by Jon White
November 24, 2021
Our horse racing fantasy league held its annual draft this past Monday. It’s called the Fantasy Stable League (FSL). Daily Racing Form handicapper Michael Hammersly began this league all the way back in 1986. I joined it in 1990 while I was working for the DRF. I have been the league’s commissioner since 2000.
How long did Monday’s draft take? It began at 6 a.m. PT and concluded a little less than nine hours later.
This fantasy league consists of eight members. Each member drafts eight horses. Our league begins each year on Thanksgiving and continues through the final Breeders’ Cup race the following year.
With eight members, there were eight horses drafted in the first round.
Tiz the Law was the No. 1 overall pick in the FSL draft for 2021. However, he did not earn a single point in 2021 after being retired from racing last year on Dec. 30.
Life Is Good was the No. 2 overall pick for 2021. The Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt was drafted one day after his dazzling 9 1/2-length victory at first asking in a 6 1/2-furlong Del Mar maiden race.
After being taken at No. 2 for 2021, Life Is Good was the first pick in last Monday’s FSL draft for 2022 following his emphatic 5 3/4-length win in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Del Mar on Nov. 6.
In terms of FSL scoring, only races in the United States, in Canada, on the Dubai World Cup card and the Saudi Cup count. The Saudi Cup is considered a Grade I race for our point-earning purposes.
This is how our scoring system works:
--A Grade I race is worth 12, 6 and 4 points for first, second and third.
--A Grade II race is worth 8, 4 and 2 for first, second and third.
--A Grade III race is worth 6, 3 and 1 for first, second and third.
--An ungraded stakes race is worth 4 for first.
--All other races are worth 2 for first.
--All Canadian races are downgraded one level, except the Woodbine Mile, Northern Dancer Turf, Canadian International and E.P. Taylor.
--The most valuable bonus races are the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic (36, 18, 12). The other bonus races (24, 12, 8) are the Apple Blossom, Kentucky Oaks, Met Mile, Sword Dancer Stakes, Diana Stakes and all of the other Breeders’ Cup races. Since the beginning of this league, the Arlington Million and Beverly D. were bonus races. But they were not run this year. With Arlington Park’s situation rather shaky these days, I made the decision to make the Sword Dancer and Diana bonus races in 2021 rather than the Arlington Million and Beverly D.
As the commissioner, I am the one who has composed all of the current FSL rules. And the possibility of a situation like Medina Spirit’s controversial Kentucky Derby victory is why I came up with FSL rule 11.
Medina Spirit tested positive for having an overage of the legal therapeutic medication betamethasone in his system during the Run for the Roses. Medina Spirit’s Kentucky Derby win is up in the air as of this writing. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has not even held a hearing yet with respect to the colt’s positive test.
FSL rule 11 covers a situation like this by stating in part: “Drug positives and overturning of DQ’s will have no effect on our league. Our results will be what they are deemed to be at the time the race is declared official.”
In terms of making claims, each FSL league member can make two claims per month along with two “super claims.” When someone makes a claim, they must drop one horse from their stable.
One “super claim,” which is simply an additional claim to the two each month, can be made through the traditional day of the Belmont Stakes in June. The other “super claim” can be made after that.
I used my first “super claim” for 2021 to get Knicks Go.
In the first round of last Monday’s draft, I had the last pick. I was elated to have the last pick. Why? Because it meant that I won the 2021 FSL title! Our draft order is determined by reversing the order of the previous year’s final standings.
This was my fourth FSL title. It seems that I win it about every 10 years. My previous FSL titles were in 1992, 2003 and 2013. Needless to say, I’m hoping that it does not take another 10 years or so before I snag another FSL title.
As for the 2022 FSL draft, Chad Brown regained the distinction of being the trainer to have the most horses taken. Eight of the 64 horses drafted last Monday are conditioned by Brown. Bob Baffert, Brad Cox and Todd Pletcher each had seven horses drafted.
These have been the leading trainers in terms of horses drafted going back to 2016:
Year Trainer (Horses Drafted)
2022 Chad Brown (8), Bob Baffert (7), Brad Cox (7), Todd Pletcher (7)
2021 Brad Cox (10), Chad Brown (8)
2020 Chad Brown (11), Bob Baffert (7)
2019 Chad Brown (12), Bob Baffert (11)
2018 Bob Baffert (11), Chad Brown (9)
2017 Chad Brown (11), Bob Baffert (8)
2016 Chad Brown (9), Todd Pletcher (7)
The leading sire for the 2022 draft is a tie between Into Mischief and Tapit. They each had four horses drafted.
