Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Agony of the Pick 4

With no handicapping contests on the docket until late May, I have been dabbling with Pick 4 plays on the occasional free evening, specifically from -- of all places -- little-known Evangeline Downs.  (Yes, a Carlos Marquez rides there, but not the one from Monmouth Park).  My process has proven penny-wise, pound foolish, as I have missed out on some robust scores by limiting myself to tickets $12 or less, but I have at least enjoyed the agony and recognize I'm halfway decent at identifying longer prices.  Call me a masochist.

"Ils sont partis!"
The experience has been largely enjoyable but financially frustrating, focusing on the late Pick 4s from this Louisiana "racino."  The deep fields (often 14 horses), robust payouts and inexpensive 50-cent plays are right in my wheelhouse, but I am teetering on the brink having hit 3-of-4 in my last three efforts, two of which I was beaten at the wire and one of which (where I got knocked out in the third leg) paid over $2,000 on a 50-cent base wager!

The mishap tonight occurred when my horse, Tigeresque, lost a stretch duel in the nightcap to 8-to-5 Carolyns Kitten (with a 2% winning jockey on 88 mounts in 2011), so I missed out on a probable $216 payout on my $12 ticket (3x4x1x2).

The most difficult pill to swallow is that none of the winning horses in the Pick 4 on Wednesday evening paid out more than $8.40 to win (winners, in order, paid $8.40, $8.40, $4 and $5.60, suggesting that whomever makes the morning line has no clue)!  The winners were posted at respective lines of 30-to-1, 8-to-1, 5-to-2 and 15-to-1.  In the end, winning Pick 4 players scored a robust $425.55 for a 50-cent ticket on what proved to be four pretty chalky horses!  Not too shabby...and I can't complain, considering the horse that beat me was one that I threw out, so it's not one that I considered but was too cheap to add to my ticket.

Anyway, I hope to be able to hit one of these in the weeks to come, but if nothing else, I am learning how difficult and humbling it can be as a hobbyist handicapper.  In the meantime, I would encourage others to at least look into Evangeline, considering the depth of fields and lucrative Pick 3 and 4 payouts.  I know I have been having a blast with Evangeline's late Pick 4, though my blood pressure might disagree.

Monday, April 25, 2011

PARX heads to AC for 6-day meet starting Thursday, April 28

The first three days' entries posted to DRF (April 28, 29 and 30) for the 6-day Atlantic City Race Course all-turf meet offers full, wide-open fields, plus the return of Monmouth stalwarts Joe Bravo, Carlos Marquez and Jose Valdivia, to name a few, come Saturday, April 30 in Mays Landing.

First-race post is 3:30 p.m. ET, with 30 minutes between each of the six daily races, mostly under maiden special weight and starter allowance conditions and heavy on PARX connections.

Any fan of live racing and time warps should experience ACRC at least once in their life. The building is absolutely decrepit, replete with rusted seats and hard-pan scratch parking lot, but oddly charming as well, considering how close you can get to the action and post parades, and the facility lacking a working infield tote and speaker system through which to hear the live race calls.  I'd equate it to the 1930s -- a carnival caravan atmosphere, if you will, but with fewer people and minus Seabiscuit and War Admiral.

Last year I met my father - a big ACRC fan - for Sunday afternoon's card, and oddly came away with a wonderful experience, having talked with a handful of patrons who talked glowingly about the track's earlier halcyon days and time spent with their parents and families "back in the day."  Many made the pilgrimage with their kids, just to extend the legacy.  In addition, the concession stands are staffed by local groups looking to raise funds for their organizations, so it's got kind of a church bingo vibe as well.

From a horseplayers' perspective, the biggest attractions are the full fields and big payouts.  Anyone with a sniff of handicapping skill can profit, considering past performances of many of the claimer-type dirt horses in the fields do not translate at all to ACRC's all-turf events.  Remember, the track only opens for the requisite 6 days a year for live racing so as to keep its off-track wagering license, and from what I gather the dirt course is not maintained, which is why all races run on the hedged 1-mile turf course.

From my experience in 2010, form is difficult to decipher through past performances rife with Beyers often in the single-digit to "---" categories and trip notes along the lines of "stopped at White Castle for a sack o' sliders on the way to the finish line."

