Sunday, March 31, 2013

36 Minutes of Fame

Andy Warhol said everybody will be famous for 15 minutes. I exceeded that by 21 minutes yesterday, so I guess I can't be too depressed about my off-the-board finish at yesterday's SSC #3 at Monmouth Park.

 You see, I snuck onto the leaderboard after the Florida Derby (12GP), which went off at 6:24, and stayed there until after 13GP, which went off at 7:00. I was 25th on the 25-person board.

How did it all happen?

Well I lost my first 5 bets and my $100 starting bankroll was down to $50 when I put $10W on 8-1 Regalo Mia in GP9. That win -- my first in three contests this year, mind you -- put me at about $140 and back in the game.

I then lost a couple bets before slapping down $50W on Orb in the Florida Derby. He won nicely at almost 3-1, so I was living large with $252 and on the board with one race left. That's all I ask of these contests, to be in it with a shot late.

Alas, it wasn't to be. In the Gulfstream finale I liked 1 Transgression and 9 Town Flirt (in that order) going into the day, but I switched to 9, largely because trainer George Weaver won a race earlier on the card. I went pretty much all in, $200W and $52P.

But my (oftentimes) trusty trainer-recency angle didn't come through for me yesterday, as while Town Flirt ran well, she could only manage 2nd to -- who else -- Transgression.

I cashed out $140.40 on the day thanks to the place bet, better than $0 of course, but it was still a very empty fold of 20s. I 'woulda' probably landed in the top 5 if Town Flirt won at 9-2, also 'woulda' been way up there had I went with Transgression.

It's tempting to lament and beat myself up over switching from 1 to 9, but I'm not gonna go there. I made the best decision I could using all the information I had available at the time of the race. Every handicapper marks up PPs the night before, but I don't think anyone can argue that early picks should be set in stone.

Overall yesterday was pretty good for me in terms of what I could control -- process, strategy and risk management. This is in sharp contrast to SSCs #1 and #2, when I was pretty much abysmal in those areas. It's unfortunate that good process, strategy and risk management didn't produce a good end result, but c'est la vie. Happens sometimes.

So that's a wrap. This is the second year in a row I didn't qualify for the SSC invitational, after doing so in '10 and '11. Poor job me, but great job Monmouth park in pulling off the series with record numbers.

I will offer a bit of advice to the 58 non-NJHorseplayer entrants in the 60-entrant invitational. You cannot stop NJHorseplayer. You can only hope to contain him.  


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Rock Bottom?

I hope so.

Before I recap my experience at yesterday's Monmouth Park's Simulcast Series Challenge #2, allow me to congratulate NJHorseplayer for finishing 18th of 287 and qualifying for the SSC Invitational in April. He nailed a couple impressive prices, one at Gulfstream and one and Tampa, and it was a well-deserved top-20 placing.

Onto my day.

I did some prep work this time unlike SSC#1 four weeks ago, when I went in ice cold off the bench and it showed. I probably did about 6 hours of reading PPs, watching replays, and doing other research between Thursday and Saturday morning.

It didn't translate into an improved result, but it should have were it not for a couple critical tactical errors in my contest strategy.

Starting with a $100 bankroll, my plays were:

1. GP1, $5WP Smokin Ali, 14-1. I thought the odds-on chalk was crap and this one had an upset chance. He ran okay but managed only 5th. No regrets on this one, you have to take risks and sometimes it doesn't work out. Bankroll down to $90.

2. Aqu3, $10W Your Time is Up, 5-1. Looked like a nice first-time starter and she took some early money -- went to the lead but tired badly. Down to $80.

3. Aqu5, $10W All of the Above, 6-1. Kind of a last-minute play here based on what I thought was decent pace-pressing form, a good appearance in the post parade, and an over-bet favorite. However as Andy Serling tweeted during the race, "How is All of the Above last early????" Down to $70.

4. GP6, $10W Saint of Saints, 8-1. Ran a modestly threatening 4th -- similar to my GP1 play on Smokin Ali it was a decent spec play and I have no problem with the bet in retrospect. Down to $60.

5. Aqu8, $10W Street Lord, 22-1. This first-time starter was a trainer-recency play, as Charlton Baker had won Aqu6. Alas, he had some trouble at the break -- my first of three bad breaks in a very unlucky day -- and didn't really do anything. In retrospect this wasn't the worst bet I ever made but it was kind of questionable/'reachy', especially as I respected the chalk who won. Down to $50.

6. GP7, $10W Exclusive Strike, 5-1. Ran a creditable but not-good-enough 2nd. I'd make this same bet again. Down to $40.

7. GP8, $10W Dyker Beach, 5-1. Equibase: "Clipped heels after st". Eff me. Down to $30.

8. GP10, $20W10P Ore Pass, 31-1. Equibase: "ORE PASS bumped with TRANSPARENT leaving the starting gate, got caught in and amongst rivals and right in the thick of the bumping incident that occurred shortly after the field was sent on its way, was taken hold off after being bumped again, went on for a couple of jumps then clipped the heels of ESCAPEFROMREALITY, raced at or near the back of the pack thereafter, swung five wide into the stretch..."

Then the kicker: "...and had no rally."


So I was done, out the door, thinking it was a really bad, "one of those" days. In the late-winter twilight I remarked to NJHorseplayer that my day couldn't have been any worse than SSC#1, it could only have been the same, and that's what it was.

I was wrong.

It was worse.

When I got home I scanned the results of the races that went off after I left and I saw that not one, not two, but three of the horses I liked came in, two square prices and a bomb.

Clearly Now, who I liked based on workout reports, paid $16 in GP10. Razzleberry (jockey change) paid $16.20 in GP11. And to make my day totally absurd, Countess Emma (trainer recency) won Tam 11 and paid $67.20(!).

Now I'm not saying I liked those three horses any more than earlier plays. If I did, I would have made a point to have some bullets left for the end, even if it meant betting chalk to show.

But really I didn't like them any less than earlier plays, either. So I should have had some money left for those last races, and I screwed up by being tapped.

I won't lament any of the bets I made. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

But there were two tactical blunders I made that I blame for my empty pockets at 5:05 pm.

The first was not betting Readtheprospectus. Really there was no reason I shouldn't have. A $9.70 winner at 2:15 pm won't win any contests, but putting a +38.50 in the ledger would have been a nice break from losing, and it should have kept me in the game longer.

My second error was trying to be a hero and betting my last $30 on Ore Pass in the Gotham. At 30-1, a $10 bet would have been more than sufficient to get me back in contention.

If I work a little revisionist history and right those two wrongs, I could have had $58.50 after the Gotham rather than $0. Even with just one wrong righted I could have had $38.50 or $20. Who knows how I would have played the remaining races, which spanned three I probably wouldn't have won in addition to the three I probably would have won, but given the prices, I totally should have finished in the Top 20 with at least a few hundred bucks.

It's pointless to cry over spilt milk and rehash specific shit (which I guess I've been doing for this whole post), but more broadly I have noticed a flaw in my contesting that is worth me thinking about.

When I get down a bunch I get disgusted, annoyed and just want to leave, often before I'm truly out of it. In other words I give up too easily, which crowds out rational thinking to a certain extent.

For example, rather than going win-or-go-home with Ore Pass yesterday, I should have stepped back and assessed my situation and the remaining races coolly and analytically, with the goal of mapping out a reasonable path back to contention. Instead I tried to land a wild haymaker. Stupid.

This poor late-day contesting also manifested itself once last year at Belmont when I inexplicably bet a 7-2 horse with my last bet, which would have done nothing for me, rather than try to dope out a decent price that could have landed me in the top 20. 

Oh well, live and learn I guess.