Friday, May 20, 2016

Edward Enborg Leads Player Ratings

Edward Enborg of Jacksonville, Florida is the highest-rated NHCQualify player, through the May 15 contest.

That's Enborg in front
Red Rock or Bust introduced its NHCQualify player ratings in early April, to great fanfare. (Actually I could hear a pin dropping above the audience reaction, but perhaps the silence was a stunned one because the methodology is so utterly brilliant.)

These player ratings differ from the NHC Leaderboard by counting misses as well as hits. It's all well and good to have the most NHC Tour points, or lead in the NHCQualify-specific "Cyberstars" competition, but the reality for those thingamabobs is that frequency of contest play is at least as important, if not more important, than quality of contest play. In other words, you need to play in a boatload of contests (and spend a boatload of $) to have any realistic chance at being a top dawg in the eyes of the NHC Tour.

The egalitarian NHCQualify player ratings level the playing field by recognizing quality of play only. As long as you've played a reasonable minimum number of entries (25% of all possible NHCQualify entries this year so far, or 9 after the May 15 contest), you're eligible.

Enborg, who was written about by the NHC marketing dude in 2014, has a player rating of 2.91, well ahead of the competition. He has produced 32 points over a relatively modest slate of 11 NHCQualify entries. Enborg finished 6th of 658 entries on January 30, earning 10 points (see methodology here); 3rd of 133 on May 8, good for 8 points; 6th of 199 on May 15, for 7 points; and 13th of 364 on Feb. 6, also 7 points.

That's pretty damn good for just 11 entries.

Here's the top 10:

Player (Points/Entries=Rating)
1. Edward Enborg, Jacksonville FL (32/11=2.91)
2. James Riley, Mansfield, MA (22/10=2.20)
3. Samuel DeCicco, Kingston NY (20/10=2.00)              
4. Bernard Reilly, Fair Haven NJ (17/9=1.89)
5. Dan Shugar, Los Angeles CA (22/12=1.83)
6. Michael Doheny, Bronxville, NY (16/9=1.78)
7. Craig Hom, San Francisco, CA (21/12=1.75)
8. Eliot Honaker, Lexington KY (26/15=1.73)
9. Robert Gianquitti, Lake Worth, FL (27/16=1.69)
10. Jonathon Kinchen, Austin, TX (20/13=1.54)

And the full rankings of the 132 people who have played at least 9 NHCQualify entries this year, and finished in the top 10% at least once:

Lastly, let's look at the 'Cyberstars' of the NHC. How do the top-ranked NHCQualify players, as per NTRA, stack up in the highly egalitarian NHCQualify Player Ratings?

The answer is, not great. Here are the top 10 Cyberstars:

Player (NHCQ/Cyberstars Points) (NHCQualify Player Rating) 
1. Joseph Costello (9,649) (27)
2. Kenneth McMahan (8,475) (28)
3. George Chute (8,423) (11)
4. Kevin Engelhard (7,891) (38)
5. Geoffrey Schutt (7,815) (21)
6. Eric Moomey (7,518) (26)
7. Joe Pettit (7,283) (44)
8. Robert Gianquitti (7,224) (9)
9. Tanya Taylor (7,195) (41)
10.Robert Gilbert (6,469) (61)

Robert Gianquitti is the only Cyberstar with a top-10 NHCQualify Player Rating. George Chute is a strong 11th.

But the rest of the top 10 Cyberstars' player ratings are fair to middling, certainly nothing to write home about. The common denominator is that they have played a lot of entries -- 30+ for a number of them -- which elevates their standing in the Cyberstars competition.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Introducing NHCQualify Player Ratings

The PGA Tour has World Golf Rankings. Tennis has ATP Tour Rankings.

The NFL has Quarterback Ratings. The NBA has Player Efficiency Ratings. Baseball has a host of stats including On Base Percentage, Slugging Percentage, and good ol' fashioned Batting Average.

Which NHC Tour data point(s) similarly rank players based primarily on quality play, rather than quantity of play?, there really aren't any.

Until now.

Red Rock or Bust is pleased to introduce NHCQualify Player Ratings, which grades players based on quality of play, i.e. counting successes as well as failures. In other words, viva la denominator!

