Monday, March 9, 2009

What's Next?

It has taken a little time to banish my disappointment from the Feb. 28 contest. I felt like a NFL offense that had 1st-and-goal on the 5 yard line but couldn't punch it in after 5 attempts (we'll say I had one extra attempt on a defensive holding call). But I am now moving on, at least as far as mapping out what might be next on the NHC Tour.

A revised contest schedule is now up on the NTRA site. It seems the biggest change is the addition of four "super" qualifiers, offering a combined 21 spots out to the Red Rock next January. For this New Jersey-based NHC Tour member, the good news is that the August 29 super event will be held at Monmouth Park. The bad news is that these "super" qualifiers apparently call for "super" antes -- the Monmouth contest is a $600 affair, quite a bit more than than the usual contest price tags of $100-$400.

Six Benjies is definitely high in absolute terms, but it does send six to Vegas, so it actually sounds pretty decent in terms of qualifying bang-for-the-buck. Depending on how my finances shape up heading into the day, I may well give it a try.

For now, I'll focus on much-cheaper ($100) contest next month, and then the next free NHC Tour online event on Kentucky Derby day.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Loomed, faded late

It was a good, full day of handicapping contest action yesterday at Monmouth Park. I was patient early on; picked a few nice winners that had me in the hunt until very late in the afternoon; and I have no real gnawing regrets or shoulda, woulda, couldas. But unfortunately, I still came up empty.

My winning bets were $20W on Ghost Hour (paid $13) at Gulfstream; $10W on No Questions ($13.80) at Aqueduct, and $50W on Barrier Reef ($6.40) at Aqueduct. The winners increased my $100 starting bankroll to $200, $259, and then the high-water mark of the day, $329. They also put me on the contest leaderboard, mostly bouncing around between 12th and 24th place (of 237 participants) -- not half bad.

But the wheels fell off late. $329 wasn't gonna get me in the Top 10 -- needed at least $600-$650 for that, as of the last standings I saw -- so I had to take some shots to try to punch my way in. So, I played

-$30W on Senor Freddie (~15-1) in the Aqu finale. It was a speculative play but closers had been sucking up speed all day and this horse looked like he could come from the clouds. Alas, he didn't do much of anything.
-$40W on Rogue Victory (~8-1) in the Canadian Turf Handicap. Was stepping up in class but I thought perhaps he could manage a rail-skimming trip and prove good enough. He did make a run around the far turn, but got fanned wide and never really fired in the lane.
-$50W on Beethoven (~5-1) in the FOY. Got ran off his feet early and fell too damn far back, and could rally only for 3rd. No regrets here, as my second choice in this race was Break Water Edison, who didn't even finish.
-$40W on Our Ace (~10-1) in the Tampa finale. Looked in decent shape while gaining around the turn but flattened out late. I don't follow Tampa at all so this was admittedly a stab, one I never would have made on a non-contest day, but it was another chance to get in the Top 10 so I had to take it. And lastly,
-$150W(!) on first-timer Virsito (~5-1), in the GP finale. This was a full field of mostly first-time starters going a mile on the grass, so it was tough to be real confident about what the outcome would be, but I did think Virsito was the most likely winner. Nice pedigree, favorable post, the Goldberg-Marquez connections had at least one other debut winner at the meet, and the tote board said he was live (bet down from 8-1 ML). Turned out none of that meant anything, as the horse really didn't pick up his feet and finished 7th.

I was out the door after that, and my once-mighty betting card got me back less than $20.

What lessons can be learned? You know, I can't really think of any. Other post-contest times I thought maybe I had been overly aggressive, or bet the wrong horse, or didn't bet enough, etc. This time, I really think I did right by contest strategy. After all, all you can ask for is to be in the thick of things late in the afternoon, and I was. I took FIVE shots after my bankroll had reached $329, any ONE of which would most likely have punched me into the Top 10, but nothing came through. I have to think that next time, maybe one (or heavens, even two?) will come through.

P.S. Nothing doing in the NHC contest, where I tied for 357th or something, a midpack finish.