Monday, December 26, 2011

I'm Going to Vegas*!

*but probably not for the NHC

That's right. I didn't qualify for the 2012 NHC, but I did qualify for a play-in contest to the 2012 NHC via

Here's how it went down. After being pretty much resigned to my fate of not qualifying for the 2012 NHC because I failed to qualify in the first 11 3/4 months of 2011, I received an e-mail from William H. at that mentioned he would be participating in today's contest, which I had been unaware of. I wasn't crazy about the specs, i.e. 1/3 takeout and seemingly a wild-goose chase to Vegas, but given the low $50 ante and with me nursing a Christmas cold and half a box of wine to kick, I figured I'd give it a whirl and sign up.

I didn't spend much time on the PPs, but the planets aligned for my tried-and-true short-cut angles. Trainer recency landed me on American Blend at 5SA ($23 to win, $9.40 to place) and Voce de Leone in 9GP ($10.80, $5), while an odds-movement pattern pointed me to Gorgelicious in 7GP ($10.60 to place). Throw in a few logical chalks (What a Rush in 2SA, Bernster in 3SA, Tiz a Theme in 11GP), and I had enough notional bankroll to finish in 6th place of 240 contestants.

So along with the five folks who finished ahead of me and the two who finished right behind me, I won a free entry to the Treasure Island play-in on Wednesday Jan. 25 ($500 value), plus a $500 travel voucher to Sin City.

I'm not sure what the specs are for the play-in, but given the fairly steep $500 ante I'm assuming it'll come with a reasonable chance to qualify, perhaps 1/15 or somesuch. I'll plan to go to Vegas on Tues Jan. 24 and return late-night Wed. Jan. 25; I'll try to fly Southwest (no change fees), so on the off chance that I qualify I'll stick around for the NHC, which is Fri Jan. 27-Sat Jan. 28.

I kind of feel like a middling college team heading into its conference tourney on a hot (or at least warm) streak, hoping to win at least a couple more games to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

I probably won't qualify, but it will be fun.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Whad Up Wit Dat? The Future of Monmouth Park (Part III)

Is Oceanport, N.J. the new Flint, Michigan?

OK granted that is a stretch, but there are some real similarities.

A declining industry that is a big part of the tax base. Government mulling what if any support is warranted. Erstwhile white-knight investors kicking tires, but not biting.

Whereas the U.S. auto industry seems to have at least stabilized, albeit in a much smaller form, the future of horse racing on the Jersey Shore can only aspire to that outcome right now.

I have previously weighed in on the future of Monmouth Park here and here. In Part III of Whad Up Wit Dat?, I offer my 2 cents on the latest developments.

According to the most recent report, the state of New Jersey will continue to operate Monmouth Park in 2012 while a private investor is sought. While that is decidedly good news compared with the stone-cold closure that seemed to have been on the table, the indicated purses are Grim City: about $150-175K per day, or whatever is supported by betting handle. In other words, the state will run the track but will not be on the hook for any losses, which from what I understand have run into the millions of dollars in recent meets.

How grim is $150-175K per day? Well I took a gander at for a cheapie track as a frame of reference...landed on Penn National, Dec. 17 card....added up the purses of the 9 races...and hit out to $167K. So just two years after Monmouth Park's "Elite Meet" lured jockeys John Velazquez and Garrett Gomez from New York and California, the 141-day "Shit-Ass Meet" beckons, with lots of short fields and lunchpail $10K-$20K races. Blech.

A few observations:

-I'm not sure how they hit out to the $150-175K range -- I wonder if that's overly optimistic, because I see clear potential for a negative cycle: crummy racing leads to less betting, which leads to lower purses, which leads to crummier racing.

-Toughest job in sports in 2012: marketing Monmouth Park.

-Second-toughest job: NJ thoroughbred breeder. Just a few days ago, the Wall Street Journal ran a story about how thoroughbred breeding in New York is on the rise, buoyed by money from the new Aqueduct casino. Horse breeding in NJ is no doubt moving in the opposite direction, amid seemingly never-ending uncertainty about the future of racing in the state and now a withdrawn private-investment bid and the specter or harsh purse cuts. I suspect you can probably get a nice NJ-bred horse these days for very cheap.

-I imagine finding a private investor will be very difficult. Nothing about the economics of Monmouth Park will change in the near-term: horse racing is still in decline and the economy is still lousy, so the place will continue to lose money. And Gov. Christie has picked Atlantic City over horse racing, so any sort of casino/slot development at Monmouth or the Meadowlands is pretty much a pipe dream. One guy (Morris Bailey) has already walked away from leasing Monmouth Park, why would anyone else sign on without a game changer?

Personally, I hope Monmouth keeps its handicapping contests, especially its winter Simulcast Series Challenge. But beyond that, I'm more or less apathetic. In a way I lament the demise of Monmouth Park, and I disagree with Christie in his choice of AC over the tracks, but at the same time I agree with Christie conceptually that the state should not be in the business of subsidizing money-losing sports like horse racing. The fact that horse racing can't make it on its own is the free market saying that it should go away. Lord knows horse racing needs consolidation, so in the worst-case scenario of a Monmouth closure, presumably the product at NY and some mid-Atlantic tracks would be strengthened.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Rough weekend for yours truly at last weekend's Aqueduct handicapping contest, as I finished 168th of 225 and was never really involved.

My only winner of the whole damn weekend was Mon Rose in the 5th at Aqueduct on Saturday. She paid $11, putting my notional bankroll at $110, good for about 45th place at this early juncture (2:30 p.m. Saturday). I was feeling good at that time, but little did I know that would be my high-water mark for the weekend.

Quick an' dirty bet recap (note each bet is a notional $20W unless otherwise specified):


2Aqu, Rock On Home, 9-1: had a nice easy front-running trip and spurted away at the top of the stretch, but faded late to 4th

4 Crc, Vero's Hero, 6-1: I saw some odds movement here but this horse did nothing

5Aqu, Mon Rose, 9-2: got kind of lucky with this my only winner, as I only decided to bet it at the last minute

5CD, Glynisthemenace, 21-1 (would have been capped at 15-1): was feeling a bit bold after winning with Mon Rose. This race was wide-open with lots of prices, unfortunately mine didn't come in

6CD, A.P. Diva, 23-1 (would have been capped): had a nice stalking trip and dead aim on the leaders in the stretch, but wasn't good enough. Gave me a brief thrill but only managed 3rd.

7Aqu, Market Strike, 13-1: first-time Dutrow starter, did nothing

7CD, For All Who Conga, 9-2: didn't pick up his feet

8Aqu, Musical Rain, 5-1: rallied late but only managed a non-threatening 3rd. $10.80 winner Hit It Rich was my second choice, very playable

9Aqu, King Keene, 36-1 (would have been capped): did nothing. He had a hint of turf pedigree and was making first start on the lawn, but this was definitely a reach

10CD, Cover Boy, 25-1 (double bet, $4oW): kind of a nutty pick, especially as my only double bet of the day, but no-name trainer Carolyn Murphy had been live so I thought it was worth a flyer. Not sure if this horse was or wasn't live though as he had to take up sharply early in this sprint race and lost all chance

So after Saturday I had a fairly meager bankroll of $110. The leader had about $700. didn't post the full standings at the halfway point, but I'm sure I was midpackish, probably around 110-120th.

I was bummed that I couldn't eke out at least one winner after Mon Rose. I can't say I was real close on anything, either; what I was close with were two different horses who I almost bet but didn't. Both almost won, at about 8-1 each. So I dodged bullets there.

Going into Sunday I decided to try to get back into contention in a meaningful way from the get-go, or not at all. There wasn't anything I really liked anywhere, and I didn't want to subject myself to a slow drip of losing and then suddenly it's 4 p.m. and I have 3 bets left and I'm hopelessly out of it -- I'd rather go out in a blaze of glory and at least be home in time to catch some of the late-afternoon football games.

Here's what I did:

1Aqu, File Gumbo, 7-1: I originally liked a horse that scratched out of this race but thought FG was a decent fallback, but he did nothing

1CD, Folowthemoneytrail, 34-1 (double bet, $40W, odds would have been capped): I told you I was going hell-bent for leather early in the afternoon. "Lost footing start" was the comment and he finished 5th.

2CD, Baby Afleet, 12-1: nowheresville

3Aqu, Page by Page, 9-2: not-good-enough 3rd behind the chalks

4Aqu, St. Lucy, 8-1: wide 4th

4CD, Raquel, 6-1: looked strong at one point but flattened out and only managed 3rd.

At this point, down half my Sunday bets including the double, I was pretty much cooked. Even if I ran the table the rest of the way I would have been lucky to crack the top 20. So I made a few more bets , including my last 3 on my way out the door and that was that.

See you next year NYRA!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Last Stand

First off allow me to apologize for being a lame-ass blogger and not showing up for almost two months now. My excuses are: busy with work, cannibalization by twitter (I once read a tweet that said "86% of all blog posts start with 'sorry I haven't been blogging...'"), and the sun got in my eyes.

Long story short, I'm still unqualified for the 2012 NHC, so in a hail-mary attempt to rectify that I'll be participating in the Aqueduct handicapping contest this weekend (Sat-Sun). It will be my last live contest of 2011. I'm taking the 9:57 a.m. NJ Transit train from South Orange to NYC, then switching to MTA and A-training to the Big A. I should be there at about 11:30, plenty of time to sign and settle in for a 12:20 first post.

