Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NOW things get started...

Besides the Kentucky Derby, this Saturday marks a sort of unofficial start to the real racing season, in this NJ-based blogger's view. The Triple Crown segues into summer racing at Monmouth Park, Belmont, and Saratoga, which peaks in July-August, then things wind down with a nice Belmont fall meet and conclude with the Breeders' Cup.

Things start to perk up on the NHC Tour contest schedule as well. By my very unofficial count, so far 53 lucky folks have qualified for the 2010 National Handicapping Championship at the Red Rock. Assuming a 275-person field, that means there are still more than 200 spots up for grabs.

This weekend's main event is an online NHC Tour thingamabob that spans Friday and Saturday. The contest qualifies 2 for Vegas, but I'm assuming the field will be 800ish (as was the Feb. 28 NHC Tour Fountain of Youth event), so it's sort of like a lottery-ticket proposition. Beyond just the top 2, the top 30 finishers earn points that can help qualify you down the road.

The other contest thingamajig that starts this weekend is Public Handicapper, which I could swear used to qualify folks for the NHC, but now I'm seeing it qualifies people for the Horseplayer World Series. Public Handicapper is free so maybe I'll try it for fun, but to me, the HWS is to the NIT what the NHC is to the NCAA Tourney, so I'm not that interested.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New T-Shirt

My NHC Tour t-shirt came in the mail today. I'd prefer the back to be a bit less of an attention-grabber, but it is clever.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Nothing doing for this contest handicapper this weekend or next weekend. I'm taking a mini-break from the contest circuit (I'm sure they will miss me desperately!) and racing overall ahead of the Kentucky Derby (May 2) and the opening of Monmouth Park (May 9).

There's plenty of NHC Tour action going on without me, though. Events this weekend at Santa Fe Station, Santa Anita, and Keeneland will qualify a total of six for Vegas, and online affairs at and XpressBet and NHCQualify (April 25) will stamp the tickets of another 15 lucky players, none of whom will be the proprietor of

I'll be back in the swing of things within a fortnight.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Early Derby Thoughts

The crux of this blog is my quest to qualify for the 2010 National Handicapping Championship, but I figure there's no harm in occasionally weighing in on other racing topics. To that end, I'd like to offer my preliminary 2 cents on the upcoming Kentucky Derby.

I believe the Kentucky Derby is the most over-analyzed horse race in America, and largely a crapshoot. From a handicapping perspective, it’s tough to have much confidence that your horse will win, as 20-horse fields create traffic jams and brutal trips that just cannot be predicted. Other variables such as the 1 1/4-mile distance, and the pageantry and madness of the day itself, just add more uncertainty to the mix.

All that said, for those of us who still plan to bet on the Kentucky Derby, I think Quality Road is the real deal. At the moment, it looks like there may not be a lot of early pace signed on for the Derby (this assessment is subject to revision, of course), and QR has proven versatility in either going to the front or sitting just off the early leaders. The recent quarter crack that caused him to miss some training is a concern, but I think there's plenty of time left before Saturday, May 2 for Jerkens to get him right.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, April 13, 2009

NHCQualify: The Autopsy

I finished in 236th place in Saturday's NHCQualify contest, out of 298 players, with a bankroll of $12.40. My sole winner was My Maloof Rocker ($3.20, $2.20) in Santa Anita's 2nd race, and my biggest earner was Why Tonto (who paid $7 to place) in Keeneland's 10th race.

I have no real regrets, lamentations, or shoulda woulda couldas -- it just wasn't my day. Blue Grass winner General Quarters ($30.60, $11) was the biggest price in the 10 contest races,and I didn't like him at all. Other decent-priced winners that I didn't have were Tiger Woodman ($24.20, $9.60), Eternal Star ($13.20, $5.40), and Hero's Reward ($12.60, $6.20) at Keeneland, and Shadow of Illinois ($17, $8.40) and Idontbelievemyeyes ($14.60) at Santa Anita. You needed at least two of the above horses plus a little chalk money to get to the minimum qualifying bankroll of $72.40.

On the bright side, I'm not at all discouraged and the contest was funner than I expected. I'm not in the 4/18 NHCQualify event, but I'd like to try another one in June.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Playing for Pride

Massone loomed a threat until mid-stretch and finished a decent third, but that didn't do me an iota of good. Switched out to Santa Anita for the next event, where Doriprize lost any chance by blowing the break.

With only three races left and a meager $5.40 in my bankroll, I'm essentially playing for pride the rest of the way. For the 10th race at Keeneland, I just switched to the #3 Why Tonto, who looks like he could be the controlling speed. At 6-1 (and quite possibly drifting lower), he won't save the day for me, but I figure at this point everyone who's far back in the contest is chasing bombers, so maybe I'm being contrarian by not being contrarian.

Or maybe I'm just punchy from sitting at my computer for too long!

Go Massone!

I switched over to the #11 Massone for the Blue Grass. Not the best post, obviously, but I like 13-1.