Into Mischief’s Life Is Good was the No. 1 overall pick. The other sons or daughters of Into Mischief taken were Mandaloun (No. 20), Overstep (No. 39) and Gamine (No. 57).
The Tapits drafted were Flightline (No. 4), Triple Tap (No. 34), Subconscious (No. 41) and Tap the Faith (No. 54).
Here, in order, were the 64 Thoroughbreds drafted Monday (my selections are capitalized):
1. Life Is Good
2. Echo Zulu
5. Hot Rod Charlie
7. Midnight Bourbon
8. MEDINA SPIRIT
I felt good to get a horse of this quality with the final pick in the first round. After all, Medina Spirit ran well this year in the two biggest FSL bonus races, the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic, each of which offers 36-18-12 points to the first three finishers. Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, the Florida-bred Protonico colt earned 36 FSL points for his Kentucky Derby victory, plus 18 more for finishing second in the BC Classic.
Knicks Go won the BC Classic this year as a member of my FSL roster. He is scheduled to be retired after making his final career start next Jan. 29 in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.
That means there will be no Knicks Go in the 2022 BC Classic. Hopefully for me, 2021 BC Classic runner-up Medina Spirit will be back for the 2022 renewal.
This strategy of getting the BC Classic runner-up has worked nicely for me in the past. The main reason I acquired Mucho Macho Man in 2013 was he had finished second in the 2012 BC Classic. Mucho Macho Man did win the 2013 BC Classic. That BC Classic victory by Mucho Macho Man enabled me to edge BloodHorse’s Byron King for the 2013 FSL title. (Don’t feel sorry for King. He has six FSL titles to his credit.)
Messier looks like he is going to be one of the leading 3-year-olds in 2022. Adding to his appeal to me in the draft is he is supposed to run in the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 11. That means he can get me some FSL points before the end of the year.
I drafted Messier despite the Baffert situation in which he is banned from running horses in 2022 Kentucky Derby. Not only that, any horse trained by Baffert is ineligible to earn points toward the 2022 Kentucky Derby.
But I’ve been impressed enough with what I’ve seen by Messier to go ahead and draft him at No. 9 despite there being some uncertainty concerning his Kentucky Derby situation.
Messier finished second when unveiled in a five-furlong maiden race at Los Alamitos on June 27. He then effortlessly won a six-furlong maiden contest by 6 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita on Oct. 22, followed by a 3 1/2-length victory in Del Mar’s Grade III Bob Hope Stakes at seven furlongs on Nov. 14.
It appears that Messier will relish going a mile or longer.
There’s also an element of sentimentality involved in my drafting Messier, whose sire is Empire Maker. I took Empire Maker with the No. 5 pick in the FSL draft for 2003. All he had done up to that point was win a one-mile Belmont Park maiden race by 3 1/2 lengths at first asking.
The horses drafted before I took Empire Maker were Vindication at No. 1, Azeri at No. 2, Storm Flag Flying at No. 3 and Composure at No. 4.
Empire Maker didn’t win the Kentucky Derby for me, but he did finish second to Funny Cide. Empire Maker did win the Belmont Stakes, while Funny Cide had to settle for third when thwarted in his bid for a Triple Crown sweep.
I won the 2003 FSL title after drafting Empire Maker. Now I’m hoping to win the 2022 FSL title when drafting Messier, a son of Empire Maker.
11. Following Sea
14. Regal Glory
21. Knicks Go
22. Juju’s Map
23. Classic Causeway
24. TIZ THE BOMB
People have raved about Modern Games’ performance to win the controversial BC Juvenile Turf, a race in which he raced for purse only. I don’t think Tiz the Bomb has received the credit he deserves for his runner-up effort in that race. Ninth at the eighth pole, Tiz the Bomb charged home to finish second and defeat 12 foes.
I was also impressed by Tiz the Bomb when he won the Grade II Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland from post 12 despite breaking through the gate prior to the start. Horses rarely win after doing that.
Tiz the Bomb, trained by Kenny McPeek, is entered in Saturday’s Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. That’s a 1 1/16-mile race on the dirt. The last time that the Kentucky-bred Hit It a Bomb colt raced on the dirt, he won a one-mile maiden race at Ellis Park by 14 1/4 lengths on July 2.
I also decided to take Tiz the Bomb at this point in the draft because if it’s decided not to go forward with him in dirt races, he will begin 2022 as this country’s top 3-year-old male grass runner on the basis of finishing second in the BC Juvenile Turf. And if Tiz the Bomb does go forward in dirt races, he could be a Kentucky Derby candidate for me, giving me some insurance if it turns out Messier does not run in the 1 1/4-mile classic.
