Picks and Ponderings: Malibu Stakes Day Preview

Friday marks the first day of the new meet at Santa Anita.  The card contains three well-subscribed graded stakes races: the Malibu (GI), the La Brea (GI), and the Mathis Brothers Mile (GII).  All three provide three-year-olds with one more chance to run against three-year-olds only before they turn four, and must navigate the older horse division.  All three races drew large, deep fields consisting of a mix of existing stars (Shared Belief!  Taris!  Heart to Heart!  That gorgeous heart on Heart to Heart’s face, which itself is both literally and figuratively a star!) and less heralded runners who are still trying to make names for themselves in tougher company.

I have detailed all three of those races at Picks and Ponderings.  Head on over there, see what I think about them, and let me know in the comments what you think about the races!

Picks and Ponderings: Cigar Mile Preview and More!

The biggest day of the Aqueduct fall meet is upon us tomorrow: Cigar Mile Day.  At Picks and Ponderings, I took a dive into that Grade I race, as well as the three other graded stakes on that card: the Remsen (GII) and the Demoiselle (GII) for the two-year-old set, as well as the Comely (GIII) for three-year-old fillies.

If you’re more interested in what’s going on out west with California Chrome, Lexie Lou, Tamarando, and friends, Paul Mazur has you covered.  He has a detailed preview of all of the graded stakes at Del Mar tomorrow: the Hollywood Derby (GI) for the three-year-old turf (or trying-turf) set, the Native Diver (GIII) for the three-and-up polytrack runners, and the Jimmy Durante (GIII, nee Miesque Stakes) for juvenile grass fillies.

Derby Trial weekend recap

Last weekend was a wrap for the Public Handicapper prep season, which was the reason why I covered many of the races I did in my weekend stakes previews and recaps.  It was the first time I ever played PH, and as difficult or frustrating as the win-only format felt at times, I feel like I acquitted myself well for my first time in such a contest.  I ended up in 881st place out of 3154 players for the season, and actually managed to finish ever-so-slightly ahead after submitting picks for every single contest race of the season.  I was a few cents in the black leading into the final weekend, and after hitting one out of four winners last weekend (Grand Contender in the Texas Mile), I finished with 11 of 52 winners, and $1.60 in the black.  It wasn’t a smashing result, but as only 962 of the 3154 people who played finished the season at zero or better, it was better than most fared, and better than I was expecting to fare.

What’s my prize for this?  More handicapping, of course!  Between a new season of Public Handicapper starting this coming weekend, the huge Cappers with Causes contest that Danonymous Racing is running through the Triple Crown, and one other exciting yet-to-be-announced handicapping contest I’ll be playing in this weekend, I will have plenty of reason to sharpen my pencils and get ‘capping!

However, before that’s drawn, let’s look back at the stakes races I previewed for this past weekend.

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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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Derby Trial weekend preview

The Kentucky Derby is drawing ever closer, but it hasn’t quite reached us yet.  However, what has reached us is the last week of the Public Handicapper prep contest.  I am nowhere near the lead, but I’m also just barely in the black for the season, so let’s see if I can nab at least one winner this week, and finish that way.  This week was a bit of a challenge, in that there were quite a few unfamiliar horses.  The field of the Derby Trial was generally familiar, but the other three were just a bit newer to me.

However, the only way to learn more horses is to handicap more horses, so let’s get started!

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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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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.

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!

Spiraling into chaos

I got more wrong this week about the stakes races in the Public Handicapper contest than I have in a long time, though somehow I managed not to strike out completely.  The biggest bright spot in my weekend came from my continued belief in the class of Aurelia’s Belle, who notched her first graded stakes victory in the Bourbonette, after three straight on-the-board finishes in other graded stakes.  I also came just a nose shy of hitting the Pasadena, and probably got more right in that race than I did in the others, across the board.


Gazebo Stakes (three-year-olds, 6 furlongs on the dirt)

In this race, I had Boji Moon as my first choice, Dunkin Bend as my second, and Kendall’s Boy as my third.  I wasn’t the least bit happy about my second or third choices; the only horse in this field I wanted anything to do with was Boji Moon.  Unfortunately, Boji Moon scratched, so I was left with Dunkin Bend.  That didn’t work out so well.

