• Sweet fantasy

    POSTED Feb 24, 2012
    Most would say that racing has failed to capitalize on the fantasy craze as well as other major sporting events, but that would be to ignore the idea that horse racing is the original fantasy game since cheering on Tom Brady for fantasy points is similar to cheering home a winner to cash a ticket.

    Other sports also have a clearly defined season with (mostly) balanced schedules that makes calibrating the worth of players against each other and the rules of the game a lot easier than in racing where number of starts and type of race (e.g. Grade 1, Grade 2, etc.) are variable for each horse from start to start.

    Still, if American Thoroughbred racing has any season, it's the Triple Crown and the road to the Kentucky Derby. In this way, playing a fantasy game related to those pursuits is a hybrid of March Madness bracketology and fantasy sports. The end goal is unquestionably to win the Kentucky Derby and other classic races, but there are different ways to get there, and those different paths are each worth a different amount of points.

    How to make sense of all those horses? Luckily there's help. The first place to start is with FREE Ultimate Past Performances for all Triple Crown nominees. The file is updated each week. For those looking for more in-depth of analysis of (likely) classic contenders, the Triple Crown Preview from Blood Horse is the type of product fantasy players are used to seeing from sports periodicals priming players for the upcoming season. It includes analysis of 40 Derby aspirants along with historical data and commentary.

    Once you have your teams set, you'll want to keep track of when your team competes. Brisnet.com Stable Alert allows you not only to track horses but also trainers. Load up your stable and enjoy! For a great summary of the weekend action, subscribe to Hello Race Fans Derby Prep Alert, which includes previews of the weekend's big stakes action along with free Brisnet.com Ultimate Past Performances.

    As with any fantasy game, it's important to know how to score points. In contests that put a premium on winning the Derby, I find it's more useful to take a horse you think has any chance of being in the gate for the big race than what might appear to be low hanging fruit with a sprinter type like Thunder Moccasin who could score some points in a race like the Swale but won't get you anything in May-June.

    For the Road to the Roses contest, which begins scoring with the Risen Star Stakes, there's a slight premium placed on the Kentucky Derby, but as a percentage of overall points isn't a huge pull.

    My strategy with a league of Road to the Roses' magnitude--in which many will play and all horses/trainers/jockeys are available to everyone--is you have to find that balance between not missing out on obvious points while still zigzagging in the right direction. For instance, I took Baffert because of sheer number power and how effective he is at managing those numbers to win races coast to coast. It's not particularly clever--everyone will have him--but that's just not the spot where I wanted to take a stand.

    The the chance to enter three stables, Road to the Roses allows a bit of juggling. I took Mike Harrington as my trainer in one of the stables and Matz in another. Harrington has two strong bullets while Matz has the overall fastest horse (assuming Union Rags hasn't lost anything from 2-3).

    Either way, my core horses who appear in all three stables--Creative Cause, El Padrino, Empire Way, I'll Have Another, Out of Bounds, and Union Rags--will have to do well for me to do well.

    Good luck to all playing!


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