Look, the NHC Leaderboard serves its purpose as far as rewarding the top NHC Tour point earners with cash prizes and NHC seats. But as tour operator,  DRF/NTRA has a vested interest in getting players to pony up cash to play contests, so not surprisingly, its ranking system rewards brute force, as quantity of play is more important than quality of play. Granted, only a player's top six finishes count, but if you play 10 or 20 contest entries over the course of the year, do you stand a chance against the person who plays 60 entries?

Not bloody likely.

Enter NHCQualify player ratings, which is RedRockorBust's humble attempt to address the situation.


I kept the methodology sensible, simple and straightforward.

So far this year, nine contests have awarded seats for the 2017 National Handicapping Championship -- 1/30, 2/6, 2/13, 2/20, 2/27, 3/5, 3/12, 3/19, and 3/26.

In each of these contests, I awarded players 10 points for a top 1% finish, 9 points for a top 2% finish, 8 points for a top 3% finish....on down to 2 points for a top 9% finish, and 1 point for a top 10% finish.

Players who qualified for the NHC in a given contest received a +3 bonus on top of that.

A player's total number of points earned is divided by the total number of entries played to derive the NHCQualify Player Rating.

It ain't rocket science.

Players must have played at least 20% of the total NHCQualify contest entries to be rated. The 9 contests so far each allowed 2 entries for a maximum total entry number of 18, so the minimum number of entries to be rated is 4 (18*0.2=3.6).

Jim Sebes Leads After 1Q

Kudos to Jim Sebes of Hillsborough, New Jersey, whose 4.4 rating leads all NHCQualify players at the conclusion of 2016's first quarter.

Sebes won the 291-player Feb. 20 contest, qualifying for the 2017 NHC in the process, and most importantly, earned 13 (10+3) rating points for his effort. He added 9 points by finishing 4th in the 245-person March 19 contest.

A handful of players have earned more points than Sebes' 22, but Jim is the highest-rated of 'em all because he has made his mark in limited attempts -- just 5 entries.

22/5 = 4.4.

James Riley of Mansfield, Massachusetts is #2, with an NHCQualify Player Rating of 3.67. His 22 points matched Sebes, but he has played one more entry. Howard Yancovitch of Montreal is 3rd, 21/6 = 3.5.

Here's the top 10:

Player (Points/Entries=Rating)                                                       
1. Jim Sebes, Hillsborough NJ (22/5=4.4)                 
2. James Riley, Mansfield MA (22/6=3.67)               
3. Howard Yancovitch, Montreal (21/6=3.5)
4. Jim Covello, New Providence NJ (16/5=3.2)
T5. Michael Tomatz, Minneapolis MN (12/4=3.0)
T5. Peter Rotondo, New York NY (12/4=3.0)
7. Edward Enborg, Jacksonville FL (17/6=2.83)
8. Cory Hodskins, Lexington KY (11/4=2.75)
T9. Joe Maneen Jr., Haverhill, MA (13/5=2.6)
T9. Eliot Honaker, Lexington KY (26/10=2.6)

And the full rankings of the 139 NHCQualify players who have played at least four entries and registered at least one top 10% finish:

Note there are plenty of folks who haven't hit the top 10% this year, so while William R. of Utica, NY may be the lowest-rated point earner, sing no sad songs, as he's ahead of all those who have goose-egged in 2016.

(Also note that while the embedded spreadsheet seems totally navigable on desktop, it doesn't seem to work too well on mobile. Or maybe I'm just an idiot who can't figure out how to do it.)

But Wait, Before You Go...

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a few caveats to the NHCQualify Player Ratings.

1. The numbers do not present a full picture of NHC Tour play -- it's NHCQualify Player Ratings, not NHC Tour Player Ratings. I calculated the former rather than the latter simply because NHCQualify shows full historical results from previous contests.

A low-rated NHCQ player might be killin' it on other contest site(s) and/or at live events, just as a high-rated player here could be striking out elsewhere. This is just one part of the picture.

2. I'm not sure my formula is perfect. I think it's sensible and simple, but maybe there's a better way. I'm open for suggestions to that end.

3. I'm 98-99% confident in the accuracy of my data. I automated much of the spreadsheet slicing and dicing of sorting and cross-referencing, but I still had to key in some manual entries, and I was bleary-eyed at times. Also, IDK if NHCQualify changes things in terms of when people move or not, so for example if John S. of New York, NY turned into John S. of Chicago, IL during the quarter, I missed that.

I'm happy to correct any errors that are drawn to my attention.

