The least bit scientific, but some numbers support my contention that there have to be better cards than at Aqueduct for Monmouth Park's Simulcast Series Challenge (SSC) winter events. Results of SSC #2 are not published, but the average win payout for the 10 races on Aqueduct's card was a meager $7.70. Chalk-player delight, but not my taste, so I'm sort of glad I was unavailable to compete this week. Meanwhile, 11-race cards at Gulfstream and Tampa yielded average win payouts of $12.30 and $13, respectively, while the Gulfstream finale winner paid $19.60 and the last two winners at Tampa paid $28.60 and $12, making for some late contest theater.
I know that handicapping is handicapping, whether one prefers to play 1-to-9 shots or 99-1 shots, but Aqueduct, in my opinion, offers few compelling plays in a simulcast contest format. Perhaps an anomaly, but 8 of the 10 Aqueduct winners paid $7.20 or less.
Meanwhile, the payouts for the 10-race February play-in for 9 NHC seats on NHCQualify.com would suggest that there were probably few late movers in a contest that started with 39% of peak profit potential paid out in the first two races (Action Andy in the 5th from Tampa, $32.80 W/P, and Beckham Bend in the 5th from GP, $32 W/P) while 5 of the next 7 races ran closely to form. In all, picking the winner of each of the 10 races would have yielded $167 for mythical $2W/P wagers.
The next NHCQ event, the first of three upcoming Sunday play-ins for the March 27 championship, is scheduled for March 6; 300 spots are available at $100 per entry, up to two entries per player. The top 30 from each play-in advance to a 90-player championship for 9 NHC seats. And I'll throw in my two cents on this tournament too...organizers should limit entries to 1 per person until 24 hours before the contest, or something to that effect. I understand the need to fill 300 seats to guarantee maximum headcount, but it'd be nice to give players more of a chance to enter than first-come, first-served. I have often seen a number of contestants with two entries.
P.S. I disagree a bit with Mike Watchmaker's blog on Soldat on DRF.com after Saturday's Fountain of Youth and consider him easily one of the top contenders on the Derby Trail. The horse easily won, and To Honor and Serve's connections' comments before the race (that they were using the race more as a prep than as something to win) were a huge red flag, in my view. I know the Kentucky Derby is the brass ring, and races like the Fountain are "preps," but as the occasional bettor I am irritated by apologist mentality of commentators and connections in such spots. Enter the race to win, or spend more time in training until the horse is absolutely ready to run in as big an event as a $400k Grade 2. Or run a lesser stakes or allowance. Perhaps indirect, but I think it's a slight to the horse that actually prepped well and won, and unfair to discredit the connections (Soldat, in this case) for properly preparing their horse.