I can't say I'm totally amped yet but I am looking forward to it and I'm sure my pulse will quicken once I get there. It's a full-immersion weekend (2 days, 3 cards per day) to be sure, and NYRA does it right, with a decent food spread and a comfortable and fun atmosphere that includes draft beer by midafternoon.

I haven't been following the races worth a damn recently (maybe a 3 on an earnestness scale of 1 to 10 at Aqueduct; 2 at Churchill; and 1 at Calder) so I am kidding myself if I think I can effectively cover 60+ races over two days by straight-shot past-performance and replay analysis. Instead, I'll be relying on my usual short-cut angles such as trainer recency and odds-movement patterns. Trust the angles, baby.

A couple general observations on playing these NYRA contests: (1) having at least some measure of early speed is critical, given the stipulated # and amount of bets. There's no coming from the clouds with an all-in thing like you can do in the NJ contests. As Yogi Berra would say, it gets late early at these things. (2) Some of my more "angle-y" plays are at CD and Crc, so I'm guessing I end up playing on the conservative side at Aqueduct (maybe as low as 7-2 or 3-1) and try to nail prices at Churchill and Calder.

That's all folks.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Late Collapse Dooms Red Rock or Bust

I finished with $0.40 in the Monmouth-Woodbine handicapping contest at Monmouth last Sunday (9/18). I went from rags to riches, then back to rags in what turned out to be a topsy-turvy late afternoon, but the bottom line was a very disappointing finish.

I won't bore you with the full blow-by-blow recap, rather I'll fast-forward to the Woodbine Mile, the penultimate race on the WO card. My starting bankroll of $100 was down to $52 going into the race, as I had had just one smallish winner before that. It was late in the day and I didn't see much that I liked afterwards, so I decided it was time for a win-or-go-home bet. I put $52W on Turallure, and lo and behold if he didn't storm from 11th place with 1/4 mile to go to win. I actually had given up on the horse at the top of the stretch (as did his trainer, according to the DRF recap of the race) and I was watching the leaders' late duel; it wasn't until after the wire that NJ Horseplayer dot com remarked that the 8 had won did I realize my afternoon wasn't done yet.

The Turallure win got me to $387.40 and like 4th place. After a losing $10 bet, it was down to two races, the Woodbine finale then the Monmouth finale. With $377.40, just a few hundred bucks from cracking the top 2, I was right in the striking position I wanted to be.

I didn't have much of an opinion in either contest race left. At Woodbine, I was mildly intrigued by price plays Captain Crow and Raynham, but I ended up putting $100W on the 6-5 chalk Control. My reasoning was, I thought Control was the most likely winner of the race -- he wasn't gonna win me the contest, but if he won it would have hurt a lot of longshot players and put me in a much better position heading into the last contest race.

But Control didn;t pick up his feet really, and to add insult to injury, Captain Crow (9-1) and Raynham (11-1) finished 2-1.

So I was down to $277.40 and around 10th place, with one race left -- the Monmouth finale, a $10K tomato-can maiden claimer. At first I liked Call Me Sweetheart at the 9-2 price he was at early in the wagering, but then I went off him when he dropped to 5-2 (eventually 2-1) and switched to my second choice, Praymore (who went off at 5-2). I put $177W and $100P on Praymore, goes to the lead but tires to finish 6th, while Call me Sweetheart wins. F'in A, I'm done.

My post-contest autopsy was a bit more painful than usual, as I concluded that my post-Turallure decisions were highly questionable.

For one, the $100W bet on the 6-5 chalk at Woodbine was a shitty bet, in retrospect. I'm not saying that I 'shoulda' bet either the 11-1 winner or the 9-1 second choice with any vigor, as I wasn't crazy about either one, but the right bet was probably $5WP, maybe $10WP on one of those two. Not betting the race was not an option b/c I needed to bet to make my five-race WO minimum, but that 6-5 POS was just no value at all.

Secondly, a pretty-strong case can be made that I erred in going off eventual winner in the Monmouth finale. I went off Call Me Sweetheart because he was 5-2 (eventually 2-1), only to land on Praymore -- who went off at 2.60-1. I'm not sure what value differential I was seeing, because there really wasn't one. Also, from a handicapping perspective, dirt races were being won all day by 3-4 wide movers, and Praymore broke from the rail. I missed that angle.

So in sum it was a good contest in that I was in contention with a real chance late in the day, which (as anyone who reads this blog knows) is all I ask.
It was bad because I think I may have screwed up with my late decisions, which sticks in my craw.

I will add that I felt a bit better after seeing the 838.90 and 833.50 top finishing bankrolls. Had I played my $177W, $100P winner in the Mth finale, I would have finished with 721.40; had I only bet $10 rather than $100 in the WO finale AND hit the Monmouth finale, I would have finished with $811.40. Third place money and glory would have been nice and all, but I can't lament missing that too much. The only way I would have won is if I had made a small bet on one of the longshots I mildly liked in the WO finale that finished 1-2, AND had the Monmouth winner. That's not an entirely implausible scenario, but it is a double if, which starts to detach from reality and veer down a very hypothetical road.

One last observation I have relates to an question that I continue to struggle with in these contests: when you're in it late and looking at a race (or races) in which you don't really have an opinion, do you go all in or do you pick up your ball and go home? (I don't think there's any real in-between answer.)

My working answer is to go all in, as I believe that opportunities to take down a contest don't come around very often, and you have to take a shot when they do. Also, the real odds go way up in late-day situations if you add in the prospective prize money and value of NHC berth to whatever you'd collect from the bet(s) itself -- Praymore in the Mth finale was more like 8-1 for me rather than 5-2, factoring in the $1,332 prize money I 'woulda' won by finishing in 3rd place.

But at the same time, there is something to be said for quitting with a few hundred bucks and deploying that cash to fight another day...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I coulda been a contender...

I'm back from yesterday's the handicapping contest at the Nassau Race Palace OTB on Long Island. It only took me two trains and a cab to get there, but what the hey, it'll be my only live contest this month.

Unfortunately my results didn't match up to the adventure of the day, as I failed to finish in the top 10 of the ~90 or so players as was needed to win any prize money. (Congratulations to Paul Schurman or Shurman and Robert Rodriguez, who finished 1-2 according to this half-baked contest recap I found.) I probably finished about 40th, which means nothing really, as in this contest 11th place got you the same -$300 net loss as 90th place. And whereas in many contests I walk away with a c'est la vie, in this one I had a fairly significant coulda woulda shoulda.

Here's what I did with my 10 notional $2WP bets:

1. 1Sar, Indian Tale: I liked this horse a bunch at 6-1 in a shortish field, and he came flying late but ran out of real estate and fell a head short. a $15 winner would have been a sweet start, instead I got just $7.60 to place; better than losing of course, but still a pisser.
2. 3Mth, Spangled Star: Thought a speed duel could set him up, trainer Patricia Farro had won the previous race, and 6-1 was a decent price. They did run fast early but that didn't help Spangled Star, who never ran a jump.
3. 4Mth, Brown Eyed Nance: This was a real speculative play based pretty much entirely on trainer DiMauro having won a race the previous day. She broke decently and was forwardly placed in this turf sprint, but she faded like you would expect for a 32-1 shot. Woulda been a nice capper, but I can't say I was surprised by the outcome.
4. 5Sar, Evan's Rocket: I wasn't cuckoo crazy about this horse, but coming off the turf made for some chaos on the oddsboard in my opinion, including an awful 2-1 favorite. Evan's Rocket scored at 9-1, which got me back $32.40 and boosted my bankroll to an even $40, good for a tie for 11th place.
5. 6Sar, Washington's Rules: Thought this closer had a decent shot at 8-1, especially as the McPeek/Cruz connection had shown some life in previous days. But the 6-5 chalk ran like a 6-5 chalk and won by the length of the stretch, with W's R checking in a non-threatening third.
6. 7Sar, Oatka Idas Rose: killer. Going into the race I was interested in Funky Munky Mama, as low-profile trainer Gary Gullo had won on Saturday. Then I see she clicks from 15-1 ML to about 8-1 early in the betting, before drifting back to almost 14-1. But despite the double angle, I talk myself into believing there's too much early speed in the race, which will screw Funky Munky and set it up for a closer, like Oatka. What happens? Funky Munky goes wire-to-wire and pays 29.80 and 12.20; Oatka checks in third. Ouch, man -- this one hurt.
7. 8Sar, Callmenancy: McPeek/Cruz screw me again as first-time starter runs last at 20-1.
I think Yogi Berra was at one of these fixed-number-of-bet contests when he said "it gets late early around here," as my remaining bullets were few and it was starting to feel late.
8. 9Sar, Wild News: this was a shitty bet, in retrospect. I thought C.C. Lopez could take advantage of the track bias and speed-pop the compact field at 5-1; she vied for the lead for about a whole 100 yards before backing up.
9. 10Mth, My Sweet Nenana: Actually ran a decent 3rd at 18-1 but never really threatened.
10. 10Sar, Bank Merger: ran 7th of 8 but whatever, I was done.