Meanwhile, the live odds are extremely difficult to track, as the temporary teller stations in the grandstand, for instance, are complemented by 80s-style monitors to present the odds and exacta and trifecta will-pays.  From what I recall (and pardon me in advance if I am incorrect), those are the only exotics offered, outside of an early daily double and closing race superfecta; so save your time in handicapping Pick 3s and 4s, like I ignorantly did heading into last year's visit. The 3-horse exacta box is a decent way to go at the meeting.

In any event, I am looking forward to the 90-minute track from Monmouth County this Sunday for an afternoon of anything goes at ACRC and would encourage you to experiment as well.  There is nothing that can substitute for live racing, particularly on the turf, so if you see me poring over a program standing next to a gentlemen with a cross between Kenny Rogers and Harrison Ford, then stop over and say "hello."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Organized (Labor) Crime

The theater is especially interesting (i.e. like watching a train wreck - you know it is going to be bad, but cannot turn away) in light of a lull in contest action for me, but the tellers union at the Meadowlands continues to give the organized labor movement a black eye, in light of reported shenanigan's of leaders of Local 137 of the Laborers International Union of North America, as reported by Record writer John Brennan.

Apparently, all but one of the seven-member union negotiating committee were no shows (probably much like their present jobs) to a meeting with Jeff Gural, the so-called white knight bidder who is THE only person interested in saving racing at the Meadowlands.  It is obvious that, outside of the blatant attempt to sabotage any hopes of salvaging a racing business at the Meadowlands, that either these individuals could care less about working again, or have such utter disrespect for the sole lifeline to a dying New Jersey-based harness racing program, but to the patrons of the sport who have subsidized their jobs for decades.  These parties are deserving of much better treatment.

Check out this quote from Mr. Gural: "I'm busting my ass to try to save the track, and they don't even have the decency to show up for a meeting that they themselves scheduled.  You have a small group of hard-line idiots here.  It's ridiculous.  The rank-and-file have to understand that a small group of people want to sabotage the deal."

Welcome to Governor Christie's nightmare and doing business in the State of New Jersey!

Two cents about the Meadowlands

Saturday's visit to the Meadowlands for the Horse Player World Series contest proved not only that I have a long way to go before becoming a credible player, but also how our legislators must really look the other way in how the Sports and Exposition Authority runs the show.

Granted there was no live harness racing, but the Big M is absolutely cavernous, to say the least, and outside of The Pub, there really was not a lot of action anywhere in the building, with less than 1,000 bettors (but plenty of tellers) on hand for an extensive prep stakes simulcast card.  I sat with Red Rock or Bust inside Terraces, which offers a great view of the track for live racing, and feasted on the much-ballyhooed $7.50 Roast Beef & Beer special - definitely not worth a special trip.

...fine dining
From an outsider's perspective (Saturday's was only my second visit ever to the Big M, save for one trip with the fellas back in the late-1980s), it dawned on me that Jeff Gural must really love the standard-bred game, or has a screw loose.  Having seen a number of his video interviews, I suspect the former is accurate.

The existing building must cost a fortune to run between the utilities and staffing, and Mr. Gural's plan for a scaled down facility is an obvious must.  Of course the first step to achieving this seems to involve concessions from the tellers' union, which definitely has a screw loose in light of its rejection last week of a wage-cut proposal.  However, based on this story from The Record's John Brennan, maybe the light bulb has finally turned on for the tellers union leadership that negotiations are better than unemployment.  I certainly hope that cooler heads prevail and that, for the benefit of all parties involved (including the harness horseplayers), an accord can be reached.

It will be interesting to watch how things shake out over the next few weeks.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Three "Factors" Spell Quick Exit from Meadowlands Contest

The combination of sentimentality, poor timing and weather spelled an 0-for-9 effort in Saturday's $200 Horse Player World Series handicapping contest at the depressing Meadowlands, though all was not lost as Red Rock Treasure Island or Bust finished a game 7th (second-straight Top 10 contest finish), and I ended up about $200 to the good after nailing the $416.80 Archarcharch-Nehro exacta in the Arkansas Derby.

The turning point in my contest day involved poor decision making in a two-race sequence following an 0-for-3 start where I could not beat the big favorites, bringing my bankroll down to $70 (from $100).

