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!

this week in Curlin babies: 3.13.14

Welcome to the first installment of a new feature here at Blinkers Off.  The tagline of this little corner of the intertubes does mention “fannish glee over the Curlin babies”, mainly because I get really excited whenever any of them run, and even moreso when they win.  The least I could do is institute a weekly feature touching on how Curlin’s progeny are doing out on the track!  Tracking every workout in the blog would get a bit tedious to read (though rest assured I am excitedly doing that from my virtual stable!), however this feature will follow recent race results, entries, and other notable happenings related to Curlin’s progeny.

Race Results

  • Curlin On By – A three-year-old Florida-bred out of the Nureyev mare Grandes Jetes, Curlin On By finished ninth in a $75,000 maiden claiming race at seven and a half furlongs on the Gulfstream turf on March 12.  There were ten total horses in the field, and he finished 19 1/2 lengths behind Bartiromo after stumbling at the start.  It was his second career race, and his first dropping in for the tag.
  • Diversy Harbor – Even though dropping the second e in “Diversey” drives me crazy, I’m pretty sure someone was mounting some sort of subliminal attempt to make me fall in love with their racehorse.  Not only is she a Curlin baby (out of the Storm Cat mare Motokiks), but she is also named after a place in Chicago, my hometown.  Last Saturday, this promising three-year-old filly won the China Doll Stakes at Santa Anita, at a mile on the turf.  She closed powerfully to cross the wire 1/2 length in front of Nashoba’s Gold.  This was her second career race, and her second win.
  • Maria Maria – Maria Maria took on the boys this past Saturday, March 8, and acquitted herself well.  This three-year-old filly out of Hollow Miss (With Approval) ran in the same one mile turf allowance at Tampa Bay Downs as Bobby’s Kitten did.  She crossed the wire 3rd, 3 1/4 lengths behind Bobby’s Kitten and 1 3/4 lengths behind the second-place Global View.  She was last early, but made a good closing move down the stretch to check in third.  I’m interested in why her connections decided to run her in this race instead of a fillies allowance, but glad to see that she managed to check in as near as she did to Bobby’s Kitten and Global View.
  • Palace Malice – He may have been mentioned once or twice here, since he is only my favourite horse.  By Curlin out of the Royal Anthem mare Palace Rumor, he started his four-year-old season with a bang by winning the Gulfstream Park Handicap in the gamest way possible.
  • Please Explain – Please Explain is another horse who has been discussed at length already here due to her presence in my Triple Crown fantasy stable.  This past week, this three-year-old filly out of the Pine Bluff mare Lizzy’s Bluff had her first test in graded stakes company, finishing third in the Honeybee Stakes.
  • Skydeck – Skydeck, a three-year-old filly out of the Storm Cat mare Thiscatsforcaryl (making her a half sister to Rapid Redux!), raced for the fourth time of her career on March 7.  She finished 5th beaten 21 1/4 lengths in a one mile maiden special weight on the synthetic, after fading out badly late.  This brings her career record to 4-0-1-0, all in maiden specials on the Turfway synthetic.
  • Slip By – Slip By, still a maiden, is a three-year-old colt out of Fortune Pending (Fortunate Prospect).  On March 8, he raced for the third time in his career, finishing 5th beaten 10 3/4 lengths in a one mile maiden special weight.  In that race, he went off at 46.8-1 — the third-longest shot in the ten-horse field.  His second out, on February 8, he finished 11th beaten 11 lengths in the same one-mile maiden special at Gulfstream in which Tampa Bay Derby winner Ring Weekend broke his maiden.

Racing Soon

  • Fairness – This four-year-old filly out of the War Chant mare No Fair took eight tries to break her maiden.  However, she broke it in style in her last start.  She won a 1 mile 70 yard maiden special weight at Sam Houston on February 28th, by nine and a half lengths.  She returns to the track on Saturday, March 15 at Fair Grounds, racing about a mile.  Fairness has the rail in an allowance race for non-winners of one other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance, or non-winners of two lifetime.
  • Jay Eye See – Jay Eye See is one of the more heavily raced of the Curlin progeny, having a race record of 19-3-3-4 to date.  On February 22nd, this four-year-old colt out of the Nureyev mare England’s Rose finished 7th beaten 11 lengths in a $100,000 Allowance Optional Claiming at Calder at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt.  He is slated to race again this Friday at Gulfstream, in a $100,000 AOC at six and a half furlongs.  He drew the outside post, but the field only contains five horses.  He was not in for the tag last race, and he is again not in for the tag this race.
  • Ride On Curlin – Ride On Curlin, a three-year-old colt out of Magical Ride (Storm Cat), has been covered in detail here for a while since he is in my Triple Crown fantasy stable.  He races this Saturday in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn.

