Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NOW things get started...

Besides the Kentucky Derby, this Saturday marks a sort of unofficial start to the real racing season, in this NJ-based blogger's view. The Triple Crown segues into summer racing at Monmouth Park, Belmont, and Saratoga, which peaks in July-August, then things wind down with a nice Belmont fall meet and conclude with the Breeders' Cup.

Things start to perk up on the NHC Tour contest schedule as well. By my very unofficial count, so far 53 lucky folks have qualified for the 2010 National Handicapping Championship at the Red Rock. Assuming a 275-person field, that means there are still more than 200 spots up for grabs.

This weekend's main event is an online NHC Tour thingamabob that spans Friday and Saturday. The contest qualifies 2 for Vegas, but I'm assuming the field will be 800ish (as was the Feb. 28 NHC Tour Fountain of Youth event), so it's sort of like a lottery-ticket proposition. Beyond just the top 2, the top 30 finishers earn points that can help qualify you down the road.

The other contest thingamajig that starts this weekend is Public Handicapper, which I could swear used to qualify folks for the NHC, but now I'm seeing it qualifies people for the Horseplayer World Series. Public Handicapper is free so maybe I'll try it for fun, but to me, the HWS is to the NIT what the NHC is to the NCAA Tourney, so I'm not that interested.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New T-Shirt

My NHC Tour t-shirt came in the mail today. I'd prefer the back to be a bit less of an attention-grabber, but it is clever.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Early Derby Thoughts

The crux of this blog is my quest to qualify for the 2010 National Handicapping Championship, but I figure there's no harm in occasionally weighing in on other racing topics. To that end, I'd like to offer my preliminary 2 cents on the upcoming Kentucky Derby.

I believe the Kentucky Derby is the most over-analyzed horse race in America, and largely a crapshoot. From a handicapping perspective, it’s tough to have much confidence that your horse will win, as 20-horse fields create traffic jams and brutal trips that just cannot be predicted. Other variables such as the 1 1/4-mile distance, and the pageantry and madness of the day itself, just add more uncertainty to the mix.

All that said, for those of us who still plan to bet on the Kentucky Derby, I think Quality Road is the real deal. At the moment, it looks like there may not be a lot of early pace signed on for the Derby (this assessment is subject to revision, of course), and QR has proven versatility in either going to the front or sitting just off the early leaders. The recent quarter crack that caused him to miss some training is a concern, but I think there's plenty of time left before Saturday, May 2 for Jerkens to get him right.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Back in Action

After a six-week layoff from handicapping contests, I'm looking forward to trying my luck in Saturday's event. I'm still mourning my Feb. 28 non-qualifying (why on earth did I bet Beethoven over Quality Road in the FOY?) for the Invitational they're having at Monmouth Park this Saturday -- dang I wanted to be at that thing -- but NHCQualify it is.

If I understand the rules correctly, I'll be one of 300 contestants on Saturday, which is a "Round 1" event. The goal is to finish in the top 30, which moves you on to Round 2, to be held on the last Saturday of the month. Assuming 90 players in Round 2 (30 from each of the three Round 1 contests), the top 9 then qualify for Vegas. So the percentages seem reasonable enough, but of course, making the top 10% in two consecutive contests is much easier said than done.

Of Saturday's 10 contest races, 6 are from Keeneland and 4 are from Santa Anita. I've not developed any real feel for the synthetic KEE surface, and I never have followed California racing closely, so I will need more than my share of luck. The format (1 mythical $2WP bet on each race, odds capped at 20-1 on win and 10-1 on place) will also be new to me, as the NJ contests I have played offer more leeway on wager size and do not cap odds.

At any rate, all that stuff is noise really, my focus on Saturday is to be in the top 30 after Santa Anita's 7th race is made official. This will require some good handicapping, and some better-than-good luck.

I'm hoping to live-blog my contest experience in some way, shape or form on Saturday.