back from their layoffs

Over the weekend, three Curlin babies made their first starts off of sizable layoffs.

One of them fell off the Derby trail early, and finally started again for the first time in a year.  Another had a fraught journey down the Oaks trail, tried turf once in August, and then spent six and a half months off the track.  The third had a short two-year-old campaign, and returned to take his first step down the Derby trail since October.

They all finished fourth.

Read More »

this week in Curlin babies: 12.15.14

Welcome to another installment of this week in Curlin babies: all the news that’s fit to print about Blinkers Off’s favourite sire.

In the very first edition of this week in Curlin babies, I mentioned a two-year-old colt who garnered some attention after a fast breeze at the OBS March sale of two-year-olds in training, and sold to Stonestreet (who campaigned none other than the mighty Curlin) for $320,000.  His name was Ocean Knight.  He debuted on the track this week, and he did not disappoint: he was much the best in a maiden special weight at Aqueduct, suggesting nothing but promise for the future.  Ol Donyo, already a multiple stakes winner, also added her first career graded stakes placing over the last week, with a fast-closing third-place finish in the Grade III Sugar Swirl Stakes.  Blue Violet also achieved another stakes placing this weekend, finishing third behind Honey’s Ryan and Diva’s Diamond (an Illinois-bred, to connect to another particular interest here at Blinkers Off!) in the She’s All In Handicap at Remington.

Without further ado, let’s see what Curlin’s runners have been doing on the track lately! Read More »

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!

Top Billing? really?

Catching up on horse racing news this morning was less fun than it has been in a very long time.  As excited as I am about the big racing going on today, I was so sad to hear that Top Billing cracked his right front cannon bone during this morning’s work, and is off the Derby trail.  Him dropping off the Derby trail affects me like few others would.  He’s a son of Curlin; it’s no secret that Curlin is my favourite sire, and I cheer for his progeny to do well.  He ran a well closing third in the Fountain of Youth, and was better equipped pedigree-wise to handle the Classic distances than either General a Rod or Wildcat Red.  He had nowhere to go but up, and now he’s laid up in the barn.

The good news is that the injury does not appear to be life-threatening.  According to trainer Shug McGaughey, Top Billing is going back to Kentucky today and having surgery to fix the bone tomorrow or Monday.  As a fan, I hope he gets all the time and space he needs to recover, and is able to race and race well once his bone heals up.

I can’t spend too much time moping about this, because I have only about three hours before the first post at Hawthorne, and need to handicap that card.  However, I’m going to miss Top Billing, who along with Conquest Titan had become one of my two favourite Derby trail horses up to this point.

Good luck, Top Billing.

weekend racing recap: part 1

This past weekend, I posted pre-race thoughts on thirteen races: the four stakes races that were part of the Public Handicapper contest this weekend, as well as the nine races on Sunday’s Hawthorne card.  In the interest of making this a manageable length, the recaps will be split up.  The stakes from the contest will come first; the Hawthorne recaps will follow in a separate entry.

Fair Grounds: Mineshaft Handicap (GIII, 1 1/16mi on the dirt)

In this race, I had Fordubai as my first choice, Prayer for Relief as my second, and Mister Marti Gras as my third.  Since he raced, my contest horse was Fordubai.

It turned out Grand Contender, not Afford or Bradester, ended up being the early speed in this race.  Going back over my notes, I can only account not listing him among the likely early speed horses in my preview to scrivener’s error; I had him marked in my notes as a horse who wanted the early speed, that I liked him to hit the board, but didn’t like him to win since he had never won at over a mile.  That panned out, as he set the pace for much of the race, but was beaten down the stretch.  Afford, who I thought was outclassed, was.  He couldn’t get up for that early lead, and even though he gained some down the stretch, he was never a serious threat to hit the board.

I did get correct that a stalker would win the race.  However, that stalker was not who I expected: it was Bradester.  I thought he’d get straight to the lead, but instead he stalked a few lengths off early.  I expected him no more than a length off the lead.  I noted he was on a class jump, and would likely want to use him in exotics given his good recent allowance runs as well as Rosie Napravnik’s success at Fair Grounds.  However, I didn’t expect him to win, and thought he was going to be bet down hard from his 6-1 morning line thanks to his jockey.  That was wrong; he went off at 6.7-1, slightly better than his morning line odds.

Fordubai, the horse I picked to win, didn’t run the race I expected.  He didn’t stalk the pace.  He started far back, probably at least in part due to his outside post position.  He was entirely too far back for a horse who doesn’t close, and only fired hard enough down the stretch to gain the show.  It would have been enough, possibly, if he got close enough to the pace early; he just didn’t.  Prayer For Relief, my second choice, was just flat, with no clear excuse.  He never got past the middle of the pack, and faded a bit late.  My third, Mister Marti Gras, likewise had no real excuse (other than possibly being rusty after the three-month lay), but didn’t really show up.  He stayed near the back of the pack from wire to wire, with no real moves.

