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.