So that was that. If I had stayed with Funky Munky Mama on my 6th bet, I "woulda" been in first place with $82, and "woulda" finished no worse than 7th place. (Top 10 was:

  1. Paul Shurman, $115.80
  2. Robert Ramirez, $115.40
  3. Chris Olsson, $110.00
  4. Matthew Levy, $103.90
  5. Sydney Cohn, $92.70
  6. Ron Rippey, $89.60
  7. Robert Felt, $81.00
  8. Leonard Ficcarelle, $80.40
  9. Mitch Schuman, $77.40
  10. Ken Seeman, $75.80)
I may have done a couple places better than 7th, as I think I "woulda" played a bit more conservatively in the later races. But I can't say I "woulda" had a chance at the top 3, because I didn't like any of the late-day prices. But that's all academic.

The unanswered question is, should I have played Funky Munky Mama? There's no clear black and white here -- it's gray -- and I'm thinking the answer is somewhere between maybe and probably. I do like my angles, but I also like to look at the form in a more traditional manner as well to support (or in this case, argue against) the angles. In Wall Street parlance, it's kind of like an automated trading strategy with a discretionary human override -- yesterday, that override just happened to screw me.

I still think I'll have better long-term results with the discretionary human override rather than without, but at the same time I have a feeling that the next time I see a double angle at 14-1, I'll be telling myself where to put the override.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Own Mini-Qualifier

I would like to play in the Saratoga Handicapping Challenge on Wed-Thu Aug 10-11. I have the days off work, I can afford it, and I think it would be a lot of fun while providing a decent chance to win some prize money (1/15) and maybe even an elusive NHC seat (1/50).

However, the $1,000 ante stopped me in my tracks. I had arranged for the days off on the expectation that the ante would be $400, as the two other NYRA contests are. I am still ahead a shade north of $4K this year thanks to a March windfall, so I can use some more tax-loss offsets, but there are still a bunch more contests to be played this year and $1K (more like $1,300 when you factor in transpo and one night's lodging) in one shot is just a bit out of my comfort zone.

BUT I have come up with a compromise idea. I'm tentatively planning to budget $150 for a track excursion one day next weekend (Jul 22-23). If I can somehow net $600 profit from said excursion, I will sign up for the Spa contest -- I was going to play that for a $400 ante, and $1,000-$600 = $400.

Realistically it's a longshot, as I'd say netting $600 profit with a starting bankroll of $150 is not much better than a 1-in-10 chance approximately. But it will make for an interesting day at least.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Bad day at the office yesterday, as the NHC Super Qualifier event at Monmouth Park turned out to be a Super Dud for this NHC aspirant.

The tone was set earlyish in the day when two of my longshots, 14-1 Fast Grievance in the Belmont 3rd and 18-1 Brushed by a Star in the 6th at Monmouth, ran well but each only finished 2nd to the chalk. I did have a small place bet on Fast Grievance, but I needed a win by one or both to put me in the game early, instead I got back on heels.

My $150 initial bankroll sagged by about half before I rebounded a bit with $15W on 5-2 Dominus in the Dwyer at Belmont. This got me back up to $129, but it turned out to be fools' gold, as my next bet was $100W on 7-1 Icabad Crane in the Suburban, who is still running I think. The I put my last $29W on 10-1 Sleepless Knight in the UN at Monmouth, kind of a reach really but I needed a price. He faded (also to last, appropriately) and that was all she wrote. A jet-lagged NJ Horseplayer dot com was a fellow buster on this day, and we made our way to the exit.

Ultimately there's not a lot to say as far as a retrospective, it just wasn't my day. Late-day prices mean everything in handicapping contests, and a player could always lament and parse shoulda/woulda/couldas if he/she liked some of those late-day prices. But the unfortunate fact is that I didn't like Hungry Island ($15.60, 8Bel) Flat Out ($29.20, 10Bel), Kensei ($32.40, 10Mth), or Teaks North ($16, 11 Mth). So without having a single one of them on my to-bet list (the only one I even moderately considered was Kensei), I had no chance. A quintessential instance of going to war with a popgun.

So what's next? I'm a bit contested out after back-to-back weekends of losing contests, so for now, some regrouping is in order. I'm 98% not doing to Saratoga contest in August and the Monmouth August event was cancelled, so there are no live things until September. Until then I'll fiddle around online with stuff here and there, while lying in wait.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Stalled Out

A funny thing happened to me on my way to winning the handicapping contest at Belmont Park this past weekend -- I stalled out and finished in 88th place.

I had a decent day on Saturday, ending the day in 60th of 248. I had 2 winners from 11 bets (9 notional 'single' $20 wagers plus one 'double' $40), both at Belmont -- Enniskillen, a 10-1 closer in the cheapie 5th race with some kid Irad Ortiz Jr. (who gave a damn good ride), and then Bishop of Nola in the 8th at 3.45-1. The latter was 4-1 when I bet it, kinda was marginal value ticking down to 3-1 but I stuck with it; nothing great, but as they say a short price is better than a long face.

Otherwise I was close a few times early in the day with decent prices. For example, Good Chemistry, an 8-1 shot in the Churchill 4th stalked and assumed the lead in early stretch, I thot he was a sure winner, but the damn speed came back and beat him by 3/4 length. Had he won I would have been around 20th place after Saturday. Later in the afternoon I was feeling more confident about my horses, but oddly enough that's when they were up the track for the most part.

One Saturday miss to kick myself about was Chief Grey Cloud, the 8-1 winner in the Monmouth finale -- I absolutely, positively would have bet it, but I was out of bullets by then. In hindsight, I should have looked at the day's cards more holistically and saved a bullet for that one, but I didn't.

So anyway going into Sunday I was in with a shot. The top quartile is creditable enough, though I was certainly realistic enough to acknowledge there was plenty of work to do to punch into the top 20 (or 10).

Sunday started out shittily (is that a word?). I liked Duty in Saigon in the Monmouth opener and Wascally Rabbit in the Belmont opener, which were going off 10 minutes apart. I bet Duty in Saigon 7-1, only to see him get cut off and nearly go down heading into the turn. I didn't bet Wascally Rabbit, mostly because I didn't want to be down two bullets so quickly; predictably, he wins and pays $10.60. Insert F-bomb here.

Next I bet Three Day Rush in the Churchill 3rd. I was dismayed to see him go off at 2-1, down from 7-2 when I bet him a few minutes earlier. I was further dismayed to see him lose a photo to a bomber, but heartened somewhat when that bomber was DQ'd. A $6 winner ain't gonna win me no contests, but it did get me to like 44th on the leaderboard with seven bullets left, and I was feeling decently about my chances.

However here's where it all went wrong.

I bet It'sagoodtendollars at 12-1 in the Monmouth 4th. This was a speculative play for sure, as I didn't love him, but the race was wide-open with a very vulnerable favorite so I landed on him as my alternative. He had an uneventful inside trip and ran OK but just didn't fire. The chalk lost but I didn't like the winner, 9-2 Lighthouse Sound.

Next I tried Winloc's John Lee, a 13-1 first-time starter, in the Belmont 5th. It was a very nondescript field and trainer Mike Miceli had won the 3rd race, so I thought it was worth a shot. But alas, he just ran an even and non-threatening fourth.

Onto the Churchill 6th, where I took a shot with Consulate at 10-1. He had just middling form, what caught my eye was that he dropped from a 10-1 ML to 3-1 early in the wagering, before drifting back up to his ML. I was expecting a stalking or mid-pack trip, but he "lunged" at the break and was last early; he made a run to get into striking distance at the top of the lane, but not surprisingly flattened out and finished 6th. OK, getting back on my heels here.

My next move was a ballsy one, putting my double (notional $40W) on Narbona Pass at 14-1 in the Monmouth 7th. He showed mostly crummy form and was a plodder, but I liked two things: (1) the Mth main track was different this weekend from earlier in the meet, as a few from-the-clouds closers had won or finished second; and (2) trainer Joe Pierce had won a race on Saturday. I expected Narbona Pass to be faaaaaaar back early, but apparently the instructions were to keep in the race from the start, as jockey Francisco Maysonett rode him pretty much the whole way. he did rally a bit for 3rd, somewhat validating my handicapping rationale, but it was a loss of my double bullet nevertheless. Given that there is no all-in option in this contest, things felt done for me at this point even though I had four bullets left.

This 'doneness' was confirmed after Makeminechocolate didn't run a step at 9-2 in the Belmont 7th. With just 3 bullets left, I bet the Belmont 8th, 9th, and 10th and ran to catch the 4:27 LIRR to Penn Station. Good thing, as all horses lost -- having to wait around until 6:27 (the next train) would have sucked.

So there you are, and there you have it. No real big regrets or shoulda/woulda/couldas. The key sequence for me was the four mid-afternoon Sunday bets spanning It'sagoodtendollars to Narbona Pass: I was in contention at the start of this sequence, I liked some horses, it was time to take on some risk, and I did so. Nothing came through, which sealed my fate as an also-ran.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Swing, and a Miss

We'll pick up the action from today's Monmouth/Woodbine Handicapping Contest at about 5:45 p.m.: after a 'meh' handicapping day in which I had only one 3-1 winner at Monmouth from eight bets, my initial bankroll of $100 was down to $30 and I was ready to go home, so I put down a win-or-go-home bet: $30W on Heavenly Pride in the Woodbine 10th. She wins by a neck at 4.60-1, putting me back in the ball game with a $168 bankroll. I followed that with a $40W$20P bet on Mint Maker in the 11th at Monmouth; he finishes 2nd to the chalk at 22-1, pushing my bankroll up to $236 and about 20th in the contest.