Monday, November 30, 2015

3 Ways to Improve the NHC Tour

I haven't been much for weighing in on the NHC Tour in this lonely outpost of cyberspace, mainly because I never qualified for the NHC in any previous year. So offering my 2c would have been like my alma mater Rutgers offering unsolicited advice to the NCAA regarding the format of March Madness.

But this year, finally, I'm in baby. So I figure that allows me to opine on what I see and offer a few constructive suggestions.

Plus, in all likelihood this will be my only blog post of 2015, so I thought I would make it count, rather than just rehashing my own personal contesting situation.

So without further ado, I recommend that the DRF/NTRA...

Add More 'Tour' to the NHC Tour

The NHC Tour which I believe has been around for 6-7 years or so was a great idea and it has boosted interest in the NHC, but it has not realized its potential.

Reserved seating for Kinchen, Moomey, and Flanders defines tour as 'a traveling around from place to place', and this is where the NHC Tour underperforms.

The tour offers seats mostly through online events, and there are also brick-and-mortar contests at 18 North American racetracks. That's not a horrible number at face value, but cross-referencing the list of thoroughbred racetracks with the NHC Tour tracks shows that the following tracks were not represented in 2015:    

Charles Town
Churchill Downs
Delaware Park
Delta Downs
Ellis Park
Emerald Downs
Evangeline Downs
Finger Lakes
Golden Gate
Hoosier Park
Indiana Downs
Louisiana Downs
Oaklawn Park
Penn National
Presque Isle
Sunland Park
Tampa Bay Downs
Turf Paradise
Turfway Park

That's at least 23 tracks absent from the NHC Tour, which exceeds the number of tracks that are on the tour.

As I understand it, the issue is money. The no-show tracks aren't NTRA member tracks, which mean they would have to pay through the nose for an NHC seat, so they say thanks but no thanks.

But there's gotta be a compromise here, in the interest of the greater good. Can't the NTRA offer a fair deal for non-member tracks to offer just 1 seat per year at a live event? Not a giveaway, but a fair deal in which both sides give some. The tracks would benefit because of the additional handle on contest days; the NHC would benefit by bringing in new players; local players benefit by having a live option; out-of-town NHC Tour members would have other tracks to possibly tour. Win-win-win-win.

From my New Jersey home base, there are about 6-7 tracks on my no-show list that are a reasonable drive away, and at least a few other tracks could be intriguing possibilities to tie in a contest as part of a general leisure trip. My pal NJHorseplayer is often up for an adventure -- heck he's flying to Lone Star this coming Saturday -- and I'm sure other players would be amenable to hitting the road to some new places in the quest for an NHC seat.        

It would be tremendous if the NHC Tour could bring 12-15 new tracks into the fold. 10 would be great. Heck, adding even a half dozen would meaningfully bolster the schedule and make the tour more of a tour.

Come on NTRA folks. I'd find it hard to believe that the benefit of expanding the bricks-and-mortar NHC Tour would be less than the costs associated with making some concessions to non-member tracks to make it happen.

Help the Middle Class

The NHC Tour deck is stacked in the favor of the biggest players.

I'd go as far as positing that the single biggest determinant of whether one qualifies for the NHC is frequency of qualifying-contest play. Handicapping ability, contest skill, and luck rank 2, 3 and 4, in my opinion.

It's even more the case when it comes to NHC Tour points. If you plan on qualifying for the NHC via finishing in the top 150, you need to play a lot of contests to be competitive. If you don't play very many contests, you really have to thread the needle in an improbable way, i.e. do very well (without qualifying directly) in a high percentage of the contests that you do play. And forget about winning prize money by finishing near the top of the points standings, as aspiring for that without being a heavy player is like bringing a 1970s-style squirt gun to a Super Soaker fight. 

But, I get it.

Hotels give free nights to regular guests. Stock exchanges rebate high-frequency traders. Credit-card companies give more rewards to the biggest spenders. I could go on.  

An enterprise should reward its best customers. 

So I'm not here to whinge about the NHC's non-level playing field. In a perfect world, the NHC Tour would rank players based more on quality of play than on quantity of play, but ours is an imperfect world, it ain't gonna happen, and I'm not gonna go there.

But, I do recommend one simple, elegant and eminently sensible tweak that would tip the NHC tour scale at least a token smidge back toward equilibrium. This would help the middle class (always an attractive cause heading into an election year), which is up against it vs. the heavies.

