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...

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