Fair Grounds: Risen Star Stakes (GII, 1 1/16mi on the dirt)

In this race, I had Gold Hawk as my first choice, Rise Up as my second, and Vicar’s In Trouble as my third.  I thought Rise Up was the most likely horse to hit the board, but thought he would be caught by one of the horses from the back to win.  Therefore, since this contest is win-only, I selected the horse who I thought had a chance to catch up and take the race, hence my choice of Gold Hawk here.

There wasn’t much I got right in this race.  Neither Rise Up nor Vicar’s In Trouble set the early fractions: Albano did.  Rise Up stalked behind early in the race, which wasn’t a huge shock since he did break his maiden from a stalking position.  However, instead of catching up, Rise Up faded badly — something I was not expecting since he had been tested at this distance before, and the early fractions in the Risen Star were slower than those of the Delta Jackpot.  Vicar’s In Trouble spent the first few furlongs in the middle of the pack, got close coming into the stretch, weakened, but still held on for the show.  However, the performance of neither Rise Up nor Vicar’s In Trouble screamed “I’m going to love the Classic distances!”.

Gold Hawk, my first choice pick, looked even worse than either Vicar’s In Trouble or Rise Up.  He was closer to the pace early than the Vicar was, was making a move through the stretch, and then just faded with no clear reason.  That’s two straight races (the LeComte, and then this one) when he has just not fired; it looks like he is outclassed on the Derby trail.

I had my eye on one other horse in this race, Hoppertunity, because he is in my stable for the Brooklyn Backstretch contest.  The shape of this race for him reminds me a lot of the shape of his maiden race — he got caught way back early, improved position somewhat, but wasn’t able to threaten the leaders.  I’m not ready to write him off quite yet since the Risen Star was only his third race (and his first against winners), but this may suggest a certain lack of versatility if it keeps happening as the sample size grows.

About the only thing I did get right was that there would be a horse who wanted that early speed, and that there would be a horse who would nab him late.  However, the horse who got that early speed was Albano — who I knew liked the early speed, but thought had no chance to maintain it with Rise Up and Vicar’s In Trouble in the field.  The horse who nosed Albano out for the victory was Intense Holiday.  I thought Intense Holiday may have had a shot to hit the board, since he had previously run at more than a mile and not completely embarrassed himself (unlike much of the field), but he had never quite gotten there to hit the wire first when trying to run from off the pace — a style he had clearly been trying in the Nashua, the Remsen, and the Holy Bull.  He put it together in the Risen Star, and he is almost certainly Derby-bound as a result.

Gulfstream: Canadian Turf Stakes (GIII, 1mi on the turf)

In this race, Reload was my first choice, Rydilluc was my second, and Mr. Online was my third.

Reload didn’t scratch, so he was my contest horse — and fortunately, he injected a bit of much-needed fake money into my contest ledger after winning the race.  His odds plummeted from 8-1 morning line down to 4.8-1 at post time, so I was clearly not the only person who noticed he was a live one.  As for Reload’s race shape, it wasn’t quite as I expected.  I expected from his past races that he would be on or very near the early lead, not a few lengths back as he was.  However, seeing a bit of change in tactic wasn’t a huge surprise, since this was only Reload’s second race ever on the turf.  He stalked, got the rail and edged closer coming into the stretch, and overtook Mr. Online as the wire approached.

It was Mr. Online and Rydilluc, two of the horses I very much expected to be on the early lead, who were 1-2 for most of the race.  However, as Mr. Online gamely dug in to try and keep that lead (and ultimately finish second by a neck), Rydilluc faded to fifth down the stretch.  I’m not counting Rydilluc out for good on turf miles; this may have just been a function of him coming off the long lay.  The proof will be in the next start or two for him.  Mr. Online, on the other hand, proved himself once again to be as game as they come, and extended his streak of no-worse-than-second place finishes to nine races.

Gaining the show in this race was Salto.  He ran just about as I expected, though maybe a bit further off the pace.  However, he was gaining on Mr. Online late; just as I expected, he raced like he needed a bit more distance to do his best work.  Salto is a very good horse, but he needs another furlong or so.

Gulfstream: Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII, 1 1/16mi on the dirt)

In this race, I had Top Billing as my first choice, General a Rod as my second, and Wildcat Red as my third.  That was the trifecta — just not in quite the right order.

The race unfolded very much like I expected, with Wildcat Red and General a Rod getting on that early speed.  The past performances suggested that they were the fastest horses there, and that bore out.  Basically a matched pair, they ran head-and-head from the time the early pace settled until the wire.

