It wasn’t quite as fast as his last work, but this is a good thing since energy is at a premium.  He is confirmed for the Florida Derby on Saturday, March 29, and will be breaking from the 6 gate.  It’s a short field for a Derby prep, just eight horses, but five of his seven adversaries are serious contenders: Cairo Prince, Spot, Matador, Constitution, and his old nemesis Wildcat Red.  I still want to say Wildcat Red will be less of a threat at nine furlongs, but I said that about eight and a half in the Fountain of Youth, and he fought tooth and nail to beat General a Rod in a head bob.  Especially with that inside gate, Wildcat Red is big trouble.  General a Rod has 20 Derby points so far — so first or second in the Florida Derby will make him a lock for the first Saturday in May.  Third place may be good if there are some repeat prep winners, or more attrition.  Fourth, and a lot will have to fall into place to get him in that gate.
  • Please Explain – Please Explain returned to the worktab on March 24, going four furlongs in 48.60 at Oaklawn Park.  There hasn’t been anything definite that I’ve seen, but the scuttlebutt seems to be that she’s pointed toward the Fantasy Stakes, April 5th at Oaklawn.  She seemed to handle the track well enough in her first run there in the Honeybee, and she won’t have to ship; the Fantasy seems as good a place for her to prove herself on the Oaks trail as any.
  • Conquest Titan – This week Conquest Titan returned to the worktab for his first published move since the Tampa Bay Derby; he worked five furlongs in 1:01.05 on the Palm Meadows dirt.  He is still pointing to the Arkansas Derby, April 12th at Oaklawn.  The Arkansas Derby is Conquest Titan’s do or die for getting into the Kentucky Derby starting gate; he only has nine points, which will certainly not be enough to get him into the gate.  He needs a first or second in the Arkansas Derby, or he can more than likely kiss his Derby hopes goodbye.  It will be a tough field, but I still love this horse.  Hopefully he will handle the ship out to Arkansas as well as the Oaklawn dirt with aplomb.  There are no guarantees, however, and he probably did lose his best chance of big-time Derby points after his fourth-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby.
  • Ride On Curlin – This is another one in my stable who is pointing to the Arkansas Derby.  He hasn’t returned to the worktab, but he doesn’t publish a lot of works to begin with.  Mary Rampellini of the Daily Racing Form reports that he had a nice gallop on March 24th out at Oaklawn, in preparation for the Arkansas Derby.  This is all good news; hopefully he doesn’t regress from his hard-knocking effort in the Rebel.  (The good news is, it looks like he’s been getting at least a little bit of rest!)  Ride On Curlin sits at 15 Derby points, which means he’ll need a first or second to truly lock up a spot.  Yet another third place finish keeps him in the picture, but leaves him heavily dependent on what other horses do.
  • She’s a Tiger – She’s a Tiger continues to work at Santa Anita.  On March 21, she fired off a sharp five furlongs in 59.60.  There is no clear statement of where she is heading next, though I would not be surprised to see her in the Santa Anita Oaks on April 5th.  She wouldn’t have to ship, and she also had two very strong second place finishes along the track (a head loss to Secret Compass in the Chandelier, as well as her run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies where she finished first by a nose, but was placed second behind Ria Antonia).  The Santa Anita Oaks would be a great place for her.
  • Stopchargingmaria – On March 23, Stopchargingmaria posted a bullet work at Palm Meadows, four furlongs in 48 flat.  She has been working regularly since her disappointing fifth-place finish in the Davona Dale on February 22.  All that’s missing is a clear indication from Todd Pletcher on where she is pointing.  I am still hoping to see her in the Gazelle given her previous success in New York, but it’s anyone’s guess whether she’ll stay down south or ship up north.  The one thing we do know is that she is not racing in the Gulfstream Park Oaks; that race attracted a field of five, and Stopchargingmaria was not among it.
  • Shared Belief – There’s nothing new about Shared Belief this week.  He’s still off the Derby trail, he’s still galloping some at Golden Gate Fields, and Jerry Hollendorfer is still brusque and taciturn.

That’s what’s going on with my stable right now.  There will be another update tonight or tomorrow, once I am able to pore through the claiming results; stay tuned to see if the personnel in my stable remain the same, or if there are any changes to my roster!

fantasy stable: week 8 postmortem

Time is flying in the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy horse racing league — we’re already eight weeks in!  Between the racing action and the information coming out from the connections, it definitely wasn’t a slow week for Iron Bard Stable.  The next claiming day is just a week away: March 27.  I have some serious strategizing to do in advance of that, with all the big preps coming up — and the fact that one of the most promising horses in my stable looks sidelined beyond a doubt for the Triple Crown season.

Without further ado, let’s see how all my horses are doing!