Both Boji Moon and Bagg O’Day scratched.  They were speed horses, sure, but there were still many horses left in the race who had seen some success with early speed in previous races.  Of them, only one was actually able to get there: Brewing.  Brewing popped out of the gate, immediately got a length on the field, and made them eat his dust from wire to wire.  He made a mockery of this race.  No one mounted a challenge that could be considered the least bit credible.  It almost looked like Guns Loaded was going to make a move on the inside coming into the turn, but Jon Court asked Brewing for a little more, and he gained a few lengths on the field like it was absolutely nothing.  Big Sugar Soda made enough of a closing move to put away the rest of the field (for whatever definition of “field” applied to this race), but got nowhere near Brewing.  He passed a bunch of tired horses, more than anything else.  Condo Closing was mid-pack for most of the race, and able to get third only because he tired out less than the rest of the horses tired.

As for my picks who actually raced?  Neither of them had a good day.  Dunkin Bend couldn’t get any closer than a length, length and a half from Brewing.  He ran there briefly, and by the time the field approached the far turn, he was fading and done.  He finished 7th beaten 12 3/4 lengths, behind the obviously outclassed Mister Pollard.  May  Kendall’s Boy didn’t fare much better.  He got caught up tight at the start, which didn’t help him given that his previous races have had him nearer the lead.  He never recovered, and finished 6th beaten 7 1/2.  Unlike Dunkin Bend, he at least had a couple excuses, between the traffic early and being right near Mister Pollard when he checked.

TL;DR: Boji Moon scratched.  Brewing looked nice.  No one else did.

Santa Anita

Pasadena Stakes (three-year-olds 1 mile on the turf)

In this race, Quotient was my first choice, Diamond Bachelor my second, and Enterprising my third.  Quotient was my clear first choice, but it was almost a coin flip between Diamond Bachelor and Enterprising.  I ended up selecting Diamond Bachelor over Enterprising only because I thought they had very close chances at the race, and Diamond Bachelor would likely yield a better price.  (That bore out; Diamond Bachelor went off at 2.8-1 while Enterprising went off the 1.4-1 favourite.)  All that said, though, Quotient was my contest horse, since he did race.

The early pace was mostly as expected; No Ma’am and Craftsman set it, with Diamond Bachelor just against it.  Royal Banker and Enterprising stalked.  Royal Banker was the only true surprise to see that close to the pace early.  Quotient surprised me as well; instead of getting right on the lead, he settled about four lengths back, amid the back section of the pack.  Through the far turn and into the stretch Diamond Bachelor pulled ahead to get the lead, with Craftsman just behind.  However, they had to deal with three horses storming in from behind: Enterprising from his position a few lengths back, Quotient with his wide move out from midpack, and the fast-closing run of Home Run Kitten from the rear.  They both gave way late to the onslaught: Enterprising passed first just outside of the leading pair, and then Quotient from outside of him.  Quotient got within a long nose of Enterprising, but it wasn’t quite enough.  Home Run Kitten, flying down the centre of the track, passed them as well, though just ran out of room to get Enterprising or Quotient.  The connections of the first five horses in this race have nothing to be ashamed of; they all ran a strong race, and crossed the wire within not even two lengths of each other.

Home Run Kitten did what I expected Puppy Manners to try and do: make a big closing run.  I expected Home Run Kitten to stalk closer in, since none of his earlier races from farther back worked out so well.  However, he got it together as a closer this time, and fired with some great closing hustle.  Puppy Manners, on the other hand, was just flat.  He was off slow, wide through the turn, and didn’t make any sort of move.  He finished 8th, 13 1/4 lengths behind Enterprising, and ahead of only the badly faded No Ma’am.