But the fat lady could have started warming up right then. I couldn't pull the trigger on anything in 11WO, which was just as well because I never would have had the 31-1 bomber Paidrag. (Apparently at least one of my rivals did, as the leading bankroll went from ~$1K to ~$4K after that race.) This left only the Monmouth finale, a grim bottom-of-the-barrel heat, to make or break my day.

I went all-in (that's right, $236W) on Mo's Mini Skirt, a first-time starter that took a little early money before drifting up to 5-1. She showed some early speed but weakened to finish 4th, so I was out the door with $0.

Putting aside the merits of Mo's Mini Skirt specifically (of which there were precious few), that last-race situation I found myself in re-raised a question I continue to struggle with as a handicapping contest player: is there ever a time when you should fold 'em and go home with a couple hundred bucks? Or do you keep swinging until the bell rings, whether or not you like a horse, on the premise that late-contest swings don't grow on trees and must be seized?

I lean towards the latter, and my track record supports this -- I can't remember the last contest I went home with unused bullets. But is this the right strategy? Something about putting down $236, or more than 10x my average bet earlier in the contest, while holding my nose in that finale today struck me as absurd -- it just flies in the face of ROI principles that would dictate picking your spots. Would it have been wiser to tuck the $236 in my wallet to deploy for another day?

I don't think there's an easy answer in this debate -- if I walk away and my erstwhile selection loses, I made a great call, but if he wins, I'm a dunce. And vice versa if I go for it. Vexing, but also part of the beauty of handicapping contests, in my view.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Look Ahead

I'm in the midst of a mini-break in handicapping contest playing and blogging: I haven't been involved in anything since my decent little 7th-place finish at the Meadowlands on April 16, and there's nothing really on the schedule until a small ($50) HPWS feeder at Monmouth Park on May 21. But there is a fair amount of stuff coming up that I thought I'd preview, so here's what I have penciled in:

(Starting on) May 6,

I like this thing. In my opinion PH is the purest handicapping contest out there --it spans multiple tracks and races each week, it rewards selectivity and patience by requiring selections in only a modest percentage (maybe a bit north of 50%) of contest races, and it runs six months, which greatly reduces the luck factor. Any fool (even me) can catch lightning in a bottle on any given afternoon and do well in a one-day contest, but over six months, the wheat will be separated from the chaff. Plus it's free.

However, I can't get too excited as PH only qualifies one person for Vegas and there promises to be at least 1,000-2,000 players in the starting gate. I like to think (perhaps delusionally) that I'm a top 5-10% handicapper when I'm good, but I sure as hell ain't a top 0.05-0.1% handicapper.

May 21, $50HPWS Contest at Monmouth

Nothing too exciting here as it's a small contest and HPWS rather than NHC qualifier, but more likely than not I'll take a spin down and meet up with NJHorseplayer for the afternoon. I won't be at Monmouth on opening weekend (May 14-15) and I probably won't be there over Memorial Day weekend either, so in addition to the contest, May 21 will be my chance to see the new and unimproved Monmouth Park.

(Starting on) May 28, Monmouth Park's Survival at the Shore

This is a fun game, though as with Publichandicapper,players will number well into four figures so I won't be banking on this thing punching my ticket to Vegas. I think I survived to about the final 200-300 two different years (including 2 years ago), but other years (including last year) I forgot to make my selections twice early in the meet and thus made an early exit.

This is a great poor man's contest as far as free entertainment and action -- when I was un(der)employed two summers ago I spent many a weekday afternoon watching $5K claiming races on my laptop, rooting for my selection to at least hit the board so I could live to see another day.

June 5, Monmouth-Woodbine Handicapping Challenge
There's not much information on this except that it costs $100, qualifies 1 for NHC and there are no subsequent contests at Monmouth scheduled until August 27 (ouch). I'll wait to hear further details but offhand this sounds like something I would partake in.

I would be interested in doing a $100 online contest on June 4, 11, or 18, but round 2 is on June 25, which just so happens to coincide with...

June 25-26, Belmont Handicapping Challenge
This what I'm talkin' about. $400, two-day event, and most definitely deeper waters, as dudes fly in from Chicago and L.A. for this thing. I crossed state lines for the first time last year and played this event as well as Aqueduct in the fall, finishing midpack each time. This year I really want to make some noise in at least 1 NYRA contest, if for no other reason than to prove to myself that I can ship out of town and win.

I'm looking forward to this contest even more since they restored LIRR service to Belmont. Last year I had to take LIRR to Queens Village and then stand on a corner with fellow unwashed degenerates, waiting for some godforsaken bus to take us to the track. To add insult to injury, the bus looked like a luxury coach job in the picture on the NYRA website, but in reality it was an old school bus with no air conditioning (or shocks, apparently)!
But I digress.

August 10-11, Saratoga contest
Same deal as the Belmont contest I believe, only this is on a Wed-Thu rather than Sat-Sun. I have a wedding to attend on Friday, so I'm thinking perhaps I'd take Wed-Fri off and go up to Saratoga for two days of hardcore contesting. Normally I probably wouldn't do this, but I am feeling a bit bold from being decently in the black so far this year, so what the hell, it could be a lot of fun.

August 27, Monmouth contest
If they do things the same way as in previous years this will be a $300 contest that sends 3 to Vegas. If I'm still alive perhaps I will partake.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Orleans or Bust?

Naah, I won't be changing the name of my blog to this one either, though I did participate in a handicapping contest at the Meadowlands yesterday that qualified the winner for the 2012 Horseplayer World Series at the Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. And damned if I didn't almost win it (I think).

After a nightmare NJ Transit trip from South Orange to Secaucus that involved a 1:20 delay and an evacuation to a "rescue" train, I arrived at the Big M at about half past two (thanks to William H. at NJHorseplayer dot com for signing me in). I won't bore you with a race-by-race recap but instead I'll pick up the action starting right before the Blue Grass at Keeneland, when I was down to $33 (from an initial $100), my only win having been a few bucks back on the chalky Aikenite in the Commonwealth.

I figured it was time to go all-in so I put $23W and $10P on Brilliant Speed. I can't claim I loved the horse on my own; instead, I got the idea from Dave P., a friend and former colleague who is a heavy race-replay watcher and whose handicapping opinions I respect. Dave P. liked Queen'splatekitten best in the Blue Grass, with Brilliant Speed and Sensational Slam as other horses of interest; to my credit (or, luckily), I tossed QPK because of the far outside post, and didn't like Sensational Slam, landing me on Brilliant Speed.

Brilliant Speed rallied from last to win a three-horse photo, jacking my bankroll up to $576 and putting me in 3rd place.

After a couple quick (and probably overly rambunctious) losing bets, I was down to $476 and in 4th or 5th or somesuch, and Oaklawn was the only contest track still going. I didn't touch the Arkansas Derby, leaving the OP finale as the day's last race, a three-turn dirt marathon for cheapie horses.

I took a very long look at 11-1 Muhaaseb but ultimately opined that the Asmussen chalk General Partner was a standout and plunked down $250W. 6-5 (7-5 when I bet) is a crummy absolute price in a full field, but I just thought General Partner was the race's most likely winner by a substantial margin. Anyway, the horse had a very decent trip, rallied around the 3rd turn and drew clear in the stretch, only to be collared late by a longshot I didn't like at all. I finished with $226 bankroll, good for 7th place and $399 prize money.

A General Partner victory would have won me $300, giving me a final bankroll of $776. Of course I can't be sure who everyone else bet on that last race so this exercise is conjecture, but based on the lack of movement I saw in the bankrolls of the top 5 players right before the last race (when my bankroll had dropped by the outlay of my pending bet), I suspect most or all of my rivals either didn't bet the last race or bet a smaller amount, so $776 could well have taken down the whole thing.

So while my $425 net profit on the day was nothing to write home about, it will fund a future event or two, and yesterday was a good contest experience. I would guess that 6-5 Asmussen horses with 2 1/2-length leads in the stretch win probably 80-90% of the time -- I was just on the wrong end of the percentages.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lady Luck, Why Dost Thou Abandoneth Me (or Something)?

I reverted back to my losing ways in today's Simulcast Series Challenge Finals at Monmouth Park, racking up an 0-for-9 and finishing tied for last with a $0 finishing bankroll. The not-so-happy (and somewhat abbreviated) recap:

Bet #1, 2Tam, $20W Joshua Jet Fuel, 7-1. Finished 8th of 9, comment line of "no factor" says it all. Starting bankroll of $200 down to $180.

Bet #2, 3Tam, $20W Miss Ten Oaks, 6-1. "Trailed" comment line says it all. Bankroll: $160.

Bet #3, 5Tam, $20W Turbo Compressor, 9-2. There was a decent little odds bounce here, as my horse started at about 7-5 before drifting up to a price that I thought offered decent relative value to an overbet 4-5 favorite.

This horse was definitely live, but unfortunately it was the first (and worst) of three bum rides I got over the course of the afternoon, as apprentice Jose Alvarez got absolutely owned by Paco Lopez. Running second on the backstretch, Alvarez should have locked into the 2-path, but instead he let Lopez (on the chalk) come up from the inside and seize the 2-path, which resulted in my horse being fanned wide on the turn and then, predictably, losing the stretch duel. *%#@! Bankroll: $140.

Bet #4: 6Tam, $20W Wild Mia, 2-1. The absolute price was low but I thought there was some relative juice here versus the 2-5 chalk. Leandro Goncalves is a big gun at Tampa but I question his decision to not go to the lead in this paceless affair, instead getting boxed in and then fanned wide (again by P. Lopez) and falling a length short of the chalk. Bankroll: $120.