The error I made in picking the race was thinking the early speed would be too much to hold up.  Gulfstream was a conveyor belt on Saturday, and being the best of the speed was your ticket to victory.  On top of that, both General a Rod and Wildcat Red proved that they are capable of holding plenty of speed through a mile and a sixteenth.  Their fractions did slow a little, and Top Billing ate into their advantage, but those two leaders didn’t fade away.  Given his pedigree, this wasn’t much of a surprise for General a Rod.  For Wildcat Red this was a bit more unexpected, and it will be interesting to see him in the 1 1/8 mile Florida Derby.  It will also be interesting to see him finally run on a track other than the Gulfstream dirt (the site of all six of his starts), though that almost certainly won’t happen until Derby day.  Wildcat Red does have a stronger pedigree for sprinting than routing, but at least at a mile and a sixteenth, he has proven himself more than legitimate.

Top Billing was able to catch everyone else, but could only get within two lengths of the twin speed demons.  Combine the track’s love for speed with Top Billing having to start that race from the 12-hole, and it adds up to no lost faith whatsoever in Top Billing.  He ran a strong race, and proved in his first stakes appearance that he deserves to be there.

a handful of Saturday races

This is a big weekend, with two Derby preps: the Fountain of Youth and the Risen Star.  These two races, in addition to two other stakes for older horses, are the contest races for Public Handicapper this weekend, and the first of the races I’m going to discuss here this weekend.

I say first, because Hawthorne is back in action as of today!  I am watching the live stream thanks to Horse Races Now, but couldn’t make it to the track today.  This all changes Sunday, when I will enjoy my first day at the track of 2014.  I’m getting to the track early, handicapping the races, and planning to post my observations on them here Sunday before post time.

Anyway, on to Saturday’s races!

Gulfstream: Canadian Turf Stakes (GIII, 1mi on the turf)

There are a lot of horses in this race, including many of the classier ones, who like to be on or right near the early lead.  It will be interesting to see how Rydilluc does in this one.  He hasn’t raced since getting trounced in the Secretariat Stakes last August, but he is working well, and before that lay he has been a career three-for-three in turf miles.  This, however, is his first turf mile attempt against older horses.  Speaking of consistent turf milers, Mr. Online is coming into this race from two straight wins in turf miles — and he has finished first or second in his last eight races, at distances ranging from 5 1/2 furlongs to a mile and seventy yards.  All three miles in that stretch have been wins, although the only stakes among them was the El Prado, which he won by a head over Salto.

As for horses who aren’t early speed, Guys Reward is interesting coming off his win in the Tampa Bay stakes three weeks ago.  He has strung together consecutive wins before, so a bounce isn’t a huge risk.  What he will have to overcome is the outside post he drew — he has never won from any further out than the sixth post, and he is racing from the 11 gate here.

An intriguing live longer shot is Reload, 8/1 on the morning line.  He has been a solid enough allowance level horse on dirt, but never could get it done in stakes company.  However, last out he wired the field in a $100,000 AOC N1X at Gulfstream at a mile in his first out on turf.  That promising race, combined with all his recent bullet works on the turf, suggest the grass may just be Reload’s surface.  I think Shug McGaughey knows what he’s doing here, putting Reload in the Canadian Turf, and in fact he’s my choice to take the race.

Gulfstream: Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII, 1 1/16mi on the dirt)

There are so many horses in this field that like to be near, or right on, the early lead.  The only true-blue closer in this field is Top Billing.  The outside post isn’t great, though he has gotten a bit of relief; with Casiguapo’s scratch he moves in from the 12 gate to the 11.  That aside, if he runs the race he’s capable of he’s fast enough to catch the field, especially with the plethora of horses there who like the lead.  The only other horse in this field who shows even a decent aptitude from coming in from far off an early pace is Our Caravan, but he’s also coming from an outside post, and hasn’t quite shown the speed necessary to overtake the class of this field.

In the category of early speed, Wildcat Red is the class of that bunch.  His head has crossed the wire in every sprint race he has run (though he was disqualified to second in the Gulfstream Juvenile Sprint Stakes in November).  He acquitted himself well when he stretched out to a mile, finishing second in the Gulfstream Derby behind General a Rod after they spent the entire stretch bobbing heads next to each other.  The ability for Wildcat Red to stretch to Classic distances is questionable at best; however, he will likely perform well at the 1 1/16 miles of the Fountain of Youth given how well he appeared to be sustaining himself to the end of the Gulfstream Derby.  Another among the horses near the front who looks good is the aforementioned General a Rod.  He stalked Wildcat Red in the Gulfstream Derby, pulled even with him out of the far turn, and won the head bob to the wire.  He is fast, he looked good down the stretch in that mile race, and even though he has not raced past a mile, his pedigree (by Roman Ruler out of Dynamite Eyes (Dynaformer)) doesn’t raise any red flags that the distance will be an issue.  Another bright point for General a Rod is that he broke his maiden from far off the pace — a style that may come in handy in this large, speed-heavy field.