Bourbonette Oaks (three-year-old fillies and mares, 1 mile on the synthetic)

In this race, I had Aurelia’s Belle as my first choice, Cheerful Contender as my second, and Shanon Nicole as my third.  Since she raced, Aurelia’s Belle was my contest horse.  If this statement sounds familiar, that’s because it is; Aurelia’s Belle was also my contest choice in the Forward Gal back in January.  That time out, she was game, but no match for the unstoppable lone speed of Onlyforyou.  This time out, her class and experience brought her all the way home.

Aurelia’s Belle got exactly the kind of trip she wanted.  She got in position a few lengths behind the leading pack, found a hole between Sloane Square and Zensational Bunny coming into the far turn, and slowly opened up ground from Sloane Square on her inside down the stretch.  Sloane Square held on for second, the only one of the early speed pack of her, Zensational Bunny, and Stormy Novel who was able to stay on and hit the board.  Katie’s Eyes, I underestimated.  She had never raced against a field anything like this; her only races had been a third-place finish in a maiden sprint at Fair Grounds where she was an 18-1 shot, and a win in a restricted stakes that was so weak that she — a once-raced maiden — was the 1-5 favourite.  She stalked from the pack, but unlike the rest of the pack, she didn’t fade.  I thought she’d be outclassed here, but she held her own — simple as that.  She couldn’t catch up to Sloane Square or the advancing Aurelia’s Belle, but had enough to finish 3rd: 4 3/4 lengths behind the winner, but another 2 3/4 ahead of the fourth-place La Mejor Fiesta.

My second and third choices did not fare nearly as well as my primary pick.  Cheerful Contender was never any factor.  She was bumped by La Mejor Fiesta at the start, fell back to last early, and never made any kind of dent.  She finished 10th, 25 3/4 lengths behind Aurelia’s Belle, and only in front of Somerville Miss.  This is the second race of her career in which she has had a bad start, and agains, she just could not recover.  Shanon Nicole got into the stalking pack early, but steadily faded back.  She ended up 8th, beaten 23 3/4 lengths.  She was a rather lukewarm third pick fro me here, but I thought if she was able to get up in a stalking place relatively early, she’d have a shot.  Instead of being back early and then gaining to stalk, she stalked early and faded back.  There wasn’t a clear excuse I could see for the poor performance, especially since she had shipped before and raced okay after the ship.

Spiral Stakes (three-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles on the synthetic)

In this race, I had Tamarando as my first choice, All Tied Up as my second, and Smart Cover as my third.  Smart Cover, as my third choice, I knew was an attempt at a bomb: if there were so many scratches that I lost Tamarando and All Tied Up before the race even began, I may as well select the longshot horse who I thought had the best chance to win.  As with most things in this race, was I ever wrong!

It turns out I hopped off the We Miss Artie train way too early.  After his run in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, he was my horse in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile — but faded, and disappointed.  With his one good race since the Breeders’ Futurity being the Kitten’s Joy on turf, I should have given him a bit more credit on his return to synthetic.  I didn’t, and that burned me.  He got in mid-pack early, steadily advanced, and had enough to just nip Harry’s Holiday at the wire.  Harry’s Holiday, a Turfway local who won the 96ROCK Stakes earlier this year and then finished third behind Solitary Ranger in the Battaglia, was the only member of the early speed brigade who did not fade out.  I thought his speed in the 96ROCK was a fluke, but he proved in the Spiral that it wasn’t.  Almost Famous faded badly into the far turn, and Solitary Ranger gave way badly through it.  Harry’s Holiday?  He was pure game.  He stayed on the lead, kept his head in front of the challenge mounted by third-place Coastline, and was just barely nosed out by We Miss Artie for the win.  Coastline did make a good run up from his stalking place, but Harry’s Holiday just would not let him pass.

