Maybe not a surprise to most, but this month's contest slate includes three NHC Qualify events and a bunch of ExpressBet qualifiers, plus an NHC Tour Free Online Challenge on Sunday, February 27.
I am happy that the tournament organizers have put the free contest on Sunday, since the NHC Qualify play-in for 9 NHC seats is set for Saturday, February 26. I hope to make it to the Feb. 26 play-in (via this Saturday's first of three qualifying events...but I have not made it yet in 3-4 tries), as well as to Monmouth Park on the 26th for the track's second of three Simulcast Series Challenge (SSC) events.
Today's Play: For Del Mar's "Play For Fun" contest for Santa Anita, I first landed on #2 Preferred Mandate (6-1 M/L) in a $30k maiden claimer going 5.5 furlongs on dirt, based on a switch from an apprentice to Victor Espinoza, the horse's experience at the $50k level and in a $54k Cal-bred special weight, and the addition of blinkers. However, after watching video of Preferred Mandate (the horse seemed to really flatten after a half mile in both of its prior starts), I am putting a mythical $100W on second-time starter #5 My Pal Val (10-1 M/L), who finished 3rd in his debut at a $30k 5.5-furlong sprint. I am generally not that observant about this sort of thing, but from the replay of My Pal Val's debut on January 15, it looked like David Flores (who is aboard again today) set this one a little too far back at the start, and after making up 8 lengths on the leaders in the blink of an eye, switched the horse's lead, much to its disadvantage (watch the video, but it looked like the horse stalled at that moment). I suspect Flores can put MPV more toward the front-runners (Preferred Mandate, Cat In The Forest and Captain Shawn D) and make a big run in the stretch, and am not deterred by a few class-droppers in this field. I'm hopeful to rebound from minus-$1,125 (mostly on 23 mythical $100W plays), but am about a combined head in three races from being well to the plus side, so I still feel confident in my handicapping.