The past few nights have been rather hectic as I’ve raced home from work and immersed myself in the yearly right of passage that is making my stable selections for the Road to the Roses fantasy challenge. Ten horses, 2 trainers, and 2 jockeys – that’s what you pick. You amass points by finishing in the money in major prep races over the better part of 3 months. I can’t say I’ve had a lot of success with it, but I’m learning from my past and trying out new things in an effort to win the top glory that comes with having a winning stable.
I’ve named mine “The Aspiring Horseplayer” so that it’s connected with this blog. Last year I believe I was “Stafford Stables”, but those responsible for the nightmare that turned into late in the challenge have been sacked (and those responsible for sacking those who have been sacked have also been sacked, and so on). I started out well, but in the end was way too California heavy in ’08, with Colonel John, Georgie Boy, El Gato Malo, and Gayego. No way I’m making that mistake this year.
Let’s start with the difficult part. I’m not taking the horse that I believe would win the Derby if it were run today: Vineyard Haven. I know that seems counter intuitive, but there’s a solid strategic reason for this. He’s prepping in Dubai at the moment, and probably won’t get his first opportunity to earn points for my stable until the UAE Derby on 3/28. That is a Grade 2 (worth 12 points for a win), but there should be a “supplemental draft” after the first month of the contest, granting me a chance to swipe him after 3/14 as one of up to 3 additional runners I can add to my stable. I’ll take the wait and see approach for now as I’ll need the potential for points from those limited stable positions.
I’m also not taking Stardom Bound, despite being a fairly big “Stardom Bound guy.” I think the world of her, but the fact that she’ll be taking on the likes of Pioneer of the Nile and The Pamplemousse, and only IF she stays on the Derby trail (which is by no means a foregone conclusion) means that I”ll have to pass on her for now as well.
The top 5 picks for the stable are essentially a player’s “Simon Peter” – the rock, the foundation upon which the rest of the franchise is built. For my top five, I’m taking Old Fashioned, Pioneer of the Nile, Friesan Fire, Patena, and Captain Candyman Can. I did not arrive at this grouping without much debate, however. The first three were “no brainers” in my opinion, especially with Old Fashioned pointed towards a very reachable win right out of the gate in the Southwest Stakes on Saturday. Likewise Pioneer of the Nile seems pointed now towards the San Felipe on 3/14 (just before the supplemental draft period) and the Santa Anita Derby after that. Friesan Fire has simply done nothing wrong and everything right. Patena and Captain Candyman Can are risks though. Patena might be Rick Dutrow and IEAH’s “A horse” judging from recent comments. That said, he’s still a largely unknown and unproven colt. Captain Candyman Can could be a one turn horse, but then again the Fountain of Youth has been shortened in distance, so keep that in mind.
- Old Fashioned (G3 S.West Stakes 2/14)
- Pioneer of the Nile (G2 San Felipe 3/14)
- Friesan Fire (G2 LA Derby 3/14)
- Captain Candyman Can (G2 FOY 2/28)
- Patena (G2 LA Derby 3/14)
The name of this game is about racking up points and keeping as many runners with real chances of finding the winners circle each week as you can. I mentioned that I wasn’t covering as many California runners, and that I wasn’t going to play Stardom Bound (at least not yet). You may notice from below that another name is missing. The Pamplemousse. Why? Well , for starters he’s probably really only a safe play as of right now for the G3 Sham on 2/28. While that would be some nice early points to rack up, I’m not sure how much of a threat he’d be against Pioneer and Stardom Bound if he tried the SA Derby. Besides, like I said, I’m going CA light this year.
The bottom of my stable is a place to take some shots. You don’t want to get too cray here as you’ll need to depend on most (if not all) of the horses you select, but things get interesting when you get to this level of the rankings. Haynesfield sticks out as an obvious play for the NY preps (G3 Gotham, G1 Wood Memorial), but he’s probably not the lock folks think he is. I think you have to cover him, as he’s been very impressive beating suspect quality, but I don’t think you can stand on him alone for those preps, and the Wood is a G1 you definitely want to hit. For that reason, I’m taking Mr. Fantasy as well. He’s got two impressive Beyers and looks like a horse that could give Haynesfield fits as the distances continue to challenge the talented Speightstown colt. As if that weren’t enough, I’m also going to cover the new edition to Rick Dutrow’s barn, Danger to Society. Originally I was not high on this guy, but I’m taking the advice of author and journalist Richard Eng, who won this contest a few years ago. If he’s good enough for him to take a stand on, he’s good enough for me. Coincidentally, another friend of this site, Cindy Pierson-Dulay, is also listed as one of the pros. I’ve got to admit, it feels pretty cool when folks listed as pros are people you’ve actually met and talked about horse racing with. Hats off to each of them.
I’ll round out my stable with the impressive runner up finisher Flying Pegasus, who looks like a horse that will improve greatly next out with a more favorable post position. I may be overrating this guy, but if so it would appear to be a mistake that many are making. He’s probably(along with Patena) the biggest “buzz” horse at the moment I’m seeing whispered in Facebook discussions and horse racing boards. We’ll see. I’ll take a stab with my 9th slot on him since he is pointing to either the Fountain of Youth or Louisiana Derby (or perhaps the Rebel). My last slot will go to Hello Broadway, who but for what in my opinion was a far from perfect ride from Edgar Prado, might have defeated Captain Candyman Can in the Hutcheson. I’m willing to give him another try as he seemed a worth favorite before fading late in the stretch.
- Haynesfield (G3 Gotham 3/7)
- Mr. Fantasy (G3 Gotham 3/7)
- Danger to Society (G3 Gotham 3/7)
- Flying Pegasus (?)
- Hello Broadway (?)
I’m taking Rick Dutrow and Larry Jones as my trainers. Strange, I know, for someone who isn’t the biggest Dutrow fan in the world, but the man seems loaded with talent this year. Ditto for Larry Jones, who figures to go out on top with his first Derby win. If there’s a sense of justice in the universe for what befell the man last year, he’ll be the champion this year.
Jockey wise I’m going with Gabriel Saez and Garrett Gomez. Saez because I feel when teamed up with Larry Jones makes the most formidable tandem in the country with 3-year-olds, and Go-Go because, well, he’s Garrett Gomez. Need I really say more?
Hopefully you are all playing along as well. If you’re interested in joining the TBA League, contact Handride and he’ll send you the activation code. Or you could join our small, but growing Facebook group. Yes, we have a presence on Facebook. Just head to our homepage and follow the links to the Facebook group. I can picture myself dancing like Dr. Evil when I say that. “What? I’m hip. I’m cool.”