All these things considered, I just don’t see early speed holding up in this race.  I don’t expect General a Rod or Wildcat Red to do badly, and would not be surprised if one or both of them hit the board, but Top Billing is my pick here.

Fair Grounds: Mineshaft Handicap (GIII, 1 1/16mi on the dirt)

There are a few horses who really want to be on early speed, Afford and Bradester.  Afford is probably outclassed here, a decent allowance-level horse who really can’t get it together against the kinds of horses he faces here.  Bradester is probably the better of those two, but he’s taking a class jump here, having competed mainly in allowance races.  If he doesn’t bounce off of his last win, he will be the pace here.

However, I really like a stalker in this one.  Fordubai looks really nice here.  He is coming off a length win in the Louisiana Handicap last month, and defeated Grand Contender and Prayer for Relief in that race.  He really likes 1 1/16 mile races; he is 5-3-1-0 at the distance, including that win in the Louisiana last out.  Prayer for Relief is another horse who tends to stalk, who also looks good in this race.  He tends to put up the fastest speed figures of the bunch, and before his third place in the Louisiana Handicap he won the Tenacious by 6 1/4 lengths over Ground Transport.  The Tenacious?  1 1/16 miles at the Fair Grounds.  He is unsurprisingly the morning line favourite, though may still go off at a half-decent price because Rosie Napravnik is on a different horse (Bradester).

If somehow a speed duel does kick up in this race, either because Afford engages Bradester early or the expected stalkers want the lead more than I thought, look for Mister Marti Gras to pick up the pieces.  Last out, he was 2nd beaten just a length by Last Gunfighter in the Hawthorne Gold Cup.  Like Fordubai, he really likes this distance; he is 8-4-3-0 in main-track 1 1/16 mile races.  Though he has been running more turf races than dirt lately, he runs about equally well on both, and fits in well with the field here.  He is good at hanging back, engaging from midpack in the far turn, and getting there in the stretch.  The stretch at Fair Grounds is a long one — and his frequent runs down the also-massive stretch at Hawthorne will serve him well.

All things considered, if I just have to go with one horse here, I’d take Fordubai.  He is coming off a nice win at this track, he loves this distance, and the pace in this race is likely to favour a stalker like him.

Fair Grounds: Risen Star Stakes (GII, 1 1/16mi on the dirt)

I will admit, this race is a tough one.  With the scratch of Bond Holder, no one in the field really stands out to me as one I want to proclaim The One To Win.  Had Bond Holder remained in the field, his ability to come in off the pace, combined with the fact that he has been doing his best racing on the dirt and not the synthetic, would have made him my pick here.

The problem is that the two best looking horses on paper coming into this race, Vicar’s In Trouble and Rise Up, are both speed horses.  I would give the nod to Rise Up over Vicar’s In Trouble as the better speed horse, mainly because he just seems a little better tested.  They are both fast horses, though, and ones I will be shocked not to see on the lead tomorrow.  Another one of the horses who looks good coming into here, Hopportunity, is also likely to start on or near the early lead.  This race is a jump in class for him, as he has only raced twice in maidens at Santa Anita, but if he can make his way through the pack and contend for the lead, he may have a shot here.

However, going back to Rise Up and Vicar’s In Trouble — they both want the early lead so badly Among the horses who can come off, the ones who interest me most are Gold Hawk and Emmett Park.  Gold Hawk flopped his last out, finishing 3rd beaten 7 1/4 lengths in the LeComte, behind Vicar’s In Trouble and Albano.  He was acting up at the gate, however, so he has a good chance to perform better if he has learned from the LeComte and comes into this race a bit more calm.  Emmett Park won his last one from way back, and has been working very well in the dirt at Fair Grounds over the last few weeks.  However, I’m still just a bit skittish on Emmett Park, since both of his races have been against far weaker company on the Turfway synthetic.  He deserves a shot at this field — and deserves it far more than several in this field, most notably the maiden Vigorish — but may find it to be a bit too steep.

If the goal is to just hit the board (which it is, in a certain Twitter contest in which i’m still alive), Rise Up is the pick.  He shows good speed, he’s breaking from an inside post, and he looked great in the Delta Downs Jackpot at the exact same distance as the Risen Star.  However, if the goal is to win, I would rather try to pick a horse who can stay off the pace, and pick them off from behind.  That’s why I would have picked Bond Holder if he were still running.  That’s why in this case, I’m going to go with Gold Hawk.  I don’t love him, but assuming he fires, he’s the best option among the horses who don’t need early speed to win.

And there are my thoughts on those four races this weekend.  Good luck!

what’s better that one fantasy stable?

…two fantasy stables!

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

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

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

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

Good luck!