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.

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