The biggest day of the Saratoga meet is almost upon us: Travers Day.
Over at Picks and Ponderings, we dive into all the stakes on the card: six Grade I events and a Grade II. I handicap the Travers Stakes (GI), the Forego Stakes (GI), the Personal Ensign (GI), and the Ballston Spa (GII). Paul Mazur takes on the Sword Dancer (GI), the Ballerina (GI), and the King’s Bishop (GI).
(And, yes, I am taking a swing against American Pharoah in the Travers.)
In addition to the written previews, we also have a grid of all of our selections for all seven stakes. If you have any questions about my logic on the Sword Dancer, the Ballerina, or the King’s Bishop, feel free to ask me in the comments either here or there.
Eight horses have entered Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. American Pharoah hopes to complete a Triple Crown…and after the prep season and the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, just seven horses stand between him and history.
As we did for the Preakness, Paul Mazur and I have gone horse by horse, point-counterpoint style, through the Belmont Stakes field. It turns out we see the race just differently enough to keep it interesting…yet there’s one very long shot who we both think has a good chance Saturday.
Two weeks ago, I went to the Kentucky Derby with Candice.
It was my first trip to the Derby (though not my first to Churchill Downs), and my first to any Triple Crown race. It was a bit different than I expected, mainly because I am so used to being a railbird, and yet general admission tickets did not cover access to the apron. We could get to the paddock or the infield. From the paddock, we could see the horses before the races, but would have to watch the races on the screen. From the infield, we would be in the midst of a huge party…but only be able to see the horses when they ran by our section of rail, assuming we were lucky enough to get a rail spot.
Historically, Picks and Ponderings has done a point-counterpoint for the Kentucky Derby, with Paul Mazur and Chris Hernandez duking it out over the Derby field. However, since I joined Picks and Ponderings in the time since the last Derby, that point-counterpoint has become a roundtable.
A few horses we agree on. Others, less so. However, a field as contentious as the Derby provides fertile ground for a friendly little argument.
In our Derby preview, the three of us have our say on every horse in the field as well as provide our selections for who looks best set to take home the roses on Saturday afternoon. Head on over there, see who we like, and leave us a comment if you have anything to say!
Two of my horses raced last weekend. One of them looked, at least from my handicapping perspective, like he would bring some points. One I did not like given the field, but I sat back and hoped for the best.
Neither hit the board.
However, a once-familiar face did. Frosted, who I drafted first overall. Frosted, who went from “sure winner of the Fountain of Youth” to “surely off the Derby trail” in the matter of a moment. Frosted, who Kieran McLaughlin figured out how to get right and get to the winner’s circle in the Wood. The Derby remains a question, since his best efforts have come from the Big A so far. No matter what, his dominance of the Wood made me look a little silly, and my decision seem a bit questionable. I stand by it, since horse racing is a game of opinions; I disliked his Fountain of Youth enough that I decided he had to go. It may have been rash, but I can do nothing about it now.
Here is hoping none of my other decisions end up being as questionable as that one. To be fair, there is very little in the way of decision making that can happen in the short term; the next claiming day is just before the Derby. At this point, I wait to see which horses are pointing toward points races, be they Classics or others.
Last week was a quiet one for my stable. Curlin’s Fox had been entered in the Santa Ysabel (GIII), but she scratched. Instead, she is staying on the grass, and appearing this coming Saturday in the China Doll. That race is a strong spot for her, since she should love the added distance, but a suboptimal placement as far as the fantasy league is concerned.
This week is full of Derby and Oaks preps, with a total of four points races slated for Saturday. Unfortunately, out of all of those races, my stable has a grand total of one horse drawn into any of those. With that, this weekend should end up being more about watching and identifying promising runners to draft this coming Monday than it likely will be about making much headway on the leaderboard. Fortunately, I have $497 of my $500 claiming budget remaining, but I will likely have to make some more aggressive moves soon if I want to improve the prognosis for my stable.
Without further ado, let’s check in with my stable. Very little happened this week, so this update will be a short one.
This weekend featured some exciting races, some disappointment, and a bumper crop of draft anxiety.