Here's my plan:

Add a few seats (IDK maybe 10? Five? At least three) for middle-class NHC Tour members. I define middle-class NHC Tour members as those who play at least 10, but no more than 25, non-free, point-awarding contests over the course of the year.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of this middle class.)
A chicken, and an NHC seat, in every pot

Score by dividing the middle-class player's NHC Tour points by the number of contest entries he/she played. Simple as that.

For example, say I earn 3,000 points along the way of playing 15 contests in a given year. I would have have 200 middle-class (MC) points.

Someone else has 3,500 points over 20 contests, that's 175 MC points. Yet another player has 4,000 points over 10 events -- 400 MC points.

The top (insert # here) MC scorers at the end of the NHC Tour year go to the NHC.

Note this qualifying route would award 1st NHC seats only, i.e. if an MC player qualifies directly through a contest, he/she becomes ineligible for an MC seat.       

I gotta say, I love this idea. Seats are now awarded through 'rookie' contests which is a nice addition to the tour; in the same spirit, shouldn't there be something that helps the middle class, i.e. the folks who do NHC stuff as a casual hobby but don't play every weekend?

How about it NTRA? 

Cap the NHC

When I launched RedRockorBust dot blogspot dot com in 2009, I think the NHC had about 320 players. A few years later, it was close to 500. The 2015 version, which I believe was the first NHC that allowed two entries per player, had north of 600 entries. I was surprised at that last jump, as I thought 500 made a lot of sense as a stopping point.

I recently checked with Michele Ravencraft over at the NTRA -- she said there were 601 entries at the Jan. 2015 NHC, and about 625 entries are expected this coming January.

Look, I understand that growth of the NHC and NHC Tour is a good thing for all parties. But at the same time, when everybody plays, nobody wins. The NHC field has doubled over the past six years, and while still navigable at current levels, it's pushing the bounds of unwieldiness. Doubling it again over the next six years would result in an NHC that is more of a lottery-ticket proposition than a handicapping contest.

Is this the 2025 NHC?
I don't think anyone wants that.

My suggestion is twofold: in the short term (say for the next couple years), cap the number of entries at 650.

For the longer term, say three to five years out, articulate a vision as to what the field size will be. Is it meant to be about what it is now? Or is the plan to start ascending towards 1,000 entries? If the latter, how will it be managed so that it retains the ethos of a handicapping contest rather than 'de-evolving' into something more akin to an online free-for-all.

As I mentioned, I was taken aback by the >600 number from Jan. 2015 -- unless I missed something, I don't believe this bump was communicated in the e-mail blasts to the masses. If there are more material step-ups planned, I think it should be spelled out in advance.

Okay, that's all I got. Use it in good health.

Perhaps I'll come up with three more ideas for next year's blog post.  

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So I'm Free Jan. 23-25

It seems I'll go to work in NYC as usual on Fri Jan. 23, and putter around near home in South Orange, NJ on Sat. Jan. 24 and Sun Jan. 25, rather than being in Las Vegas for the 2015 National Handicapping Championship. I'll watch from afar as NJHorseplayer pulls off the improbable NHC victory.
My Vegas itinerary
My fate was sealed last Saturday, when North Slope didn't run a lick in the Gulfstream finale. I had plunked down my last $418 ($300W and $118P) on that 6-1 shot (a prime contender in a 13-horse field), and most likely I would be going to Vegas, if only it weren't for those pesky eight horses who finished in front of him.    
Here's how NTRA summarized my year: 
Terence Flanagan 1400 T1029
NHC Tour Free Online Challenge
3/22/2014 O 50
NHC Tour Free Online Challenge
4/13/2014 O 50
Monmouth Park
4/27/2014 T 150
Monmouth Park
5/31/2014 T 150
NHC Tour Free Online Challenge
5/31/2014 O 50
Belmont Handicapping Challenge
6/21/2014 T 150
Monmouth Park 
7/6/2014 T 150
Sovereign Stable
8/16/2014 O 50
Monmouth Park
8/23/2014 T 150
Monmouth Park
9/18/2014 T 150
11/16/2014 T 150
Monmouth Park
12/27/2014 T 150
So alas, another year of not qualifying for the NHC. And another year with no significant contest scores -- my $6K 2nd place finish at a Monmouth contest in early 2011 is pretty far back in the rear-view mirror.  
That said, my 2014 contesting wasn't all bad. 
A few highlights:
1. Winning two entries into the Simulcast Series Challenge Invitational at Monmouth, by virtue of 15th-place and 7th-place finishes in SSCs 2 and 3 respectively. I won a few bucks and some glory -- not bad for a one-entry-per-contest guy like myself.
2. Some mild success in DerbyWars -- nothing to write home about but I qualified for a couple big games via low-ante feeders. 
3. The 12/27 contest at Monmouth. Granted it's a reach -- and a sure sign that I didn't make any noise this year -- to call losing $200 and finishing tied for last a highlight. But, I nailed two longshots (22-1 and 42-1), I was in 7th place with $638 late in the day, and I took some good swings to try to get over the hump. So while the product stunk, the process was sound, and if I keep doing this I'll get there one day.   
4. Holding the line and not spending one thin dime on any contest that is tied to an NHC seat for which the contest operator is charged $7500. This means as a matter of principle, I do not play NHC-feeding contests on DerbyWars, HorseTourneys, or NHCQualify. I'm sure those contest operators can live without the grand or so I used to spend annually on such contests, but this is my way of voting with my wallet. 
So all in all I had fun, I had a few cheap thrills, and my losses were measured and quite reasonable for pursuing a hobby.     
I expect 2015 will be a similar contest schedule to 2014 -- NJ and NY brick-and-mortar contests, plus some cash DerbyWars games to scratch the itch between live events. It all starts on Jan. 10 at Monmouth Park.   
Happy New Year to all!   