This is a pretty suspect field, in my estimation -- lots of pretenders. Massone has a lot to prove himself, but he's been running against some legit California 3-yos including Chocolate Candy and I Want Revenge. So if the Cali contingent really is strong this year, Massone should rate a good chance here.

I guess others are thinking the same way, as Massone is down to 10-1 as the enter the gate.

Time running out

I thought Forever Together coming off a layoff in a paceless field was a poor betting proposition at even money, so I won't be losing any sleep over that one.

But my situation is starting to look dire. Five races down, five to go, and all I have in my ledger is one chalky winner. It's the football equivalent of being down 20-3 at halftime.

Blue Grass coming up next. I gotta find me a winner.


I was right that Storm Treasure was no good, but I didn't anticipate that Keep Laughing wouldn''t lift a hoof either. Not good.

I'm not gonna bother to look where I am in the standings for now, I'll take it on faith that I have some serious ground to make up.

Four races down, six to go. It's not over, but realistically, I probably need to pick a couple non-chalk winners over the next four races to get back in the hunt.

On the board

The Santa Anita chalk got me on the board, yay. I think I'm in 120th place.

Back to Keeneland. I just switched from Storm Treasure to the #2, Keep Laughing -- I don't think the pace scenario sets up well for the late-running Storm Treasure.


Hewitts was a bust and now the contest moves out west to Santa Anita.

I started with Samantha's Rule but I just switched to the 1-5 chalk My Maloof Rocker. For confidence reasons, I need to put some points on the board.


It was a less than auspicious start to my day, as Tasty Temptation finished 5th at 7-2. It looked like she had traffic throughout, but what can you do, them's the breaks in a 10-horse field.

I'm a bit bummed because I strongly considered switching over to the eventual 3-1 winner Song of Solomon until about a minute before post time, but ultimately I decided to stand pat with Tasty Temptation. Having Song of Solomon ($8.40 to win and $4.80 to place) won't make anyone's contest day, but having it is a lot better than not having it.

I just peeked at the standings -- 22 people (less than I would have guessed) had Song of Solomon and are tied for first with $13.20, and another 43 (more than I would have guessed) had Esperanza de' Oro, who paid $9.40 to place. I guess that puts me in a 235-way tie for 66th place, with $0.00!

Contest Day

Well here we is, the day of my first-ever contest, ain't it thrilling. I'm hoping some beginner's luck will carry the day for me.

The 30th-place person from the April 4 NHCQ contest finished with $77, so I guess that's a decent estimate of what it will take to advance. $77 doesn't sound like all that much but it essentially is a doubling of your $40 betting allowance, so needless to say, I need to have a very good day.

I entered my picks early (in case my internet goes down or something) as follows:

Kee5: Tasty Temptation
Kee6: Hewitts
SA2: Samantha's Rule
Kee7: Storm Treasure
Kee8: I Lost My Choo
Kee9: Join in the Dance
SA5: Luhuk's Dancer
Kee10: Equitable
SA6: Stormy Slew
SA7: Arden Park

I'll be reviewing more over the course of the afternoon and up until post time, I imagine I'll call at least a few audibles and change stuff on the fly.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Back in Action

After a six-week layoff from handicapping contests, I'm looking forward to trying my luck in Saturday's event. I'm still mourning my Feb. 28 non-qualifying (why on earth did I bet Beethoven over Quality Road in the FOY?) for the Invitational they're having at Monmouth Park this Saturday -- dang I wanted to be at that thing -- but NHCQualify it is.

If I understand the rules correctly, I'll be one of 300 contestants on Saturday, which is a "Round 1" event. The goal is to finish in the top 30, which moves you on to Round 2, to be held on the last Saturday of the month. Assuming 90 players in Round 2 (30 from each of the three Round 1 contests), the top 9 then qualify for Vegas. So the percentages seem reasonable enough, but of course, making the top 10% in two consecutive contests is much easier said than done.

Of Saturday's 10 contest races, 6 are from Keeneland and 4 are from Santa Anita. I've not developed any real feel for the synthetic KEE surface, and I never have followed California racing closely, so I will need more than my share of luck. The format (1 mythical $2WP bet on each race, odds capped at 20-1 on win and 10-1 on place) will also be new to me, as the NJ contests I have played offer more leeway on wager size and do not cap odds.

At any rate, all that stuff is noise really, my focus on Saturday is to be in the top 30 after Santa Anita's 7th race is made official. This will require some good handicapping, and some better-than-good luck.

I'm hoping to live-blog my contest experience in some way, shape or form on Saturday.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Texas-Sized Contest

NHC contest action this weekend includes a live event at Lone Star Park as well as an affair.

Lone Star's contest looks pretty decent -- it is the second of three free 450-player qualifiers, from which 50 move on to an October championship. The 150-person championship then qualifies 6 for Vegas. The designated wagers are about as varied as I've ever seen for a contest: $1,140 in mythical bets, including exactas, trifectas, and superfectas. Unfortunately I will not be in Texas tomorrow, so they will have to somehow carry on their contest without me.

I'm trying next Saturday's, but this weekend is another idle one for this NHC Tour member.