I went against my convention of avoiding horses below 3-to-1 and put $20 to win on Chamberlain Bridge (2.4-to-1) in the Grade 3 Shakertown Stakes from Keeneland, the first of two poor sentimental plays.  Chamberlain ran gamely but gave way in the final furlong on the yielding turf to finish fourth.  I had much success with Chamberlain in a 2010 Breeders Cup score and felt he was just the best horse in the field, but clearly he was not as fit as the others, and not really within the realm of my typical longshot-oriented contest strategy.

Needlessly worried with my starting bankroll already halved to $50, I chickened out of betting on a Gulfstream race about two minutes later, where I identified Icy Strait as a playable longshot in an 8-horse claimer.  Sure enough, Icy Strait mowed down the field in the slop to pay $22.40 going away.

Conservatism (i.e., afraid to lose 30% more of my starting $100 bankroll in 5 minutes) did me in.  I told myself that, had Chamberlain won, I would have rolled $10W (of what would have been an $118 bankroll) on Icy Strait (and been up to $230 and near the top of the leaderboard).  Instead, I licked my wounds over the Chamberlain loss and worried about dropping my bankroll to $40 had Icy Strait been unable to convert.  It cost me dearly, and four more $10W bets later, including another sentimental pick (5-to-1 Gypsy's Warning in the Jenny Wiley Stakes...I scored well with Gypsy in last year's Horse Player World Series contest at Monmouth), I was done.

I earlier mentioned weather as "a factor" as well, since my strategy heading into Saturday's contest was centered solely on the turf races at Gulfstream and Keeneland and hoping to stick around long enough for the Arkansas Derby, where I thought The Factor would be grossly overbet.  However, all but one Gulfstream turf race got washed out, and frankly I did poorly handicapping the wet turf at Keeneland.  In the end, I compromised my chances in the contest long before I could have bet 25-to-1 Archarcharch.

In the end, however, it was good to see Red Rock or Bust score another Top 10 contest finish, and both of us leaving on the plus side monetarily made the excursion home through last night's monsoon worth the effort.  However, and despite the great customer experience put forth by the contest hosts, especially Rachel Ryan and Amy Silver, the low contest turnout (only 114 players, versus the 250+ at the three recent Monmouth simulcast tournaments) and atmosphere within the cavernous building were unmistakably depressing, with one patron in a short concession line questioned one worker about her employment prospects in light of the track's impending closure.

I'll follow up sometime during the week about the Meadowlands vibe, but the place is definitely of a bygone era, with way too many tellers on hand, a woman "working" the $1 admission clubhouse gate (accessible for free via the grandstand gate anyway) and a gentleman I figured was a security guard in a booth outside the grandstand gate, telling me something to the effect of "go ahead" as I entered the turnstile.  Based on my contest outcome, maybe I had no business there handicapping horses, or my appearance was not as commonplace as the guy who panhandled Red Rock upon his arrival to the Meadowlands.

Anyway, the bottom line is three live contests for me in 2011, three finishes with bupkis. The Arkansas Derby exacta, and some successful practice handicapping from home, still give me the confidence that even as a weekend handicapper I can succeed in a contest -- perhaps not nearly as well as John O'Neill of Nesconset, NY, who with the aid of a software model took down first AND second-place in Saturday's contest with a well-timed $50W wager in the Oaklawn nightcap, but good enough to enter the $50 contest at Monmouth Park on May 21.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Only in New Jersey

Admittedly, I am the least bit interested in harness racing, but feel bad for the harness players and patrons of the Meadowlands in light of Thursday's report that the tellers union will not vote on job concessions to keep the track in operation.  Clearly I am missing something, since to me it looks as if the track will close down -- and many jobs will be lost -- if investor Jeff Gural cannot work out some kind of arrangement toward a workable business model.

As a graduate of the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, one would think I would be entirely sympathetic to organized labor (not the case), but as a fan of the sport you would have to be oblivious to think racing can succeed in New Jersey on its own, considering the huge operating costs and no slot gaming to augment purses, much as they have in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York.  I am no insider, but based on Governor Christie's rhetoric about racing and foolish belief that AC is the best place to invest in restructuring, it looks like Mr. Gural is the only one interested in saving the Meadowlands, so for organized labor leaders to scoff at a new business model is a disservice, again, to the fewer fans who support the sport.  Really, in all of this, New Jersey's live racing fans are the ones who get the short end of the stick.