Other News

  • Ocean Knight – Ocean Knight is far from the racetrack.  However, this two-year-old colt out of the Stormy Atlantic mare Ocean Goddess caused some buzz this week after posting a bullet quarter mile in :20.60 during the second session of the OBS March Selected Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training.  He ended up selling to Stonestreet Stables for $320,000 at the auction.
  • Stopshoppingdebbie – Stopshoppingdebbie, a four-year-old filly out of the Wild Again mare Taste The Passion, is undefeated in her five career starts at Emerald Downs.  Four of those wins have come in stakes races at the track.  The Emerald Downs meet doesn’t start back up again until April 12, and there is no indication she is planning on racing anywhere else.  After the winter off, she just returned to the worktab on March 8, breezing three furlongs in 39.20.
  • Top Billing – Out of the A.P. Indy mare Parade Queen, Top Billing had established itself as one of the top contenders on this year’s Kentucky Derby trail.  Unfortunately, he cracked his right front cannon bone in a workout the morning of Saturday, March 8.  He had surgery the next day, which was successful according to all public accounts from trainer Shug McGaughey; he is recuperating at WinStar Farm.  It will be at least four months until he returns to training.

That’s it for this week.  It is my goal to follow all of his runners, from lower-level claimers all the way on to graded stakes winners.  If there’s a Curlin baby you think I missed, leave a comment and let me know so I can add him to my list and cover him or her in future installments of this week in Curlin babies!

fantasy stable: week 7 postmortem

This past weekend was a big one for races, races that did not go as well as I had hoped for the members of my fantasy stable in the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league.  I had two horses race on Saturday, though neither did quite as well as I was hoping.  I wasn’t completely blanked, with one third place out of the two horses who raced, but I still left the weekend with a bit less overall confidence than I had going in.

Enough preliminary blather.  Onward to the horses!