I was far too optimistic about Tamarando’s ability to fire off the ship.  The fractions weren’t encouraging, though — for as many horses as were on the lead, the fractions were not that fast.  The fractions weren’t that fast in the El Camino Real, either, but at least Tamarando wasn’t quite as far back.  He made up a decent amount of distance going into the far turn, but got caught six wide, tried momentarily to make a run into the stretch, but really didn’t fire.  He finished 8th, 11 1/2 back.  All Tied Up fared a bit better.  He was back early, but able to get into a decent pressing place.  However, he couldn’t sustain any kind of run into the stretch, and ended up 6th beaten 6 1/2.  He got nowhere near the front five, but was well ahead of the rest.  Smart Cover, my attempt at a long shot bomb, had his second terrible race in a row.  He was far back early, and saved ground — not in itself worrying, since he tends to be a very deep closer.  However, he not only didn’t fire, but he faded badly.  He lugged in twelfth and last, thirty-six lengths behind We Miss Artie.  Clearly, I picked the wrong long shot; Harry’s Holiday was the real dark horse of the day.  Even though he wouldn’t have won me any points in the contest, the Turfway local made the best run of any of the long shots, and almost took the whole thing.

Spiral weekend!

This week, the Public Handicapper contest features four races: two at Turfway (a track I’ve never handicapped before…), one at Oaklawn, one at Santa Anita — and all for three-year-olds.  There’s no need for too much jibber-jabber.  Let’s just dive into the races!


Gazebo Stakes (three-year-olds, 6 furlongs on the dirt)

It’s never fun to pick a race apart only to realize that the only horse you want anything to do with in the race is going to be complete chalk.  Alas, this was what I found in this race full of three-year-old speedball sprinters.  Some are coming up from the maiden ranks, some are dialing back in distance from longer stakes attempts, and they all have one thing in common: they’ve done their best work either on, or no more than a length or two off of, the lead at all times.  They’re not all going to get all the way up there, so to win this race, a horse needs two things: to be able to contend if he’s not the one horse who gets the lead to start, and to be able to go six furlongs faster than anyone else in the field can.

Only one horse in this field has shown speeds that consistently excel with this field, combined with the ability to win from a few lengths back.  That’s the 2-1 favourite, Boji Moon.  I will be surprised if he’s not bet down to odds-on by post time, but in a win-only handicapping competition, I would want a horse who has a shot to win.  If I were playing an exacta, I’d consider filling that second rung out with Dunkin Bend or Kendall’s Boy.  Dunkin Bend is coming in off of a two and a half month lay, but the cut back to his preferred six furlongs combined with the move to a more successful barn at this track should bode well for his return.  Kendall’s Boy is coming off an absolutely terrible run in the Southwest, but has been showing steady improvement in sprint races.  Cutting back to six furlongs here, combined with the experiences against classier competition, could be good for hitting the board against this field.

Santa Anita

Pasadena Stakes (three-year-olds 1 mile on the turf)

This race has an interesting mix of horses: some Derby prep runners who likely preferred the turf all along, some turf sprint runners who are trying the stretch out to a mile, and even a couple of horses coming straight here out of maiden wins.  There isn’t a ton of early speed in this race; the only ones in the field who really prefer to be on the lead are Diamond Bachelor, Quotient, and No Ma’am.  Enterprising is likely to stalk pretty close back from that crowd, and then the rest will be likely to chase from further back, and try to make a move later.

Quotient is fascinating here.  He is one of only two horses (No Ma’am being the other) who are coming into this race from a maiden win.  Quotient broke his maiden last time out (his second career start) at Santa Anita on the turf, hanging just off the lead for most of it before kicking ahead late.  What makes this interesting is the distance of the maiden race: 1 1/8 miles on the Santa Anita turf.  He showed that he’s not only got the speed to hang with this field, but stamina to spare given that this is only a mile race.  He is my prime choice.

Two of the other horses up front, Diamond Bachelor and Enterprising, warrant particular mention.  Diamond Bachelor has had two straight not-so-good races: the Breeders Cup Juvenile last fall and the Robert B. Lewis last month.  However, both of those were on the dirt, and both were at 1 1/16 miles.  He racked up two wins, as well as a 3/4 length second behind Aotearoa, in his three races at a mile on the turf.  The combination of the return to his preferred distance and surface, with the fact that this is his second race off of a three-month lay, bodes well for him here.  Enterprising, another horse who is returning to his much-loved turf miles after a couple of attempts at longer races on the Golden Gate Tapeta surface, has shown some of the best speed of the field.  He drops in class here, and is a definite contender, albeit at what’s destined to be a low price.