Speaking of the Meadowlands, I am planning on participating there in the Horse Player World Series Qualifier on Saturday afternoon. With rain in the forecast for the area tomorrow, I'm figuring Aqueduct will have a ton of scratches, leaving Gulfstream, Keeneland and Oaklawn as the other three contest tracks for me to consider.  I plan on going in cold and seeing what happens.  It cannot be worse than having done a ton of prep work heading into the January and March simulcast contests at Monmouth Park and losing out.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Bold Move"...I'll Say!

Monmouth Park posted the results of this past Saturday's Simulcast Series Challenge (SSC) Championship, won by Christos Apostolos of Lowell, MA in interesting fashion.

First, many congratulations to the winner!  In short, it appears that Apostolos sat at or near the top of the leaderboard after turning his $100 bankroll into $1,200 going into the final race, having hit 9-of-11 wagers (not specified in the press release whether win, place or show) on the afternoon, before taking the plunge with a $1,000 place wager on less than even money favorite Person of Interest in the Aqueduct nightcap. The horse won and paid $3.10 to place, giving Christos the win with a $1,756 bankroll to secure one of two berths to the January 2012 NHC Tour Championship in Las Vegas, NV.

Paul Zerbst of Teaneck finished second with a $1,414 bankroll.  Congratulations to both for advancing!

It's hard to argue with success, and I suppose if I had a $1,000 decision to make, I might side with a Ramon Dominguez-Richard Dutrow connection at Aqueduct, but the proposition was rather dicey, in my view, having seen two contestants in SSC qualifiers hit on 9-to-1 and 9-to-2 winners in the final contest race to finish first and second, respectively, in the January and March play-ins.  (I guess that's why I failed to make it to the tournament finals.)

Considering the way the day went, however, and having watched half of Saturday's contest card...and now seeing that only two of the 40 contest players netted a $1,000+ bankroll (the fifth-place finisher had only $660), my assertion to Red Rock or Bust that it would likely take much success with numerous chalk plays might have been accurate, considering the winner hitting on 82% of his contest plays.

The breakdown of winning horses in the 34-race contest card (players had to make at least 10 bets to qualify to win SSC) comprised of Aqueduct, Gulfstream and Tampa shows that a whopping 23 winners paid out $9.40 or less on a $2 win wager, while there were 8 others paying between a not-so-long $12.40 and $19.40, and three "bomber" payouts of $29.60, $83.40 and $128.50.

Popping in on Red Rock or Bust on Saturday to wish him luck, it seemed that no one picked the $128.50 winner (Game Token) in the 5th at Aqueduct.  I was unable to stick around for long, but in hindsight would have figured that someone down to their final $20-$40 would have hit on 40-to-1 winner Storm Warnings in the final race at Gulfstream or 14-to-1 Mister Dish in the second-to-last from Tampa.  Those are usually the kinds of desperation wagers that create chaos late in handicapping contest cards and bring the pot of gold to a contest player, but it is clear the outcome on Saturday was far different, leaning toward the chalk.

If anyone happens to know how I can contact Christos or Paul to discuss Saturday's tournament, please pass along their information, as I would like to pick their brains regarding their contest strategy and success.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lamentation of a New Jersey NHC Tour player

The NJ-based NHC Tour player
"I never worry about action, but only about inaction."
-- Winston Churchill

The topics are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum, but based on past experience as a community activist on an altogether separate issue (volunteer chairperson of NOPE, which in a nutshell convinced the U.S. Navy to turn back on a costly and dangerous plan at a nearby weapons station) than horse racing, I posit that NJ-based NHC Tour members MUST band together to improve our opportunities to compete in ADW-sponsored play-ins to the $2 million championship tourney.

In light of my commentary last week about the inability of Jersey horseplayers to participate in the rising number of contests sponsored by operators such as, Xpressbet and the monthly DRF Bets Tournament League, I contacted the editors at the Daily Racing Form about whether there was a way for DRF to let NJ horseplayers "buy in" (i.e. pay a real $2 per-contest-day fee, or about $40 a month, for mythical winnings) to the DRF online tournament for the right to win a Vegas seat.  Editor Lonnie Goldfeder, prompting addressing to my question, responded on Friday that "we are unable to get around the rules which state you have to be a DRF Bets member (and therefore one who resides in a state which makes you eligible) to be able to enter the tournament league."