  • Please Explain – It wasn’t strange to see Please Explain away from the lead early in Saturday’s Honeybee Stakes.  However, what was strange was just how far back Drayden Van Dyke took her.  I was expecting her to be part of the pack, somewhere near the middle or the back.  Instead, he took her back over a dozen lengths early!  She did have plenty left for the stretch, and crossed the wire third beaten only one length all told.  The news on Please Explain is mainly good: she acquitted herself well her first time out in a graded stakes, she shouldn’t have a problem with the 1 1/8 miles of the Oaks, and she has now hit the board in all six of her career starts.  As much as I support giving deserving apprentices a shot, I’d also be happy to see a different jockey on her next time.  This isn’t an apprentice thing; I’d be saying that no matter who had the mount, just for getting her back in another zip code that early in the race.  She may be a fast horse, but even the mighty Curlin babies have their limits.
  • Conquest Titan – Conquest Titan went off as the favourite in the Tampa Bay Derby, but ended up crossing the wire fourth: meaning no fantasy points for me, and just five Derby points for him.  It was a bit of an odd race for him; he was closer than usual to the pace early, and then along the rail for much of the race.  Historically, the rail has not quite his best place to blast off and make up ground into and down the stretch.  However, it’s still a bit worrisome that he didn’t have enough in him to at least pick off everyone but Ring Weekend.  It would be a bit less alarming if it were a new jock who didn’t know how to ride him, but Shaun Bridgmohan had the mount.  Bridgmohan had the ride in his very first maiden race, as well as in the Allowance win and the Holy Bull; the latter two were after the realization that Conquest Titan runs best using a closing strategy.  The best news from Conquest Titan’s corner involves his next race.  The scuttlebutt right after the Tampa Bay Derby had him going to the Florida Derby, which would have had me tearing my hair out (had I had any at the time) since the notoriously early speed favouring Gulfstream does not favour his style.  However, as of Monday night, the latest from trainer Mark Casse had him pointing at the Arkansas Derby instead.  The good news is, it’s not at Gulfstream.  The bad news is, it’s still a month away, so it’s a longer layoff than I was hoping for.  Given that the Kentucky Derby is on May 3, and Conquest Titan only has nine Derby points, the Arkansas Derby will be do or die.
  • Ride On Curlin – Since the last update ten days ago, there has been plenty of news from the Ride On Curlin camp.  First off, on March 6, he worked seven furlongs in 1:26.80 at Oaklawn.  It was his first published work since the Southwest, but his team isn’t prone to publishing too many works for him.  All of the word since the Southwest has said he has been pointing toward the Rebel, and sure enough that is bearing out.  The Rebel field was announced today, and Ride On Curlin is confirmed for it.  He is breaking from the second gate.  He also has a new jockey, Kent Desormeaux.  Here is hoping that Desormeaux is able to get out of him the same kind of ride he got in the Champagne.  I was surprised and disappointed not to see him run a more closing style during his third place run in the Southwest.  With as many horses as there are in that field who do best on or near the early speed (Tapiture, Strong Mandate, Hoppertunity, and Jet Cat), the pace could well set up for that kind of a late run.  I hope William Gowan (his trainer) and Kent Desormeaux consider it.
  • Tamarando – Things are humming along just about the same as they were last week, and I’m pleased.  He posted another work on March 8, 6 furlongs at Golden Gate in 1.14:00.  It was a bullet, though among only four horses who worked the distance.  He is still on track for the Spiral on March 22nd at Turfway.  Given how well he has raced on the synthetic, combined with the fact that it leaves him the Blue Grass if all else fails, this is the perfect goal for him.
  • General a Rod – General a Rod made it back on the worktab on March 8 for the first time since his second-place finish in the Fountain of Youth; he worked four furlongs in 51.26 at Gulfstream.  It’s a slower and shorter work than the General normally posts.  However, given that there are still two and a half weeks between now and his projected next start in the Florida Derby, there is time to post some sharper works.  I’m not worried just yet.
  • She’s a Tiger – She’s a Tiger has been on the worktab twice since my last fantasy discussion.  On March 3, she worked three furlongs in :35 flat; on March 9, she worked four furlongs in 48.20.  Both works happened at Santa Anita.  She has 8 Oaks points already, but will still need a good run in a prep to have any shot of being in the gate.  The regular works are promising, but I am hoping for information about a race soon.  If I had to make a guess, I would say the Santa Anita Oaks on April 5.  The only remaining Oaks prep races are that one and the Sunland Park Oaks on March 23; since she only returned to the worktab on February 22, the Sunland is cutting it close.
  • Shared Belief – At this point, it would be bigger news for there to actually be news about Shared Belief than it is for there to be absolutely none.  However, just today, there was something that at least resembles news about Shared Belief!  Keeneland released the nominations for the Blue Grass today, and Shared Belief is actually on that list.  Granted, it doesn’t mean a ton.  A whopping 191 horses — the entire Derby trail, and then some — were nominated for the Blue Grass.  However, it means there is an outside hope of Shared Belief racing this spring.  If he had not shown up on the Blue Grass nominations list, it would have been tantamount to declaring his Triple Crown season done.  (EDIT:  Of course, there was bigger news about Shared Belief less than 24 hours after this entry.)
  • Stopchargingmaria – Stopchargingmaria has still not shown back up on the worktab since the Davona Dale.  Since that race was on February 22, and she was working weekly leading up to the Davona Dale, this seems odd.  There is also no good information on where she is headed next.  The silence is deafening.

This is where Iron Bard Stable stands after week 7 in the contest.  Every week is starting to matter more and more.  Early in the fantasy season, a week or two seemed like almost nothing.  Now?  They’re the difference between getting that Derby or Oaks prep in and being left out in the cold.

Good luck in the Rebel, Ride On Curlin!

fantasy stable: week 6 postmortem

This week in the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league was a relatively light week as far as points went; the only points race this weekend was the Gotham Stakes.  I didn’t have any of my horses running in that race, though I was still a bundle of nerves about Noble Cornerstone, since he had been in my stable until the claiming date on Thursday.  I’m glad I overruled whatever side of me was saying to try and keep him because of the blinkers going back on in the Gotham, because Noble Cornerstone just didn’t run well.  He acted up in the gate, he faded badly, and he crossed the wire dead last beaten 25 3/4 lengths.  I hope he finds his stride somewhere, but it became more than obvious in the Gotham (if it wasn’t already) that the Triple Crown trail won’t be that place.