The arrival of NJHorseplayer dot com (and son) around this time was a welcome change of pace to the afternoon, though unfortunately even a ceremonial granting of a lucky penny by NJHorseplayer dot com Jr. would not change my luck on this day.

Bet #5: 7Tam, $20W Be My Candy, 7-1. Finished 4th, "failed to sustain bid." Bankroll: $100. I don't really remember this bet well, oddly enough -- maybe NJ Horseplayer dot com was distracting me with his inane yammering about the latest Dancing With the Stars. At any rate, this is beginning to suck.

Bet #6: 8Tam, $20W I'm Steppin' It Up, 10-1. "Rider broke awkwardly" and then never got involved, finished 8th of 11. Bankroll: $80.

Bet #7: 8Aqu, $20W Justin Phillip, 5-1. Ran an OK 3rd but was no real threat. Bankroll: $60. Really getting back on my heels here.

Bet #8: 9Aqu, $20W Laysh Laysh Laysh, 6-1. I thought this closer in a speedy field had an upset chance, but when he missed the break that was all she wrote. Bankroll: $40.

Bet #9: 11Tam, $40W Royal Hill, 10-1. I wanted to get back into contention in a meaningful way so I went all-in. I hated the even-money favorite in here and damned if Royal Hill wasn't live, stalking the speed and then drawing alongside or even ahead at the top of the lane, only to be outfinished, a neck short.

This was the last of the day's bad rides as I saw it, as Ricardo Feliciano (I'm not familiar with the guy but he showed an OK win %) had some kind of weird bobbing and intermittent whipping down the stretch, while it seemed Pablo Morales (on the 13-1 winner) was knuckling down with more of a straight drive. Admittedly I've never ridden a horse in a race so I can't say I know exactly how it works, but I have seen enough races in my lifetime to assert with some confidence that Morales got more out of his horse in the stretch than Feliciano got with his, and that may well have been the difference in the outcome. But alas, bankroll: $0. I stuck around a few more minutes to watch Uncle Mo get beat and I was out the door.

Analysis: It just wasn't my day, really. Despite going o-for-9 I think my handicapping was actually reasonable overall, as I had a few seconds with OK prices, plus a couple other seconds on horses I almost bet. And my contest strategy was OK too, though given I didn't have any winners on this day, strategy wasn't very relevant.
It was really luck that eluded me, as 5 of my 9 losing bets featured either a bad (or at least questionable) ride or a bad start. If even a couple of those don't happen, my day could have had a different complexion.
But, c'est la vie. In a bigger-picture sense, I cannot complain about luck. After all, I have now lost 42 of my last 46 live-contest races, spread out over five contest days dating back almost five months, yet I am ahead approx. $5K net over that time. How? Simply by virtue (or simply by dumb luck) of having my four winning bets occur on the same day. That, my friends, is a friendly random distribution.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pre-SSC Finals Ponderings

I'm quite looking forward to Saturday's Simulcast Series Invitational at Monmouth Park. Specs are 45 players, $200 live bankroll, and MP throws in $5K in total prize money to be divvied up among the top 5 finishers; most importantly, the top 2 finishers qualify for the 2012 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship.

This will be my second consecutive trip to the invitational thingamabob. My experience last year was a wild one, in which I was down to my last bet and halfway out the door before I came roaring back with a 40-1 horse who I genuinely liked; I flattened out after that, though that sure wasn't for lack of trying as my wager in the last contest race was the biggest bet I ever made in my life, $500W on some 4-1 shot at Keeneland who didn't run a jump. I can only hope to have as good an at-the-buzzer look at the basket this Saturday.

I'm always pondering contest strategy, and while I'm fond of my default strategy (like a basketball team facing a tough opponent on the road, I scratch and claw to try to stay in the game until the last 2 minutes, when anything can happen), I would be a fool to not acknowledge that front-runners win contests too. In fact, just three weeks ago Ken Orchard took Simulcast Series Challenge #3 by virtue of an early bet; similarly, the guy in last year's final had like $2,400 by like 2:30 p.m. and went on to win.

What does this mean for me? Well, I think I have to be flexible and adjust on the fly if need be, rather than slavishly following my come-from behind strategy. If I'm ga-ga over some 10-1 shot at 2 p.m., I gotta consider staking my day on it, as the worst outcome would be winning a small bet on such a 10-1 shot early and then proceeding to lose on other horses I like less. I guess the real trick/difficulty/challenge here is properly identifying whether or not I am ga-ga about a given horse (easier said than done of course) -- one of the many points of nuance, analysis and decision-making that make handicapping contests so much fun.

In closing I would like to shout out kudos to Monmouth Park for another well-run winter contest series. I've been playing in these things for 5-6 years now and they're always well-run affairs, the venue is comfortable and the tenor is competitive yet fun. My one quibble has to do with post-event reporting, as Monmouth doesn't post the winners from a Saturday contest until Wednesday, which is really lame-o-rama in this day and age, and only the top 10 finishers are posted. NYRA posts full standings for its contests by 7 or 8 p.m. on the same day, i.e. a couple hours after the last race is official. I think Monmouth should do the same.

Enough complaining, onto Saturday...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Treasure Island or Bust? Naah...

Earlier this week I was jolted by the news that the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship is moving its act from Red Rock Casino Resort to Treasure Island. This is effective immediately, i.e. for the January 2012 NHC, which will just so happen to coincide with my (planned) first NHC appearance.

What!??!?!? After all the work I've done in creating and building up the Red Rock or Bust blog, they go and change the name without even consulting me? So I proceeded to sink into a deep depression, emerging from my darkened, shades-drawn bedroom only for a sandwich run over to the Big M for delipalooza, where I ran into NJHorseplayer dot com.

After that pick-me-up I pondered my options and proceeded to conduct exhaustive market research and focus groups regarding Red Rock or Bust. I was pleased to learn that my blog has built such a strong name-brand value that it transcends the name brand of the NHC, and even the NTRA and DRF themselves! So I have decided to stand pat.

(Actually I'm just too lazy to change the name of my blog, but I thought it would be fun to tell this tall tale.)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Whad up wit dat? The future of Monmouth Park (Part II)

Is it me or is there a disconnect between reality and Monmouth Park's posted racing dates?

Earlier this weekend I caught this interview of Jeff Gural, the prospective white knight of the Meadowlands. I was impressed by the dude -- seems like he knows his stuff, he is ready to make sweeping changes at the Big M, and at the same time he came across as very realistic and pragmatic about the whole situation (I was struck by his "I don't mind losing $10 or $12 million for 18 or 19 months" quote). Gural has been in the picture for about three and a half months from what I understand, he has arranged $100 million funding, and he is now in the nitty-gritty phase of dealing with the unions.

So, sounds pretty far along and promising, and they're still saying best-case scenario is for racing to resume at the Big M by June or July.

Meanwhile, Monmouth Park is still soliciting bids through the end of the month, "prior to the due diligence process"! And Monmouth is planning to open its meet on Saturday, May 14?

What happens if all bidders (eight so far, from what I have read) decide to not move forward beyond their initial interest? What if the erstwhile bidder isn't qualified or cannot reach agreement? What if something falls apart during due diligence? Even let's say best case, something moves forward, how long will due diligence take? Monmouth Park ain't no lemonade stand -- any entity considering sinking millions into the track and operating it for a five-year period is going to want to make sure everything is right.

Add it all up and unless I'm missing something here, simulcast signals will be the only racing seen and heard at Monmouth Park on May 14. I suspect there will be some semblance of a Monmouth meet this year, but I'd guess it will some abbreviated job, perhaps starting around July 4 or maybe even a few-week deal centered around the Haskell.

Maybe I'm just Gloomy Gus, but I think no live racing at Monmouth this year is a more likely outcome than starting on May 14.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It Was a Very Good Day

Proving that reports of my demise as a competitive handicapping contest player were greatly exaggerated, I placed 2nd of 262 in yesterday's Simulcast Series Challenge #3 at Monmouth Park.

The wager-by-wager recap:

1. GP1, $5WP Vini Vidi Vinci. I thought Brad's Kitten was a bad even-money favorite, plus trainer Tammy Domenosky had won within the previous day or two, so the trainer recency angle was a factor. But apparently the Latin translation of Vini Vidi Vinci is "I came, I saw, I didn't lift a hoof." $100 starting bankroll down to $90.

2. Tam5, $10WP Who is Lady. Trainer-recency angle plus odds-bounce angle at work here, as Derek Ryan had recently won and Who Is Lady took substantial early money before drifting up to 9-1, near her ML. I figured the double angle warranted a double bet, and lo and behold WIL went to the front and held on, ending my 26-race schneid in live contests. Bankroll: $209.

3. Tam7, $10W Doctor Carina. The 6-5 chalk looked vulnerable to me, and 9-2 seemed like a reasonable price to speculate that trainer Thomas Proctor would have Doctor Carina ready to run off a long layoff. But as they say, even the best laid plans of mice and men go awry: chalk wins, DC does nothing. Bankroll: $199.

4. GP7, $10W Mongoose Gold. Another Tammy Domenosky horse -- this was pretty dicey but at 20-1, I thought it was worth a shot. No dice. Bankroll: $189. (Aside: Domenosky won a later race with a 6-1 horse, but I had given up on her by then and passed.)