A state which makes you eligible (NJ not one of them, of course)...

First and foremost, I give DRF a TON of credit for an inventive, NHC Tour-friendly proposition, whereby contestants make a $2 live bet per day on the Form's free "Race of the Day," which also comes with in-depth video analysis to help the players dope out each day's race.  In my view, this is an excellent low-cost venue (especially for limited-bankroll players like me who cannot plunk down a few thousand bucks to travel for big buy-in tournaments elsewhere in the U.S.) for an NHC Tour player to pick up one of the coveted Vegas invitations.  One seat is given in each of April, May and June to the player with the largest bankroll, and a well-placed $40-$42 is all it takes.

However, and this is no blame of DRF, but rather onerous regulation and politics, the eligibility part is what sticks in my craw.  I might have miscounted the number of invitations given to winners of these ADW-sponsored NHC tournaments, but the NTRA calendar shows upward of 40 NHC seats up for grabs for Treasure Island in January 2012, or roughly 12% of the total spots, available through these kinds of ADW-based tournaments.  That's nothing to scoff at, considering Monmouth Park gave away just two seats in Saturday's Simulcast Series Challenge and, according to the current schedule, there are only three more NHC seats to win on August 27 (though I learned yesterday that another spot could be available in an early June handicapping contest). This should come as no surprise to any horseplayer in light of the uncertainty over the track's ownership.

This is entirely speculative, but based on anecdotes and observations (and in light of the machinations of the Meadowlands' tellers union in Jeff Gural's bid to save that track from extinction -- I suppose unemployment is better than a pay cut), I would venture a guess that account holders with NJ's ADW,, are stuck behind the graft and archaic legislation that maybe worked years ago but only prohibits competition and the ability of the state's horseplayers (i.e., taxpayers) to shop for a better product.

The typical horseplayer? I don't think so.
Really the only other thing (next to the outdated rules in the state about race-day minimums, union-influenced tracks, etc.) that prohibits NJ players from having accounts outside the state-run ADW and, more significant to contest players like myself, even greater access to opportunities to reach the NHC Tour championship is the horseplayers themselves.

Perhaps the common stereotype of the horseplayer as a codger who actually saw Seabiscuit race War Admiral, is entirely accurate and the industry will simply dry up, but I beg to differ.

I observe that the racing industry, despite its sectarian ways, is making inroads electronically in drawing more players into the game, especially via online contests (i.e. that resonate with the younger set.  And, despite the continued downward trajectory in U.S. handle in March, there are pockets of relative health (i.e. boutique meets like Saratoga and Keeneland, success of the reconfigured Gulfstream Park, racing having its own satellite radio station and two networks - TVG and HRTV - that bring the sport right into peoples' home), and the Kentucky Derby remains one of the most-watched sporting events in our nation.

In closing, I would argue that it is really up to the industry's customers - in this place, New Jersey horse racing enthusiasts long taken for granted and, specifically, NJ-based NHC members - to unite, or as Morgan Freeman's character "Red" famously said in one of my all-time favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption, "get busy livin', or get busy dyin."  

If anyone else is ready to get busy, leave a comment below with your contact info, and spread the word.  The initiative could be as simple as a petition from all NJ-based NHC Tour players and a letter to all of the state's legislators and Governor Christie.  If nothing else, it's worth a shot.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Good luck to Saturday's contest players at Monmouth!

The thousands (more like thousandths) that flock here daily are aware of my friendship with Treasure Island, I mean Red Rock, Or Bust writer Terry Flanagan, who is 1 of the 40 players for Saturday's SSC (Simulcast Series Challenge) championship for two coveted spots in the $2 million NHC Championship next January.

The folks at Monmouth Park wrote very nice snippets on the participants, all of whom finished in the Top 15 during the monthly qualifiers in January, February and March, and have interesting notes to share.  In case you are wondering why there are only 40 players in a field of 45, but one contestant won three spots while two other horseplayers won two spots apiece, increasing their chances of advancing to Treasure Island.  I find this particularly impressive, since I failed in my efforts to advance in January and March.  Best of luck to all contestants, and I might stop by mid-card to jinx, I mean support, my pal and get in some practice.