Sandstone, like Tiz the Bomb, is trained by McPeek.
There is a similarity between Sandstone and my earlier draft pick Messier in that both lost their first race. They both then won a maiden race by a big margin, Sandstone by nine lengths, Messier by 6 1/2 lengths. And then they both won a stakes race. Sandstone won Churchill’s Rags to Riches Stakes by 10 3/4 lengths. Messier won Del Mar’s Grade III Bob Hope Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths.
There really is no telling how good Sandstone is at this point off her two dominant victories. I love her pedigree, too. She’s by a Kentucky Derby winner (Street Sense) out of mare who’s by a Triple Crown winner (Seattle Slew).
Sandstone is entered in Saturday’s Grade II Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill. My hope, of course, is that she turns out to be a Kentucky Oaks filly, though undefeated BC Juvenile Fillies winner and likely Eclipse Award recipient Echo Zulu looms large in that particular division.
26. Bonny South
28. Bella Sofia
29. Speaker’s Corner
30. Public Sector
31. Crystal Ball
33. Howling Time
34. Triple Tap
35. Rocket Dawg
37. Going Global
38. Grace Adler
40. PRINCESS GRACE
My thinking in taking Princess Grace here at No. 40 was to get a contender for Sunday’s Grade I Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar. Michael Stidham trains the Kentucky-bred Karakontie filly.
Princess Grace had a four-race winning streak snapped when she finished third as the 11-10 favorite in Del Mar’s Grade II Goldikova Stakes on Nov. 6. But I’m thinking she might regain her winning ways in the Matriarch due to a deviation from her usual running style in the Goldikova.
In the Goldikova, Princess Grace set the pace for the first time in her eight-race career. I think it’s clear that she would prefer to come from off the pace. Princes Grace rallied from fifth when she won Del Mar’s Grade II Yellow Ribbon Handicap on Aug. 7.
Trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, Subconscious is entered in Saturday’s Grade I Hollywood Derby. It’s a tough race with a big field, but what I like about Subconscious is the Kentucky-bred Midnight Lute colt is a possibly to also run in the Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.
Subconscious is going into the Hollywood Derby off a win in Santa Anita’s Grade II Twilight Derby, just like Smooth Like Strait last year. Smooth Like Strait ran second in the Hollywood Derby, then won the Mathis Brothers Mile.
Smooth Like Strait was a good horse to have in the FSL for 2021. He finished a close second to Space Blues in the BC Mile. That brought Smooth Like Strait’s FSL point total for 2021 to a robust 60. That shows me what kind of FSL point potential Subconscious has for 2022.
42. Smile Happy
43. Dr. Schivel
44. Camp Hope
47. Friar’s Road
48. Hit the Road
51. Mystic Guide
54. Tap the Faith
55. War Like Goddess
56. HAPPY SAVER
I’m taking a shot here in the seventh round with Happy Saver. I debated between taking either Happy Saver or Dr Post. They are both entered in Friday’s Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill. They’re both also trained by Todd Pletcher.
Maxfield is the 6-5 morning-line favorite in the Clark, which has attracted a field of eight. Midnight Bourbon is the 8-5 second choice. The only other horses listed at under 10-1 on the morning line are Dr Post at 5-1 and Happy Saver at 8-1.
Hope I did not zig when I should have zagged in choosing between Happy Saver and Dr Post.
When recapping the 2021 FSL draft, I wrote that I “was beyond ecstatic to get Gamine at No. 14.” I was shocked that she was still available in the second round.
Now I am thrilled to get her back with my eighth and final pick of the 2022 FSL draft.
This definitely is a gamble. Maybe Gamine will be retired. But, heck, I am willing to roll the dice in the eighth round. I have not read or heard of anything about her being retired or continuing to race. But my speculation is that if Gamine were done racing, she most likely would have been put in one of those sales held right after the Breeders’ Cup (and someone from Japan probably would have bought her for a zillion dollars).
If it does turn out that I don’t get any starts from Gamine, that’s okay. It’ll just mean that I will be using one of my claims to replace her at some point. In other words, by getting Gamine so late in the draft at No. 57, there really is no downside.
All in all, I was very happy with how the 2022 FSL draft turned out for me.
58. Code of Honor
59. Giant Game
60. Jackie’s Warrior
61. Dr Post
63. Sacred Life
64. Army Wife