Picks and Ponderings: 2015 Excelsior Stakes Preview

The Aqueduct meet draws to a close this weekend.  Before that happens, the handicap division gets a chance to try the Classic distance over the Aqueduct main in the Excelsior Stakes (GIII).  The race drew a field of eight headed by Wicked Strong, but also including three horses who have run in graded stakes in the Chicago area.

I look at the Excelsior over at Picks and Ponderings.  Head on over there to see what I have to say, and leave me a comment if you think I am right — or really, really wrong — about my outlook on the race!

fantasy stable: week 20 (final) postmortem

We’re twenty weeks in, and the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league has now drawn to a close.  I joined the league with no expectations other than that the league would give me a distinct reason to follow the three-year-old class more closely, and become a better handicapper.  The league served that purpose admirably, and was a lot of fun for me.  I also somehow managed not to finish last despite being so new to fanatically following horse racing, and despite a big mid-season slump for my stable.  In an eight-person league, I finished fifth: not too shabby for someone taking their first crack at fantasy horse racing, and for someone for whom this was their first year following the Triple Crown trail so closely.

In the final weekend, five of my eight horses entered the gate, and two managed to hit the board to score a few final points.  Life In Shambles set the fractions in the Easy Goer, faster than I would have expected thanks to longshot Howl pushing him along.  He got nabbed by Kid Cruz and Legend late, but the promising gelding managed to hold on for third.  I had two in the Woody Stephens, Derby Trial winner Embellishing Bob and recent stable addition Top Fortitude.  Embellishing Bob just didn’t have it down the stretch, and finished seventh.  Top Fortitude, near the back early, had enough to pick off everyone but Bayern at the end.  Bayern ran away with it, but the Arizona-bred still acquitted himself well, and showed that his performance in the Laz Barrera was no fluke.  My stable had two in the Belmont Stakes, Ride On Curlin and Wicked Strong.  Ride On Curlin didn’t have a good time of things.  He bled, and jockey John Velazquez eased him late.  He’s getting a well-deserved break before continuing.  Wicked Strong chased the pace from a bit closer than I was expecting, and made up some ground late.  However, he only got within 1 3/4 lengths of Tonalist at the wire, good enough for a fourth-place dead heat with California Chrome.

A big thank you to Craig for running the league through the winter and spring.  I loved it, all the way around.  I was a little shy to throw my hat into the ring at first, both because I was relatively new to following racing so closely and because I didn’t know anyone in the league all that well when I joined.  Still, I’m glad I shoved aside my fears of failing and of feeling like an interloper.  It was both fun and educational to just dive in, and I’ve gotten to know some seriously awesome people as part of the league.

I can’t wait to do this all again next year.

Picks and Ponderings: Belmont Point/Counterpoint!

A little race called the Belmont Stakes is coming up on Saturday, and there’s just a Triple Crown on the line.  Small stuff, right?

Of course not!  And, with such a big race ahead, Paul Mazur and I went horse-for-horse through the Belmont Stakes field to discuss who we like, who we don’t like, and who we are hitching our fortunes to when the dust settles.  Check it out for a little bit of levity, and a lot of analysis!

fantasy stable update: week 19

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


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fantasy stable: week 18.5 update

The final claiming date has come and gone, and it was the toughest claim of all to plan.  I had $295 of my $500 worth of funny money, more than any other stable, and I needed to figure out how to maximize it in light of the four points races remaining: the Belmont Stakes, the Acorn Stakes, the Woody Stephens, and the Easy Goer.  Last month was a bit easier since the Derby Trial draw was out.  I could handicap the Derby trial, and try to grab a free horse with a chance.  That was exactly what I did, and I was handsomely rewarded when Embellishing Bob won.  On top of that, the Derby field was pretty well set, so I knew who to focus on there.

However, this time around, the only race of the four with a particularly set field was the Belmont.  A few Belmont horses were open for claiming: contender Wicked Strong, and longshots Matterhorn and Matuszak.  We had nominations out for the Acorn, Woody Stephens, and Easy Goer, but I wasn’t privy to much good scuttlebutt about who was going to run in those.  So, I had to make my best guesses.

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