5. Tam7, $20W Doubles Partner. I usually turn up my nose at 2-1 horses, especially in 10-horse fields, but this Todd Pletcher horse looked like a standout to me. Julien Leparoux gave me more anxious moments than one should have with a solid chalk, but he does have impeccable timing and ice water in his veins, as he managed to get up by a neck in a blanket finish. Bankroll: $235.

6. GP8, $20W Sligovitz. I had a hunch this horse was live at 10-1, and sure enough he was, though due to a wide trip and a bland ride by an over-the-hill Edgar Prado he only managed 2nd. "Shoulda" done a WP bet on this rather than just straight W. Bankroll: $215.

7. Tam8, $10W Bay of Wicklow. Crazy odds bounce on this one, as he was 1-1 in the first click I saw before drifting (and drifting and drifting) up to 27-1 (!). Alas, he ran like a 27-1 shot (dead last). Bankroll: $205.

8. Aqu9, $10W Roman Treasure. This Hushion-Hill horse looked like the speed of the speed, and I thought he was decent value at 5-1. But he had to duel early and faded to 4th. Bankroll: $195.

9. 11Tam, $50W$20P Nehalennia. I had seen Graham Motion win with so-so looking horses off layoffs too many times in my day to pass on this one at double-digit odds (went off at 17-1). I dug this horse a bunch, and she validated by faith by running a nice second. Bummer that I missed the win, but I was glad I got a few shekels back and very glad I scaled back from my original bet of $100W. Bankroll: $277, and it was now crunch time with just 3 contest races left.

10. 10Aqu, $70W Missysmoonlitmagic. Thought the 2-5 Linda Rice chalk was worth a bet-against, so I landed on Missys -- more of a hunch play than anything else really. She ran a creditable 3rd, but that didn't do me any favors. Bankroll: $207.

11. 12Tam, $50W Double Revival. I saw a trainer recency angle with Anthony Pecoraro in this bottom-basement race, and 16-1 was plenty of price. But trainer recency, trainer schmecency I guess, as Double Revival ran a non-threatening 5th. Bankroll: $157.

12. 11GP, $150W Rules of Honor. In 16th place with one bullet left, it was time to hang some fire, and lo and behold Rules of Honor came though at 9-2. This race went off while 12Tam was still going, so things were a bit frenetic, but once I saw Double Revival spinning his wheels I turned my attention to GP, where I was thrilled to see Kent (The Kid) Desormeaux work out a nice trouble-free, ground-saving trip, swing wide into the lane and win fairly easily. Final bankroll: $862, good for 2nd place.

Everything went right for me in this contest, really. I believe to do well in any given contest you need to have at least some measure of three things on your side: good race handicapping, savvy contest strategy, and Lady Luck.

I picked some live horses over the course of the afternoon, so check on good race handicapping. I was 4-for-12 in my bets (though one winner was just 2-1 and another was just the P of a WP bet), a .333 batting average I will take any day. And I did everything right with regard to executing my contest strategy: I was patient, I kept the total number of my bets down, I allocated the capital I had late in the afternoon to maximize my number of swings (I got three good swings out of $277), and I was not afraid to lose.

And I am the first to admit that I got freaking lucky with Rules of Honor. I didn't especially like him -- he was reasonably plausible, but at just 9-2 in an 11-horse field, he wasnt a big value play by any means. In fact, when there were three contest races left, I even said aloud to NJ Horseplayer dot com that I was thinking of betting the Aqueduct and Tampa finales, but not Gulfstream -- that was how tepidly I felt about the race. But when my Aqu and Tam shots failed, I needed to do something at GP -- I looked up at the screen and saw Rules of Honor warming up and I thought damn he looks good. So with that five-second body language read and a just-decent-enough price, I went all in.

I was very gratified with the result, but I'm not getting too high/full of myself about it, just like I tried to not get too down and discouraged about my recent drought. I'm not as good as I was yesterday, and I'm not as bad as 0-26; I'm somewhere in between with plenty of room for improvement.

Friday, March 18, 2011

One More Try

I'll take a crack at the Simulcast Series Challenge #3 tomorrow at Monmouth Park. This is the 3rd of Monmouth's three winter contests. I busted in the previous two, so I need to finish in the top 15 in this event (much easier said than done) to advance to the SSC Invitational in three weeks.

Few observations:

-I am in a hideous live-contest slump. I went 0-7 in SSC#2 and 0-8 in SSC#3. Throw in an 0-10 day on day two of the two-day contest at Aqueduct in November, and I am on an 0-25 schneid in live contests. I mean, come on man, this is getting ridiculous.

-It was stupid busy at work this week and I have done essentially nil preparation. I will need some luck tomorrow to make any noise, because I sure won't win this thing by being more prepared than the next guy.

-If I don't advance, this will probably be my last live contest until the summer.

-I imagine I'll table up with William H. at NJHorseplayer dot com.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Oh, Fiddlesticks

I finished 81st of 300 in today's NHCQualify event with a $49 bankroll, $24 short of the $73 that was needed to crack the top 30.

Chillin Dylan ($18.80, $7.60) in Tam6 was my only winner, which was early in the day. I had two chalky and one decently priced place finishers later in the afternoon that kept me on the fringe of contention, though I always needed another pricey winner to get me over the hump and the racing gods just didn't deliver.

My best bet of the day was Holidaysatthefarm at 9-1 in the Gulfstream feach. Loved that play, loved that play, loved that play -- would make that same selection if they ran the race over. However, she got a horrible trip, steadied pretty significantly going into the first turn and that was it. C'est la vie, though I will put her on my watch list.

The one potential regret I have was in the penultimate contest event, Oaklawn's 8th race. I went with the chalk, Pretty Heiress, as I was just hoping to add a few bucks and find a price in the last race to catapult me into the top 30. Pretty Heiress came in third, which I don't really care about, but the $38 winner Mi Tatiana was definitely playable, in retrospect.

I don't follow Oaklawn worth a hoot, and as I said in this recent post, when I don't follow the races closely I tend to rely on certain shortcut angles. One of these angles is paying special attention to trainers who have won in the past 24-48 hours.

Anyway, Mi Tatiana is trained by Allen Milligan....who also happens to train Custer County, who won Oaklawn's 6th race at 7-1 less than an hour earlier. And Milligan won the 5th race with a chalk as well.


I did note that Milligan won the 6th race while I was looking at the 8th race, so I didn't miss Mi Tatiana, I just chose not to play it. And I wouldn't go as far as to say I definitely should have played, it either -- like any angle in racing, sometimes my trainer thingamajig works, and sometimes it don't.

But at 18-1, I'm kind of thinking I should have went with it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Big Contest Week Ahead

I'm heading into an unusual two-contests-in-one-week horizontal strip of the calendar, as I'll be playing the NHCQualify online event tomorrow (Sunday, March 13) and then the live Simulcast Series Challenge #3 at Monmouth Park on Saturday, March 19.

First things first -- tomorrow's NHCq. Specs are $100 ante, 300 players, top 30 move on to the second round. I haven't played one of these things in almost two years, when I finished a piss-poor 236th of 298.

I need to study some Gulfstream, Tampa, and Oaklawn races by tomorrow afternoon, that's for sure. I don't think there is a whole lot to say about contest strategy in this affair, as the races are picked for you (Tam 5, 6, 8; OP 6, 7, 8; and GP 6, 8, 10, 11), as is the wager amount ($2WP notional). So my main strategy will be to pick some dang winners and placers!

I do think there are a few strategy nuances worth mentioning:

(1) I'm not thinking of any target I need to hit, i.e. $60 or $70 on the day. I'm just gonna evaluate each race one at a time and try to figure out which horse offers the best value in that particular heat.
(2) I strongly believe that the 10-1 and 15-1 horses in the last few races are crowded trades, as many players in also-ran land try to catapult themselves into the top 30. Conversely, I suspect that 10-1 and 15-1 horses in the first couple races are comparatively underplayed, as many players who plan or hope to have many winners on the day try to put some early points on the board with safer selections. So I'm thinking I'm going to give the 10/15-1 shots a little extra consideration in early races, and lean slightly against those same price plays later in the day.
(3) I also believe that contestants who are off the board start looking for bombers too quickly, say maybe around races 5 or 6, when they don't necessarily need to do so at that still-early juncture. So I'm gonna try to keep that in mind and lean towards the more likely placer, rather than the more attractive price, at about that point in the contest.

Anyway all that mumbo-jumbo plus $1 gets me a small coffee at Blimpies if I fail to pick any winners. But I do think following that strategy stuff could mean the difference between say, 25th place and 40th place if I make some decent picks.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

NHC Tour Online Challenge today

I tossed my hat in the ring for today's NHC Tour Online Challenge. The good news is, the contest qualifies the top 4 finishers for the 2012 National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas next January. The bad news is, there will probably be about 2,000 participant's in today's free-for-all, so needless to say you will need a ton a luck to avoid being one of the ~1,996 also-rans.

I haven't followed Sam Houston, Oaklawn or Fair Grounds (three of the today's four contest tracks) one iota this year, so I can't say I have any edge over the next guy. Therefore, I peg my chances of success today at the Joe Mean probability of 4/2,000, or 0.2%.