If the early pace goes faster than expected and sets up for one of the closers to get his nose up on the wire, look to Puppy Manners.  The outside post isn’t great, but he is helped by the fact that he doesn’t have to get extremely far back to close — so his ability to close isn’t quite as desperately dependent on pace as others.  He likely won’t have too much ground to cover, and may prevail for a share at a good price no matter what.


Bourbonette Oaks (three-year-old fillies and mares, 1 mile on the synthetic)

I like Aurelia’s Belle here, a lot; she is my top choice here.  She only has a maiden win to her name, but has hit the board in three graded stakes races since: the Old Hat, the Forward Gal, and the Davona Dale.  She’s returning to the polytrack; her maiden win was at six furlongs on the main track at Keeneland.  She also gets back Channing Hill, the same jockey who rode him in that maiden win.  Getting her preferred spot a few lengths off from the lead shouldn’t be a problem, since she has plenty of speed to do it and is breaking from the four gate.

Cheerful Contender interests me here as well.  She ran her first two career races on the synthetic at Woodbine, winning her second out at 1 1/16 miles by six lengths.  She didn’t have a great time in the Martha Washington at Oaklawn — her first attempt at a stakes, and her first trip on dirt.  She was off a bit slow and never really got up there.  However, in her last start, she won an allowance at 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn.  Here, she’s cutting back to a mile, and is switching back to the synthetic.  There isn’t a ton of early speed here: other than her,  it’s just Zensational Bunny and possibly Sloane Square or Katie’s Eyes.  If she can get up on or near the lead early, a good possibility with only two slower horses inside of her at the start, she could contend.

Spiral Stakes (three-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles on the synthetic)

This race is interesting, since there are a lot of speed horses, and a lot of closers.  The end of this race could be a free-for-all between the speed horses who can stay and the closers fighting to get up there.  Two of the buzz horses going into this race are ones who like the early speed a lot: Solitary Ranger and Coastline.  However, there are concerns about the nine furlong distance here, and both of them have tended to lose ground at the end of their mile and a sixteenth races.  Solitary Ranger is also stepping up in class from his last few starts.  They are both talented horses, but I have doubts about whether either of them are going to handle the distance.  I’m going to look elsewhere.

He is going to be very chalky, but I do like Tamarando here.  He has never run a bad race, and all four of his career wins are on synthetic tracks.  Furthermore, he is one of only two horses in the field (the others being Asserting Bear and Smart Cover) who has even run 1 1/8 miles, which he did in his El Camino Real Derby win.  This is his first time shipping out of California, but he has shipped between the northern and southern California circuits, so the ship should not be a huge issue.

Another horse who interests me a lot here is All Tied Up.  The question here is whether he will like synthetic; all of his races so far have been on the turf.  However, trainer Todd Pletcher tends to have success moving horses from the turf to the synthetic, and he retains Luis Saez, who rode him in his most recent win.  His two career wins have been in routes, 1 1/16 miles.  He has been gaining on the field near the end, which suggests he may handle the extra half furlong well.  Also, he has shown success from multiple race shapes, either a close stalking position or by closing from further back.  All Tied Up is stepping up to stakes company for the first time in his career, but assuming he likes the move from turf to synthetic, he’s a live longer shot here.

Smart Cover’s morning line is 20-1; he doesn’t seem a sure shot to win, but 20-1 seems like a significant overlay.  Sure, there are a few things going against him.  He has never run on the synthetic: he has been on the turf twice, and the dirt twice.  Last out, he had a terrible run in the Palm Beach Stakes at 1 1/8 miles: he stumbled out of the gate, and then didn’t fire on his closing run.  However, there are some explanations that suggest he could run better here.  The Pam Beach was his first race off of a six-month lay, since his second-place finish behind Cleburne in the Iroquois.  That race was at 1 1/16 miles, and he only lost by a fast-closing neck.  This suggests that he has the distance in him.  If he improves with this being second off the lay, he could spring a surprise here.

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!

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.