Three of my horses raced over the course of the weekend. One of them, Ekati’s Phaeton, sprung a wire-to-wire surprise that netted my stable a healthy injection of points. Another, Keen Ice, bolstered the cause. A third, Frosted, looked like an easy eight points turning for home in the Fountain of Youth…but sputtered and finished fourth.
Going into the last claim, I was left with some tough decisions.
With as many Derby and Oaks preps as are on the horizon for this weekend, there is some action on the horizon. Unfortunately, there is a bit less action than I hoped there would be: with six points races on the schedule, I have a grand total of three horses drawn into a race this weekend.
Once I see what happens this weekend, big decisions await. The second claiming date is February 23. My stable has had a slow start so far, and if most or all of my runners over the weekend fail to fire, this will be a particularly critical draft. It is still early enough in the prep season that it is feasible to get in on the ground floor with a runner without blowing my entire claiming budget…though it will require some luck both in spotting such runners and in not getting outbid for them. With several horses looking questionable at best after disappointing performances, there may be some changes afoot after this week’s preps conclude.
Without further ado, let’s check in with my stable.
After the claims, this week was a mostly quiet week for my fantasy stable. It was quiet in the sense that most of my horses did not race…and also quiet in the sense that the one horse who did run crossed the wire not with a bang, but with a whimper. Most of the horses who did not race at least returned to the worktab. This week contains a bit more watching worktabs and nomination lists than bracing for races, but with another claiming day on February 23, I remain on the lookout for the upside in my current horses…as well as potential additions to make.
The second week of the Derbyologist Triple Crown Fantasy League has come to an end, and the first claiming deadline has passed. It has been a busy few days.
The only points races this week were the Las Virgenes and the Martha Washington, neither of which featured any of my horses. Ami’s Flatter raced in the Sam F. Davis (GIII), which was not a points race. It was not an earth-shattering performance, but it also was not the sort of disaster that would get me to turn on him, especially given that it was only his third start.
From the perspective of who to keep versus who to release, I had to figure out who had a chance in Triple Crown or Oaks Prep races going forward, versus who would not likely score me points. Read More »
Week 1 of this year’s Derbyologist Triple Crown Fantasy League is in the books, and there have been a few more downs than ups so far.
Five of my horses ran this week, four in points races. The week started with Lucky Player in the Smarty Jones: a race with no fantasy points at stake, but which served as the beginning of the Oaklawn series of Kentucky Derby preps. Then, four of my horses raced in points races at Gulfstream over the weekend: Frosted and Keen Ice in the Holy Bull (GII), and By the Moon and Ekati’s Phaeton in the Forward Gal.
Among those five runners, just one of them even hit the board.
The Derby and Oaks Trails fly south for the weekend, as the first of Gulfstream’s official prep races are run this Saturday. Kentucky Derby points are at stake in the Holy Bull Stakes (GII); the fillies vie for Oaks points in the Forward Gal (GII). Three other stakes races, all restricted to three-year-olds, appear on the card as well. Sprinting colts take the spotlight in the Hutcheson (GIII), grass fillies run the Sweetest Chant (GIII), and the turf males have a counterpart in the Kitten’s Joy to round out the card. All in all, Gulfstream’s Saturday card promises a competitive day of racing.
For those who follow a couple of particular spots of interest, the card holds a few points of interest. For fans of the Curlin babies, the Holy Bull features one of his most promising three-year-old sons: Keen Ice, who starts for the first time since his late-running third in the Remsen (GII). For followers of Illinois-bred runners, two-time Hawthorne stakes winner Dom the Bomb tries open stakes company for the first time this weekend. He is currently cross-entered in the Holy Bull and the Hutcheson, though the Hutcheson looks more likely at this point.
The Holy Bull and the Forward Gal are next weekend, and this can only mean one thing: the beginning of the Derbyologist Triple Crown Fantasy League! Last year I played, and wrote regular updates here; this year, the same plan is in the cards.
The draft was tonight, and overall I’m happy with how it went. Last year my stable contained a couple of superstars who either only raced at the end of the league period, or did not race during the league at all. (I’m looking at you two, Shared Belief and She’s a Tiger!) This year, I put a bit more emphasis on horses who are active early in the season, but have some possible upside stretching out to Classic distances.