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Empty at Belmont

All my Belmont contest winners

I played Belmont's handicapping contest this past weekend. It was my ninth NYRA contest since 2010, my ninth off-the-board finish, and my first double bagel.

I was pretty sick late last week (like, bronchitis or walking ammonia or something), so I was thinking of not even going. Brett Tessler of NYRA told me if I cancelled by 8 pm Thursday I could get a refund -- I thought long and hard about doing so, but I figured I'd gut it out and probably feel better as my antibiotics kicked on over the weekend.

Anyway Saturday started badly when I seriously considered International Star in the Belmont opener but just didn't pull the trigger. He won easily at 9-1. It was all downhill from there, with most of my losses being of the not-even-close variety. Bruno DeJulio's workout reports didn't help, Brad Thomas' insights didn't help, and my own feeble attempt at handicapping between nose blows didn't help. I went 0-8 on track, then left my final two bets (including double) to catch the 4:41 train and watch the races from home. Different viewing venue, same result, as my two final bets (both Thomas calls) finished up the track and distanced, respectively.

Overall Saturday was a bit pricier than average over the three tracks (Bel-Mth-CD), I reckon. And with 270+ players, of course people had the prices, so top bankrolls were plenty healthy at the end of Saturday. On the other hand my $0 bankroll was more sickly than I was, and realistically my ceiling was a top 25 finish perhaps, and even that would entail a huge day on Sunday.

And that wasn't to be. Sunday was much better for me in terms of closeness on bets -- I didn't lose any tough photos, but I had several big prices hit the board. Most notable was my double-bet Forgotten Prayers, who finished 2nd in 3Mth at 31-1 -- this would have been capped at 15-1, but still would have been huge for me. What little hope I had early Sunday dissipated as 0-1 turned into 0-4 and then 0-7, at which point I was done.

I got stupid lucky on the way out the door when I won $266 (bet $40W on Jazzy Alexis at Woodbine, who was freaking 10-1 when they loaded into gate but somehow went off at only 6-1) on a total hunch play based on a glance at the screen, especially as I very rarely bet anything outside contests. It was funny and somehow fitting that after a weekend of failing to pick a winner via straightforward analysis and tapping expert sources, I hit a winner and make back more than half of the weekend's expenses based on the equivalent of a Psychic Friends Network call.

So that's that. Congrats to Eric Moomey (or Moomy -- it's spelled both ways in the NYRA wrap), the Coxes who absolutely killed it, Noro Healy and everyone else who cashed. Also, kudos to the NYRA who always puts on a good contest with great value.

As for me, by late Sunday I had defrayed my weekend's costs by $266 and my health was improving, so I was actually in a decent mood for having been blanked in the contest. Overall I'm running about even on the year, maybe net $200 on the plus side, and having some fun doing it, so I can't complain (but I still will).

I'll probably do Monmouth July 6.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

5.26 Percent

I'll be competing in Monmouth Park's Simulcast Series Challenge Invitational on Saturday, luckily with two entries. Nicole Lince of Monmouth Park told me of the 80 entries signed on for Saturday, 76 are NHC Tour members -- the top 2 finishers who are NHC Tour members qualify for Vegas, so that puts my chances at 2 * (2/76), or 5.26%.