All that said, my picks are as follows:

Race 1 / (1) Hero's Empire
Race 2 / (5) Why Not Be Perfect
Race 3 / (4) Erma Lee
Race 4 / (4) Ready to Thrill
Race 5 / (5) Harrie
Race 6 / (5) Ms. Short Pockets
Race 7 / (2) Stormy Publisher (ARG)
Race 8 / (8) Silver Senor
Race 9 / (4) Raven
Race 10 / (10) Goldenbulletday

Friday, March 4, 2011

Whad up wit dat? The future of Monmouth Park

We interrupt this regularly scheduled handicapping contest blog to shout out "whad up wit dat" regarding the future of Monmouth Park. reported that the powers-that-be are looking for a lessee for Monmouth Park, but only if they run 141 days. In other words, sure you can come in and run the track, but only if you return to the pre-2010 model that the track itself acknowledged wasn't working: modest purses that barely keep up with slots-fueled competition elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic, tired five-horse fields running in front of 3,000 people on summer weekdays, tumbleweed after Labor Day, etc. Blech.

And I reckon a 141-day meet would be even worse than 2009. How could anyone get excited for ~$325,000 in daily purses after they were one mil last summer? Hamburger Helper isn't terrible thing by itself, but when you go from Hamburger Helper to a real burger back to Hamburger Helper...ugh. Plus, NYRA is on the upswing with its slots thingamajig coming up, so wave goodbye to Todd Pletcher's 'A' and 'B' teams and to John Velazquez and Garrett Gomez, say hello to Pletcher's 'C' team and Felix Ortiz and Luis Rivera.

Unless I'm missing something here, good luck in finding a lessee who will sign on with the 141-day stipulation.

Would you lease a retail store if you had to stay open 16 hours a day in February?

Would you lease a boardwalk concession stand if you had to stay open until November?

Would you lease a church if you had to hold service on Tuesday afternoons?

(OK that last one doesn't really make sense, but it's been a long week, cut me some slack.)

You get the point.

I think the horsemen who are now saying a 141-day meet is "etched in stone" will be ready to compromise if and when there are no qualified bids and they are faced with a 0-day meet.

And now back to our regularly scheduled handicapping contest blog.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Recap of a Shitty Afternoon

I started with a $100 bankroll, as did the other 278 contestants.

Wager #1: GP2, $10W on Evening Gown. I felt compelled to play this turf race as the even-money favorite was ridden by a low-percentage apprentice and hence a screaming bet-against. While I was right on that premise and I Dreamt I Was finished off the board, I was dead wrong in who I landed on.
Evening Gown had run poorly in her one previous turf start but then had been put on the shelf/freshened for yesterday's race. Even though she was by Stephen Got Even -- not at all a strong turf sire -- I thought at 9-1 it was a decent speculation that her poor turf race was attributable to her form tailing off in general and a need for freshening rather than just being lousy on the turf. Apparently I was wrong, as she ran mid-pack for about half the race, then backed up and finished last. Bankroll: $90.

Wager #2: GP3, $10W on McPeek entry (Private Prize/Washington's Rules). In a short field, I thought the 5-2 price was reasonable relative value being it was actually the fourth choice in a field of five betting interests. Private Prize went to the lead and weakened late, Washington's Rules was at the back and made up some ground, but at the wire they were 3rd and 4th, so no dice. Bankroll: $80.
In retrospect, this was not the best bet I ever made. The relative price was OK, but the absolute price was low, and while I thought the entry had a decent chance to win, I wasn't convinced. I should have passed on this one (though it ended up not making a difference).

Wager #3: GP5, $10W on Bigshot. This turf marathon looked pretty paceless so I thought Bigshot had a big shot as he had some tactical speed and an inside post position. However he never really did anything, saving ground and running midpack throughout in an uneventful trip. Bankroll: $70. Meh.

Wager #4: Tam6, $10W on Arts and Leisure. This was a Brad Thomas pick in a Tampa cheapie race that most likely I wouldn't have even looked at otherwise, and it was live. Arts and Leisure set a pressured pace and shook clear in early stretch at 9-1, but he weakened late and finished 3rd, a half-length and a head back. Bankroll is down to $60.

Wager #5: GP6, $10W on Point of Entry. This was a another Thomas pick, one who I may have liked on my own, as his 6-1 price was decent and I thought the 3-5 Pletcher chalk was overbet. But alas, the chalk made an easy lead -- Point of Entry came running late but could only get second, a length and change short. Bankroll: $50.
This is beginning to suck.

Wager #6: GP7, $20W on Dean's Kitten. Turns out this one was my best bet of the day. I am familiar with Dean's Kitten from when I covered the BC Juvie Turf crop for NTRA back in the fall of '09; he's not a great horse and was definitely a notch below Paddy O'Prado, Interactif and the others from his crop, but he is solid enough. On Saturday I liked that he was going up against a comparatively softer field and he was cutting back in distance and figured to improve off his last race. And I liked his 9-1 price.
Anyway, D's K got a nice enough ground-saving trip and around the far turn Alan Garcia looked like he had plenty of horse, but he just never found room in the stretch. Started inside, tried to shift outside, then back inside -- I estimate Garcia asked the horse maybe 20% what he could have asked with a clear run. And he still gained in the stretch to only finish three heads and 3/4 length back in a blanket finish. This was a pisser, as in my view he was the best horse in the race and would have won had Garcia found even a sliver of daylight. Bankroll: $30.

Wager #7: GP9, $30W on Black N Beauty. At this point, with a meager $30 bankroll and the leaderboard guys (and gals, perhaps) in the $200-$800 range, I figured it was futile to keep betting $10 per race, it was time for a win-or-go-home wager. I wasn't cuckoo crazy over Black N Beauty, but she looked interesting enough as a possible stalker in a speed-filled race, and 8-1 was good enough for me. But appropriately for me on this day, Black N Beauty steadied at the start, was last early and then pulled up. I don't know WTF happened, but I do know after the race I was out the door with a $0 bankroll.

A few parting observations on the day:
- Congrats to Monmouth Park and the NHC people for boosting interest in these things. I had to wait in a 10-person line to sign up (never seen that before), there were 279 participants (most I recall for a winter event), and I even saw a smattering of 20-something dudes (did they take a wrong turn on their way to a poker tourney or something?).
-My live-contest race schneid now stands at 25 (!) races, spanning three live contests I've player over the past 3 1/2 months. How about that!
-I'm generally pretty good about getting over these things quickly. After all, it ain't easy -- only the top ~5% of yesterday's contestants move on to the April invitational contest. But still, I can't help but stew about it for a little while, say 24-48 hours or so.

As Pat Riley said, there is winning, and there is misery.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


...approximately 36 hours until I'm up an' at 'em for the Simulcast Series Challenge #2 at Monmouth Park this Saturday. I'm quite looking forward to it, especially as it's been six weeks since the last contest, more than the typical four weeks between winter contests.

A few musings:

1. As far as preparation, I'm pretty much gonna be winging it. As I have said before, I am 100% convinced there is real value in really being prepared for a race card; however, being really prepared entails stuff like following the track(s) on at least a semi-regular basis, watching lots of replays, and having a few watch-listed horses entered to run. So being that I haven't been following the races much at all, I have no chance of being really prepared for Saturday; my only chance is to reach a half-assed level of preparation, which involves scanning the PPs on the trains to and from work and maybe watching a few select replays. From my experience, half-assed preparation is only marginally better than no preparation, so I'm thinking why bother.

It's like the SATs -- if it's the Thursday night before your Saturday exam and you haven't methodically studied for a period of several months, or at least weeks, is cramming gonna help you much? Not bloody likely.

Plus, the printer at work is busted so I cannot use company ink for gambling purposes, always a fun pre-contest ritual of mine.

2. Eff Tampa. The contest tracks are Gulfstream, Aqueduct, and Tampa; I plan on focusing on GP, dabbling in Aqueduct, and maybe playing at most a race or two at Tampa. I'm aiming to bet just the minimum 10 races over the course of the day, 11-12 at most if I'm still in contention late. There will be plenty of GP and Aqu races to look at, so following Tampa too would just spread my brainpower too thin (and plus flipping between three channels all afternoon rather than two is a pain in the ass).

3. I'll try to stick with my strategy of playing the role of an NBA team going up against a tough opponent on the road: stay in the game long enough so you have with a chance to make some shots, get some stops and win in the final two minutes. For contest purposes, this means be patient, bet mostly minimum-size type bets and hope I have a couple winners and a bankroll of maybe ~$150 (up from starting bankroll of $100) at 4:30 p.m. At that point, think about where I'm gonna take some real shots to give me a chance to hit the board.

At any rate, it should be fun one way or the other.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lying in wait

There hasn't been much going on for this NHC aspirant but I thought I'd at least check in with a few words so people know I'm still alive.

I toyed with the idea of playing a $100 NHCQualify online contest this month (Round 1 contests are Feb. 5, 12, and 19), but given that the Feb. 26 Round 2 coincides with the Monmouth Park live contest, I'm gonna pass. I'm definitely doing the Monmouth event and I just didn't like the idea of possibly playing 2 contests in the same day -- I enjoy handicapping contests quite a bit, and I find one is plenty to concentrate on, I suspect two would be dilutive to my enjoyment. Plus, there will be plenty more contest opportunities in coming months.

So Monmouth Feb. 26 is next, followed by an online NHC Tour freebie on Feb. 27 and then Monmouth again on March 19.

