Thursday, April 24, 2014

5.26 Percent

I'll be competing in Monmouth Park's Simulcast Series Challenge Invitational on Saturday, luckily with two entries. Nicole Lince of Monmouth Park told me of the 80 entries signed on for Saturday, 76 are NHC Tour members -- the top 2 finishers who are NHC Tour members qualify for Vegas, so that puts my chances at 2 * (2/76), or 5.26%.

The good news is, 1/19 is a heckuva lot better than the ~1/60 shot that you get in most online contests, and there's no entry fee -- each entry is $200 live bankroll only. The not-so-good news is, the chance is still slim city, as there's almost a 95% chance that come Saturday evening, I'll be telling my sob story to anyone within earshot.

I'm happy to have two entries, but in general it's really not my thing and I can't recall ever playing two entries in the decade+ I've been playing contests. I understand a double entry gives you a better chance, but in my opinion there are some factors pertaining to strategy and decision making that complicate things. So when the cost is double but both the chance of winning and the enjoyment increase by less than double, flying solo is an easy decision for this budget-conscious contest player.

That means Sat. will be uncharted territory in terms of how I play the two entries.

I was first thinking I'd play one entry normally (i.e. methodical, mostly minimum $20 bets with only moderate risk-taking through early and mid-afternoon, hoping to be in with a chance late in the day)

and the other entry with some kind of risky hell-bent-for-leather strategy, say perhaps $200W on an 8-1 shot or something, or maybe play only $100 or $50 bets on this ticket. This way I'd have some chance to hit a big score early and be in front, but if I lost (most likely scenario), I'd still have the other entry to play as usual.

But while this strategy holds some appeal, and if I had a third entry I absolutely would play one like this, I'm now leaning toward a more conservative approach. This is certainly subject to change, but I'm thinking I'll play both entries in the same methodical, slow-early, hopefully-fast-late fashion. I'll play the same horse on both entries maybe a few times (i.e. my strongest calls); play more tepid calls on one entry only (though I'm not sure which one -- this to me is the biggest strategic challenge in having two entries); and in the instances when say I dislike a chalk but I can't decide between two alternatives, I'll play one on each entry.    

Assuming a best-case scenario of a few wins over the course of the afternoon, this strategy can have me in contention late in the day on both tickets, allowing me to swing on both.

Of course I'll need to have a very good handicapping day with at least a few decent-priced winners to have a shot at finishing in the top 2, but I'm thinking with the approach I outlined, I'll have at least some margin for error. If a couple of my core plays come in I can still win even if a key decision or two doesn't go my way, whereas with one entry, there's that much less margin for error.

With the risk-on approach of big early bets, my chances are certainly increased versus having only one entry, but they're increased in more of a random or lucky sense rather than a sound strategic sense. (If that makes any sense.)

Anyway, just some musings a day and a half before Saturday's first post.    

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Luck Ran Dry

As I kinda thought might happen, I busted in yesterday's Simulcast Series Challenge #4, ending my modest two-contest winning streak (well not *winning* winning, but coming out a few bucks ahead and earning seats in the SSC final).

I went 0-10 on the day, which is crummy but not as bad as it coulda been -- I cashed out my $681.30 from SSC3 when I first arrived so I was feeling a bit flush, and I briefly considered buying two entries. I'm glad I didn't.

Whereas breaks went my way in SSCs 2 and 3, yesterday just wasn't my day. A series of early near-misses, each on horses right about 7-1, pretty much doomed me: Storm Off, who finished 2nd after missing the break in 4.5-furlong Keeneland baby-race opener (comment was "unprepared start" -- WTF Corey Lanerie?); I'm a Southern Diva, who lost by a 1/2 length in Tam2; Bluegrass Jam, who fell a neck and a head short in Tam3; and then Tricky Hat, who fell a neck short in Kee5.

I still had probably $40-$50 around midafternoon but the day just never had a good 'feel' for me. You have to have at least some breaks and close stuff go your way to make noise in these contests, so when I had four instances *not* going my way within the afternoon's first two hours, I heard the fat lady warming up.

Things indeed went downhill from there, as up-the-track finishes replaced close calls, and I started reaching for prices. My final bet of the afternoon was in the Wood, $10W on Schivarelli. He ran well to finish 4th at 16-1, but that dashed any hopes I had of making an improbable late run. The winner, Wicked Strong, was plenty playable at 9-1 and I may well have went with him if I had more bankroll, but at that point I was looking for double-digit prices. Probably didn't matter, as I can't say I would have had any winners in the few contest races after the Wood.

Anyway, I didn't get a 3rd seat to the April 26 contest but I sure as heck can't complain with 2. I'll have to work up some strategy between now and then.