Even without races, there has been some news about a few members of my stable…though, for the first time this Derby season, there are more horses in my stable with no real updates than there are with updates.  Let’s dive in!

  • Conquest Titan – Conquest Titan is still on track for the Tampa Bay Derby.  He returned to the worktab yesterday at Palm Meadows, working five furlongs in 1:02.25.  It’s not the fastest work in the world, but it’s plenty to keep him sharp for the race without risking tiring him out.  It will be interesting to see who ends up being confirmed for the Tampa Bay Derby, to see whether the pace will set up well for Conquest Titan’s closing run.  At this point Surfing U S A and Coltimus Prime are both in the mix, though there’s not a whole lot of early speed other than those two who are generally considered as candidates for this run.  No matter what, though, this is a smarter move for Casse to make than racing him at Gulfstream again.  It’s the same amount of points as the Florida Derby, probably a bit lighter field, and not the same speed bias as that Gulfstream track.
  • Please Explain – I claimed her last week without having any good information on where she was pointing, just because she looked likely to contend assuming she did eventually point to one.  It would make sense to see her in a race soon, since her sparkling Suncoast win was back on February 1, but I didn’t know for sure.  The news is as good as possible: based on the scuttlebutt I’ve been seeing today, she’s pointing to the Honeybee, this coming Saturday at Oaklawn.  Between that and her nice five furlong work on Saturday in 1:01.00, things are looking promising for the newest addition to my stable.
  • Tamarando – Tamarando returned to the tab today at Golden Gate, working five furlongs in 1:01.80.  It was his second work since the El Camino Real Derby win.  That’s the only update from him, which is just fine.  He’s still working, nothing seems to be pointing him away from the goal of a big synthetic prep like the Spiral.  He looks good to me right now.
  • General a Rod – There’s nothing new from him this week.  He hasn’t returned to the worktab yet since last week’s Fountain of Youth, though I would be surprised not to see him return over this coming week.  He’s still pointing toward the Florida Derby.
  • Ride On Curlin – He hasn’t posted a work since the Southwest Stakes.  It seems a bit strange, but judging from his work patterns, he generally doesn’t seem to do a lot in the way of published works.  I haven’t seen anything to contradict previous reports that he is pointing toward the Rebel two Saturdays from now.
  • Shared Belief – He is still off the published worktab, though he’s training up at Golden Gate.  Dan Ward, an assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, gave what can really only be described as a non-update update yesterday on his condition, which said he was doing well but was short on specifics.  There’s nothing new here.
  • She’s a Tiger – From what I hear she’s still galloping at Santa Anita, but she has no new published works since her one back on February 22nd, and there’s no clear information as to where she is pointing.  Hopefully there will be an update soon, but there really isn’t one this week.
  • Stopchargingmaria – There is no news about her, and she hasn’t come back to the worktab.  The Davona Dale was just last weekend, though, so that isn’t a huge issue.  I am looking forward to some information about where she’s pointing next, though I still maintain it ought to be the Gazelle.

That is where things stand now.  Hopefully Conquest Titan and Please Explain will run big on Saturday, and next week’s report will be a bit more exciting.

fantasy stable week 5.5: the first claim!

And, with that, the first claim period is over.  For those who may be jumping into this story in medias res, the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league allows us to claim horses on the last Thursday of each month.  We each get a budget of $500 (Monopoly money, not our actual money), but that covers the whole league, so prudence is a good thing — especially this early in the season.

