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.
...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.
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.
This blog is about my quest to qualify for the (insert year here) National Handicapping Championship at Treasure Island in Las Vegas. (The NHC was formerly held at Red Rock, hence the blog name.) I have yet to qualify for the NHC, but I have racked up four top-10 placings in NJ contests and have had some success in online events.