Despite a fair amount of attempts and some close calls, once again I did not qualify for the DRF/NTRA Handicapping Championship (cue the violins). So I will not be at the Red Rock in Las Vegas on the weekend of Jan. 28-29; being that this blog is named Red Rock or Bust, I must therefore declare an official state of bust.
I apologize for being a lazy @$&*! and not blogging much this year (that's an understatement). I have no excuse. But I will offer a brief 2010 recap here and I hope to be more active in 2011.
While I did not qualify for NHC, I did have a decent year on the contest circuit. The highlight was definitely placing 5th of 219 in a February handicapping contest at Monmouth Park, which got me to the April invitational, earned me some pin money for subsequent qualifying attempts, and restored faith in my ability to compete in these things.
I got a run for my money in the April invitational, when I was actually on my way to Las Vegas as of 5:30 p.m. -- the problem was that there were still about 45 minutes and 4 contest races left (I faded). Similarly, I was on my way to Vegas as of about 4:50 p.m. on the day of Monmouth's big contest in August, but again I couldn't close the deal.
Another highlight was taking my show on the road (outside NJ, that is) for the first time -- I participated in NYRA contests at Belmont in June and Aqueduct in November. I finished in mid-pack in both events; did better in the AQU affair, where I shoulda woulda coulda made some noise if a couple photos went my way (including a 24-1 capper at Churchill Downs who lost by a head).
All told I think I played nine live contests this year: four early in the year at Monmouth, three during Monmouth's live meet, plus the two NYRA affairs. I generated a very small net profit: +~ $1,700 in the Feb. contest and ~$200 in two other contests, minus the entry fees of the others. I did fail to qualify for NHC, but I can never complain about breaking even or better and having a lot of fun in the process.
Big picture, I still can't say conclusively that I'm any better than other contest players. I figger I'm played in about 35-40 contests over the past seven years approximately, and I've placed in the top 10 twice. Using a roughly average contest field size of 200, that means an average player has a 1-in-20 chance of placing in the top 10, which is about what I've shown. But I've yet to qualify for the NHC, which is the ultimate prize -- I'll trade a couple dozen off-the-board contest finishes over a few down years for one shot at NHC glory anytime.
At any rate, what's in store for 2011? Who knows. If I'm still above ground and solvent, I'll most likely be taking semi-regular shots to qualify for the 2012 NHC, starting with a Jan. 15 event at Monmouth Park. There are changes afoot for the Big Dance, including a bigger pot, a significantly expanded field and a different dues structure for the NHC Tour. Regarding the blog, I hope to be more active, and may also collaborate in some manner with bitter NHC Tour rival William H.