Here’s a run down – with early odds of winning – for the six Fantasy Stables competing during Derby Day Racing’s Road to the Roses/Triple Crown Season Challenge. Each team member included their drafting strategy, I provided the odds. Draft was held on January 1.
Brian – 3-1
Improbable – 3 for 3 with Grade 1 Cash Call to end 2-year-old season; back with three solid works; the Rebel Stakes up next
Instagrand – winner of Grade 2 Best Pal in August; back on work tab, four times this past month with impressive work in last: 47.60 for 4 F
Maximus Mischief – Grade 2 Remsen winner finally back with a bullet work on Jan. 19 leading up to Holy Bull on Feb. 2
Mihos – big closing move to win the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park
Frosted Ice – no works since black type NY-bred win in September
Grey Attempt – stretched out impressively for 2-turn win, leading gate to wire in Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park
Strategy: Take the best horse available, although I did look more to potential Derby winners with my first four picks. Then I tried to pick a couple of horses that I don’t necessarily see winning the Derby, but I would expect to collect solid prep points along the way with my final two picks. My sleeper remains, Mihos, who is now a bit less of a sleeper with that big, late rush in the MMM.
Brett – 20-1
Coliseum – disappointed in Sham with sixth-place finish, back on work tab not surprisingly from the gate after missing the break in last
Knicks Go – ended his Grade 1 winning season with a disappointing Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes 11th place finish; fired a bullet in his first work back though. Tampa Bay’s Sam F. Davis Stakes is up next.
Epic Dreamer – following a disappointing Springboard Mile finish at Remington last month, three solid works leading to a likely FL-based prep next
Looking at Bikinis – may be guilty of doing such, as he hasn’t been seen since nice MSW win at Belmont in September
Bankit – NY-bred multiple stakes placed including Springboard Mile runner-up; did not translate to Smarty Jones Stakes success with a sixth-place finish
Preamble – may be hanging with ‘Bikinis since he was last seen winning allowance race at Keeneland in October
Strategy: To take horses that can perform on the trail and hopefully show up on the big day. Nothing really intricate at all from me, lol.
Jasen – 12-1
Code of Honor – ran up the track in first try at three, as trainer McGaughey did not have him cranked up…yet…points toward Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream next
Roadster – third-place Del Mar Futurity finisher on shelf since mid-December works
Kingly – steady work tab since MSW win on Dec. 1 – yet another Bob Baffert trainee
Network Effect – two-time stakes runner up at two in NY; working steadily at Palm Meadows, so a Florida return is likely
Award Winner – one win from three starts, working for FL return as well?
Federal Case – two-time winner at two; training for Holy Bull in a few weeks in 3-year-old bow
- Focus on horses from big name trainers. Not necessarily Baffert (though he currently has the strongest hand), but trainers that consistently have runners in the starting gate in TC races.
- Horses that have broken their maiden before January 1. I doubt breaking the curse of Apollo will become a trend.
- Horses that have already run fast speed figures (but not necessarily only on the front end or only in sprint races, especially both).
- Horses that appear to have classic distance pedigrees.
Matt – 6-1
Game Winner – the 2-year-old champ and BC Juvenile winner has had a couple works recently as he prepares for March return in the San Felipe Stakes
Signalman – last out winner of KY Jockey Club in Nov after third-place BC Juvenile finish – no works for supposed March return in Fountain of Youth Stakes
Mucho – Hopeful Stakes runner up from the summer at the Spa has put in three breezes in south FL this month and awaits a spot to return
Super Steed – disappointing seventh-place finish in Smarty Jones Stakes on Oaklawn’s opening day card
Haikal – December maiden race has had a few Belmont breezes since and likely pointed to NY preps
Cave Run – finished third as favorite in FL-bred stakes at Tampa in last
Strategy: In the first few rounds my primary focus was to get the best horse that was available with each pick and then as the big name horses had been picked I tried to get less known horses that would have a chance to win at different tracks. My sleeper pick, Haikal, is one of those horses with just a promising maiden win at Aqueduct that I thought would have a chance to win the Wood Memorial.
Scott – 25-1
Tale of the Union – not seen on track since August maiden win at Del Mar
Vekoma – Grade 3 Nashua winner in last began working again at Palm Beach Downs for likely FL-based return
Magic on Tap – has not been seen on track since September 1 MSW win at Del Mar
Plus Que Parfait – had troubled start before fifth-place LeComte finish
Cornacchia – fourth-place finish in recent Fair Grounds allowance race going a mile and 70 yards
Fortin Hill – has not worked or entered since October maiden win at Belmont last fall
Strategy: My first pick was all about trainer Bob Baffert. I took the best available horse left out of the Baffert barn and that was Tale of the Union. If you look at the connections of the last nine Kentucky Derby winners all of them except California Chrome were trained by prominent conditioners (Bob Baffert twice, Todd Pletcher, Doug O’neill twice, Graham Motion, Shug McGaughey.) I kept that strategy with my remaining selections while looking for horses I felt had the pedigree to relish at longer distances and had the versatility to not only compete and win on the Kentucky Derby trail but also last into the final two legs of the Triple Crown.
My wild card horse is Plus Que Parfait. He’s a son of Point of Entry out of an Awesome Again mare. He’s shown he’s better going around two turns and I feel the longer the races get the better he will be. He’s definitely one I’m excited about on the Kentucky Derby trail.
Bada Bing – 15-1
Mucho Gusto – second to stablemate, Improbable, in Cash Call; back on work tab going 7f in last; no entry shared
Cairo Cat – out, ouch!
Uncle Benny – second in BC Juvenile Turf. I took a flyer on him with the likes of Mendelssohn, My Boy Jack, and Catholic Boy all coming out of the 2017 version to hit the Derby trail…just started working again on Jan. 19; no entry shared
Mr. Money scratched from LeComte Stakes, preparing for Risen Star next month at FG…hopefully
Moretti – pointing toward Grade 3 Withers in Feb; MSW winner had two works at Belmont recently
Gunmetal Gray – Sham Stakes winner, back on work tab last week and pointed toward Feb. 2 Robert Lewis Stakes
Strategy: Went regional, trying to pick horses that would be on different roads in Florida, New York, Louisiana, California and hopefully Arkansas. Uncle Benny is my sleeper, if he gets onto the trail at all. I didn’t research enough on Cairo Cat, as I usually like to see at least one recent work before the draft because horses that don’t work could be hurt. Ugh.
Photo of Gray Attempt courtesy of Coady Photography