I haven't really been following the horses much at all though, so I'll have to figure out whether I want to do some serious research to try to get up to speed before Feb. 26, or just go in cold.

So (YAWN!) this is all kind of boring, I know. I do have a decent idea for a blog post, I'll have to work on that and hopefully post next week.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What is My Edge?

I went to Monmouth Park a couple times early last summer. I stayed for full cards and I watched the toteboard, post parade and races closely.

From those couple days I came away with a three-horse watchlist: Lucky Evening, who took early money in his debut for no apparent reason and made a decent rail rally to finish midpack; Bella D'Oro, who had some sort of jock/equipment issue for a few strides out of the gate and lost all chance; and Farmer Jones, who took early money in his debut but then acted up before loading in the gate and didn't do much running at all.
Bella D'Oro and Farmer Jones came back to each run solid seconds at about 10-1 or 12-1, and then subsequently win at chalky odds. Lucky Evening didn't pan out at all, and last I saw he was running for $5K at Penn National.

My point is not to rehash specifics about those eight-month-old races or to say I'm still looking out for the horses to run back; rather, my point is that I believe my analysis of those race days gave me some live horses to come back with (as Meat Loaf sang, two out of three ain't bad). In other words, my analysis gave me an edge.

Having an edge is absolutely critical for a horseplayer to have any chance of making money or even breaking even on a consistent basis in this high-takeout game. Having an edge also means everything in determining success in handicapping contests, in which the waters are deep and competition is stiff.

I think all successful handicapping contest players have some sort of an edge. Hesham Regab, who won the Aqueduct handicapping contest in November, cited horse physicality. Tom Noone, who won the 2010 NHC Tour, said parsing race conditions is a big value-add. And 2011 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship winner John Doyle is a professional horseplayer, so it's reasonable to assume he has an edge somewhere.

So in this winter of my discontent (and amid a vicious 0-for-18 schneid in handicapping contest races spanning two live days, Nov. 14 and Jan. 15), I have been pondering an existential question: what is my edge?

As evidenced by my opening anecdote, I truly believe I am good at ferreting out important pieces of information by closely watching the toteboard, post parade and the races. And when I say information, I'm talking stuff that others don't see and that doesn't show up in the PPs.

However, I do not follow the races anywhere close to regularly enough for this to be a consistent edge, so the best I can do here is catch-as-catch-can and try to find stuff here and there.

In the absence of a steady pipeline of watchlist horses, I often fall back on angles, or shortcuts. A few of these angles are:

1. In certain situations, when a horse takes early money inexplicably and then drifts up to near its morning line odds.
2. Following lower-profile trainers who have won or come close in the previous 24-48 hours.
3. Extrapolating subtly bad trips in the absence of watching replays, e.g. if a horse had an outside post in a turf race and ran just a few lengths behind a slow pace for much of the race.

As is the case with any angle in horse racing, sometimes these work and sometimes they don't. But I think angles such as these are the next best thing to having a legitimate, hard-earned edge based on following the races closely and consistently over time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Inauspicious '11 debut

I tried my luck in yesterday's Simulcast Series Challenge #1 at Monmouth Park, and ouch-a-mundo! I went 0-for-8, and nuked my $100 starting bankroll with seven $10 bets and one $30 bet.

I should have known it wasn't my day when I seriously considered plunking $10 on Mighty Score in Gulfstream's 2nd race, ultimately didn't pull the trigger, and proceeded to watch him score at 8-1. When I did start to bet, of course I lost -- Jambonied did nothing at 7-1 in GP3, as did Smart Tori at 8-1 in GP4; 6-1 Break Up the Game was too little too late in GP5; and Cristobal didn't pick up his feet at 24-1 in GP6. Throw in a few losers at Aqu and Tam and I was down to $30 late in the day; I decided my only hope was a last-three-races parlay at Gulfstream, so I put my $30 on 3-1 Sr. Henry in GP8 and was out the door when his late rally came up short.

When handicapping fails as it did yesterday, contest strategy becomes essentially irrelevant, so there's nothing to yak about on that front. It's akin to a football team that can't get a first down.

No big deal all-in-all, these kind of days happen to even the best handicappers (my compatriot at crapped out with just one winner yesterday)-- the challenge is to minimize their frequency. Onward and upward.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


In my view, much of what determines success or failure in handicapping contests comes down to the delicate balance between boldness and conservatism. The push and the pull.

The ultimate aggressive move would be laying down your entire bankroll on a price play in the first contest race. The ultimate in conservatism would be making minimum-bet plays on favorites throughout the card. The first approach could win you a contest once in a blue moon, but most days it would have you broke and out the door at 1:05 p.m. The second tack could have you on the fringe of contention sometimes, and likely would get you at least some of your bankroll back at the end of real-money contests, but realistically it would never win you anything.

Of course, neither of those strategies is optimal; like most things in life, the way, the truth, and the light lie somewhere in between.

I've had a number of contest also-ran finishes over the years that I attribute at least partly to being overly aggressive -- either making a big bet early on or too quickly squandering a leaderboard position with substantial bets. I don't recall ever kicking myself afterwards for being too conservative, which I believe would sting more than being too bold.

But the challenge, and the beauty, of finding the sweet spot on the safety-risk spectrum is that it is a moving target, and you don't know where the sweet spot was until after the Official sign lights on the toteboard after the final contest race. If the chalk won a bunch of races on a given day, conservatism was rewarded, whereas risk takers won if there were prices. Similarly, you don't know which of your selections will win beforehand, so having only $10 on that 15-1 winner looks pretty pansy-ass at the end of a losing day, while putting $150 on a 15-1 loser would probably seem foolish and overly risky in retrospect.

In my view, a contest player's best approach is to operate within a band of the safety-risk spectrum and be ready and willing to adjust on the fly. So say on a scale of 1-10, 1 is super conservative and 10 is as ballsy as you can get. I like to think I operate in about the 6-to-7.5 range on balance, and I'm willing to go anywhere from 1 (when capital preservation is needed) to 10 (when a Hail Mary is my only hope).

One application of this may come in this Saturday's Simulcast Series Challenge #1 at Monmouth Park. From what I understand the only rule change is that the top 15 finishers qualify for the invitational tourney in April, up from 10 last year. I think this may make many players a bit more conservative, simply because you don't got's to do as good to come in 15th place as you do 10th place. Based on that theory, I may decide to up my risk taking, because as Warren Buffett says, be greedy when others are fearful and be fearful when others are greedy.

But we'll see, it will be an on-the-fly call, and of course I have to pick some winners for any of this mumbo jumbo to matter a hill of beans.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

No one wins 2010 NHC Tour!

That was seriously how I read today's headline on

I thought great, all tour entry fees from last year will be refunded and my $100 check is in the mail!

But upon closer inspection I realized the headline says "Noone Wins 2010 Tour", and it turns out that Noone is Tom Noone of Redondo Beach, California.

So congratulations to Tom.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I'm Number 1,251!

I tied for 1,251st place in today's NHC Online Kickoff Challenge. I'm a little bummed because my goal was to crack the top 1,250, but hey what can you do.

But seriously, sing no sad songs, as I blogged yesterday I played in today's event only because it was free with the $45 NHC Tour membership, and hey someone had to win (and come in 2nd through 5th, which also qualified you for 2012 NHC).

Today's contest had 1,526 players, which is about double the size of last year's events. And because we're still very very early in the year and many people are still in holiday mode, I'd guess that field sizes will increase in subsequent contests. That's obviously good for the NHC Tour, but in my opinion it's not so good for individual players such as myself, because when the field size is very very big, chances of winning are very very small.

Anyway it's only Jan. 2, I have the whole year to kvetch so I'll stop there. I am looking forward to the live event at Monmouth Park on Jan. 15.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 Kickoff

I am participating -- kind of -- in the 2011 NHC Online Kickoff Challenge, set for tomorrow, Sunday January 2.

I say "kind of" because I only scanned the PPs as the basis for my submitted picks, and most likely I will make no additional effort tomorrow beyond checking to see if any of my picks are early scratches.

My tepid interest can be attributed to a few factors:

(1) In general, I'm not a big fan of online contests. Not only do they lack the competitive 'feel' of live events, but many online events are so big that placing in them is akin to winning the lottery. Online contests often have ~800 participants, which means that a very very good day will most likely be not good enough, you need to have a transcendent day. I prefer contests where a very very good day is rewarded.

Don't get me wrong, online contests do send people to Vegas, so it's worth tossing my hat into the ring. Maybe one of these days my lottery number will come in.

(2) As a semi-regular, semi-serious horseplayer, I typically am in a dormant phase from around Breeders Cup to mid- to late-January or thereabouts. Being that I haven't really been following the sport, I'm kidding myself if I think I'm gonna jump in cold and add value in trying to pick a winner in the $5K claimer at Fair Grounds.

(3) NFL is on tomorrow. 'nuff said.

I've circled Saturday, Jan. 15 on my calendar for my first real contest endeavour of 2011. In the meantime, my picks tomorrow are as follows:

Race 1 / (2) Manchild
Race 2 / (10) La Belle Gabrielle
Race 3 / (3) Rightuplynn'salley
Race 4 / (9) Roaring Belle
Race 5 / (1) D'oro Princess
Race 6 / (5) Devil's Hammock
Race 7 / (8) Cajun Sky
Race 8 / (6) Devils Afleet
Race 9 / (3) Thunder Chop
Race 10 / (2) Matamor

Good luck!