  • Ride On Curlin – I discussed the Rebel Stakes in detail a few days ago, in my most recent weekend stakes race review.  He had been a well-beaten third after a bad trip in the Southwest, and I was hoping that he would show in the Rebel that he belonged in company with the Derby contenders.  After his hard-knocking third-place finish in the Rebel — outlasting fellow speed demon Strong Mandate and finishing just a length behind the winning Hoppertunity — I am happy with what I saw.  He didn’t get that closing trip I was hoping to see, but this may have been even better than that, at least in light of my hopes for his future.  This was his best race yet on the lead against tough company.  It sounds like he is pointing to the Arkansas Derby next, which makes a lot of sense.  He hasn’t had a terrible race on the Oaklawn course, he won’t have to ship, and he has been improving.  Hopefully he can secure enough points there on April 12 to lock up a spot in the Derby field.
  • Tamarando – This weekend brings the Spiral Stakes, where Tamarando is the 3-1 morning line favourite.  He has shown up every race, and raced best in synthetic, which bodes well here given Turfway’s Polytrack.  The biggest question is the ship; this is Tamarando’s first race outside of California.  However, this doesn’t stand to be an enormous worry, given that he has shipped between the northern and southern California racetracks.  He faces some tough competition here, but if he gets a decent pace for a closer and runs the race he’s capable of, he could punch his ticket for the Derby.  He has twelve points going into this race; first place should punch his ticket, and the 20 points for second may even get him there. This race isn’t do or die, though.  It would be best if he won here, but he can always take a crack at the Blue Grass at Keeneland if he doesn’t get enough Derby points in the Spiral.
  • General a Rod – The General was back on the worktab at Gulfstream this week, working five furlongs in 59.50.  After an easier maintenance work last week, it was nice to see him run a speedy one this time around.  At this point, he is still pointing to a rematch with his rival Wildcat Red in the Florida Derby.  The field is shaping up a tough one, with horses such as Cairo Prince and Constitution in the fray as well.  However, Mike Maker should have him fit and ready, and Gulfstream suits General a Rod’s speedy style well.
  • Conquest Titan – Conquest Titan still hasn’t returned to the worktab yet after the Tampa Bay Derby.  As with Ride On Curlin, this isn’t all that strange, as he is not the most consistent for whatever reason about posting published works.  Nothing is particularly new from Conquest Titan’s corner; the last word from Mark Casse is that he’s pointing toward the Arkansas Derby, and there has been nothing to contradict this.  If that happens, though, the Arkansas Derby will be very entertaining from a fantasy stable perspective.  Barring some last minute changes of plans in other races, it will be the first race so far in which more than one of the horses in my fantasy stable will compete in the same race.
  • She’s a Tiger – She’s a Tiger is definitely working toward something.  She has been a regular on the worktab at Santa Anita for almost a month now, and fired a bullet work this past Saturday: four furlongs in a blazing 46 flat.  However, there’s no clear statement from anyone that I’ve been able to find on where she’s pointing next.  I’m willing to hold on for the time being, since she’s clearly a talented horse, but she is going to need some points if she’s going to race in the Oaks!
  • Stopchargingmaria – She hit the worktab again on Sunday, going four furlongs in 50.60 at Palm Meadows.  I heard a bit of scuttlebutt on one of the horse racing related radio shows I listen to that Pletcher may be considering her for the Gulfstream Park Oaks, although I haven’t heard anything concrete to back it up.  I still think Pletcher would be nuts to race her anywhere but the Gazelle — even though Gulfstream is closer to where she is training now, she has taken down two graded stakes at Aqueduct already.  She likes the track, and I would love to see her get a crack at an Oaks prep over it.
  • Shared Belief – There’s not much new about Shared Belief to say right now past the update last Thursday: he is not on the Kentucky Derby trail due to the foot issue he has been fighting.  Jerry Hollendorfer did make a comment this week on a weekly media teleconference (to which I’m not privy, but from which I hear dispatches in both the racing media and Twitter) that he may work within the next couple of weeks.  However, I’ll believe it when I hear it; he has previously said that Shared Belief would work in that time frame, and then he didn’t.  Fantasy league concerns aside, I hope Shared Belief doesn’t work until his foot is ready.  I was hoping to see him this spring, but it will be best for both his health and his future racing performance if he takes as long as he needs to get healed up.
  • Please Explain – This week brought no new news of Please Explain.  She still hasn’t returned to the worktab since the Honeybee a week and a half ago.  However, I expect to see her back on the tab over the next week; it took about two weeks to see her back on the worktab after her Suncoast Stakes win.  I haven’t heard anything yet about where she is pointing, though hopefully it is another Oaks points race; third in the Honeybee got her on the board, but won’t be enough to get her into the race.

That’s about it from this week.  Good luck in the Spiral, Tamarando!