The good news is, 1/19 is a heckuva lot better than the ~1/60 shot that you get in most online contests, and there's no entry fee -- each entry is $200 live bankroll only. The not-so-good news is, the chance is still slim city, as there's almost a 95% chance that come Saturday evening, I'll be telling my sob story to anyone within earshot.

I'm happy to have two entries, but in general it's really not my thing and I can't recall ever playing two entries in the decade+ I've been playing contests. I understand a double entry gives you a better chance, but in my opinion there are some factors pertaining to strategy and decision making that complicate things. So when the cost is double but both the chance of winning and the enjoyment increase by less than double, flying solo is an easy decision for this budget-conscious contest player.

That means Sat. will be uncharted territory in terms of how I play the two entries.

I was first thinking I'd play one entry normally (i.e. methodical, mostly minimum $20 bets with only moderate risk-taking through early and mid-afternoon, hoping to be in with a chance late in the day)

and the other entry with some kind of risky hell-bent-for-leather strategy, say perhaps $200W on an 8-1 shot or something, or maybe play only $100 or $50 bets on this ticket. This way I'd have some chance to hit a big score early and be in front, but if I lost (most likely scenario), I'd still have the other entry to play as usual.

But while this strategy holds some appeal, and if I had a third entry I absolutely would play one like this, I'm now leaning toward a more conservative approach. This is certainly subject to change, but I'm thinking I'll play both entries in the same methodical, slow-early, hopefully-fast-late fashion. I'll play the same horse on both entries maybe a few times (i.e. my strongest calls); play more tepid calls on one entry only (though I'm not sure which one -- this to me is the biggest strategic challenge in having two entries); and in the instances when say I dislike a chalk but I can't decide between two alternatives, I'll play one on each entry.    

Assuming a best-case scenario of a few wins over the course of the afternoon, this strategy can have me in contention late in the day on both tickets, allowing me to swing on both.

Of course I'll need to have a very good handicapping day with at least a few decent-priced winners to have a shot at finishing in the top 2, but I'm thinking with the approach I outlined, I'll have at least some margin for error. If a couple of my core plays come in I can still win even if a key decision or two doesn't go my way, whereas with one entry, there's that much less margin for error.

With the risk-on approach of big early bets, my chances are certainly increased versus having only one entry, but they're increased in more of a random or lucky sense rather than a sound strategic sense. (If that makes any sense.)

Anyway, just some musings a day and a half before Saturday's first post.    

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Luck Ran Dry

As I kinda thought might happen, I busted in yesterday's Simulcast Series Challenge #4, ending my modest two-contest winning streak (well not *winning* winning, but coming out a few bucks ahead and earning seats in the SSC final).

I went 0-10 on the day, which is crummy but not as bad as it coulda been -- I cashed out my $681.30 from SSC3 when I first arrived so I was feeling a bit flush, and I briefly considered buying two entries. I'm glad I didn't.

Whereas breaks went my way in SSCs 2 and 3, yesterday just wasn't my day. A series of early near-misses, each on horses right about 7-1, pretty much doomed me: Storm Off, who finished 2nd after missing the break in 4.5-furlong Keeneland baby-race opener (comment was "unprepared start" -- WTF Corey Lanerie?); I'm a Southern Diva, who lost by a 1/2 length in Tam2; Bluegrass Jam, who fell a neck and a head short in Tam3; and then Tricky Hat, who fell a neck short in Kee5.

I still had probably $40-$50 around midafternoon but the day just never had a good 'feel' for me. You have to have at least some breaks and close stuff go your way to make noise in these contests, so when I had four instances *not* going my way within the afternoon's first two hours, I heard the fat lady warming up.

Things indeed went downhill from there, as up-the-track finishes replaced close calls, and I started reaching for prices. My final bet of the afternoon was in the Wood, $10W on Schivarelli. He ran well to finish 4th at 16-1, but that dashed any hopes I had of making an improbable late run. The winner, Wicked Strong, was plenty playable at 9-1 and I may well have went with him if I had more bankroll, but at that point I was looking for double-digit prices. Probably didn't matter, as I can't say I would have had any winners in the few contest races after the Wood.

Anyway, I didn't get a 3rd seat to the April 26 contest but I sure as heck can't complain with 2. I'll have to work up some strategy between now and then.