I thought hard about whether I was going to make a claim at all, since my stable was pretty strong as is.  Tamarando is a synthetic monster, and he’s pointing to a synthetic-track Derby prep: keeping him was the biggest no-brainer of all.  Conquest Titan closed nicely to finish second in the Holy Bull, and given that he’s now pointing to the Tampa Bay Derby instead of the Florida Derby, he has an even better chance on a track that’s not so obviously speed-loving.  Ride On Curlin will be facing a tough field next out in the Rebel, but he’s a strong horse, and the Curlins tend to get better with time.  After General a Rod’s performance in the Fountain of Youth, he was definitely a keeper; had he bombed, he would have been on the block.  Stopchargingmaria flopped in the Rachel Alexandra, but she was coming off a long lay; she’s talented enough and showed enough her two year old year that I’m going to hang on and see how she does second off the lay.  She’s a Tiger just returned to the worktab, and Shared Belief still hasn’t, but I am willing to give these two-year-old champions one more month to get their acts together and point to a race before I consider cutting them loose.  I’m continuing to take a gamble on both of them, but if either one of them pays off, it’ll be worth it.

The only one left who I considered cutting loose was Noble Cornerstone.  His Sam F. Davis was atrocious.  His only other races were a state-bred maiden win at Aqueduct, and a neck loss to Louies Flower in the Remington Springboard Mile.  That loss in the Springboard was not flattered by Louies Flower’s dead-last finish in the Southwest.

The arguments for keeping Noble Cornerstone mainly involved the fact that he’s running the Gotham this weekend.  The Gotham is a known points race for the league; none of the specific horses I was considering replacing him with were pointing toward any specific points race.  Aqueduct was the site of his only career win.  Furthermore, there’s the issue of the blinkers.  He wore blinkers for the maiden race and the Springboard Mile, and took them off for the Davis.  They go back on for the Gotham.

However, many questions remained surrounding the Gotham.  First off: who has Noble Cornerstone really beaten?  I would say, not much.  None of the horses he beat in either his maiden win or his Springboard Mile second are legitimately on the Derby trail.  Secondly, he’s just now shipping up to Aqueduct for the race.  He has been working at Gulfstream, and worked there as recently at February 25.  The plane carrying the last of the Florida shippers was supposed to send them up Wednesday, but had a cracked window that delayed it until today.  His maiden win may have been at Aqueduct, but two days isn’t likely enough for him to come down from the trip and get comfortable with the track.

I decided the cons outweighed the pros, and decided to put in a claim for a good-looking filly, Please Explain, with Noble Cornerstone as the horse I would lose if I won the bid.  She was already on my radar before the Oaks futures came out; seeing her on the Oaks futures annoyed me a bit because it meant she would probably make her way onto other people’s radars, too.  She broke her maiden at Gulfstream on December 19, at her longest distance to date: 1 1/16 miles.  She won by five and a half lengths over House Rules — the same horse who finished second in the Davona Dale.  This was Please Explain’s fourth time out, and she hit the board in her three previous attempts.  Two of those three, she lost by less than a length; her first time out she was second by just a head to Divine Beauty, wide into the stretch and just running out of distance to close.  Her last time out, in the 1 mile 40 yard Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, she romped by six lengths.

Please Explain is a risk in that it hasn’t been made clear by her connections where she’s pointing, and she hasn’t faced graded stakes company yet.  However, she is a very talented filly who has run with some strong horses in her maiden races, and made it clear that she prefers the route races.  Her pedigree backs up her appearance that she prefers routes.  Her sire is none other than Curlin.  Lizzy’s Bluff, her dam, did not race.  However, Lizzy’s Bluff is by 1992 Preakness winner Pine Bluff, out of the lightly raced Strike The Gold mare Sweet As Honey.  The one drawback in her pedigree is that you do have to go back to her third dam, Cup Of Honey, to find a stakes winning mare on her dam side.  However, she was a router as opposed to a sprinter.

When all was said and done, I bid $32 of my $500 budget on Please Explain — enough that I thought I’d stand a good chance to get her, but not so much that I felt I would be massively handicapped in later rounds were I to successfully get her.  I was the high bidder, so now Please Explain is in my stable.  With full hindsight it turns out I overpaid for her — the only other bid on Please Explain was for a paltry $2.  Still, with this being the first claim period I had no idea how much people would bid, and I figured that I would still have more money left than most stables because this was the only claim I made.  As it stands, there are three stables with more money than me at the moment, and four stables with less.  I’m not in as good a spot with bid money as I hoped, though I am not in a terrible place either.

All in all, though, I’m glad I got Please Explain.  She’s a talented filly, and I can’t wait to see where she goes from here.  I just hope Noble Cornerstone doesn’t make me look stupid by running like a freak in the Gotham.