Meanwhile, those of us on the sidelines this week have an opportunity to qualify for the Horse Player World Series on Saturday, April 16, at the Meadowlands.  I am focused on the NHC Tournaments, but may take a shot at the HPWS to stay fresh in the contest format and win some cash.  Stay tuned.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Good insights on synthetic surfaces

This NTRA video, played near the outset of Horse Player Now Night School tonight, was alone worth the visit -- at least for my handicapping -- and provided interesting trainer insights on synthetic surfaces.  As a relative newcomer to synthetics (I have been in some contests involving Woodbine and read Bill Finley's book on conquering synthetics), it was interesting to hear different expert views on how to read these tracks, though Todd Pletcher's insight on training times was extremely valuable, in that the surfaces tend to play faster earlier in the morning and slow down as the day progresses.  Anyway, head over to the Night School for an archive of this value-added discussion.

Friday, April 1, 2011

NJ-based NHC Tour players at a disadvantage on-line

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as an NHC Tour member I find New Jersey contest players at a huge disadvantage and cut off from a number of seats from the $2 million tournament championship on account of the archaic state mandates that Garden State players can only wager online via the state's proprietary Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) site  My explanation is circuitous, but follow along.

Admittedly for the access to live video feeds and race replays as part of my contest preparation, I established an ADW account on 4NJBets a few weeks ago, which went pretty smoothly, outside of the eight-day wait (six business days, though in racing, Saturday and Sunday are the best business days) for my direct deposit to clear the "pending" status.  In the era of e-checks, PayPal and online bill paying, this seems a bit long, no?  No matter...over the past few days, I dabbled with some minuscule wagers to test how the system runs, and other than the inability to access the live Aqueduct feed, I found the functionality to be sufficient.

The NJSEA and Trenton...Perfect Together
Curious about the lag time in the money transfer versus other services, I contacted TVG and, inquiring about their platforms, which no doubt seemed much more user friendlier; no surprise, as we in NJ are quite familiar with red tape.  The quick-responding customer relations agent from TVG responded: "when you use your checking account to deposit funds go in your account right away...we give the funds immediately as a courtesy to our customers", while Michelle Foley of "when a customer sets up (the company's proprietary) EZMoney (account) and does a deposit, the funds are available in the wagering account to be used immediately."  The only time there is a lag is on the withdrawal process, whereby there is a 3- to 5-day clearing period.  Sounds simple enough, and these commercially run entities seem to recognize that, without the customer, there's no ADW service. (NJ, take notes.)

Anyway, I cite these comparable ADW sites because there are a number of online NHC contests that NJ bettors and contest players alike have zero chance of accessing.  Any NHC Tour member or NTRA's email list recipient can attest to the regular bombardment of notices for various contests, and this, combined with my experience with 4NJBets, got me thinking that I'd be a lot better off as a Tour player as a, TVG or XpressBet account holder (not to mention that these sites often have sign-up bonuses up to $100 and run all sorts of other promotions).  To be sure, in a free market, I'd gravitate toward one of (or more than one, depending on the benefits) those sites, as any educated consumer would.  But, hey, it wouldn't be New Jersey if not for a complete government-run monopoly or bureaucracy, now would it...

The Twinspires Leaderboard, where 3 NHC seats and a few more to the Coast Casino Horseplayer World Series are up for grabs, began today. The XpressBet Showdown, also for three seats and four more to the lesser-known HWS, kicks off on April 16.  Even the Daily Racing Form has thrown its hat into the ring, offering DRF Bets Tournament Leagues from April through June for 3 more seats.  Right there, we find 9 seats where Jersey contest players are automatically out of the loop.  Seems unfair, right?

Realistically, as a working father with two kids and a lot of obligations outside my weekend handicapping hobby, I have no intention, desire or time to be a part of every single NHC qualifying tournament, but it is becoming clearer to me how many opportunities are entirely out of the mix for resident New Jersey contest players like myself, speculatively on account of the dysfunction of the state's thoroughbred industry and the need to put graft (i.e. union-dominated track jobs, commissioning the former NJSEA chief to conduct an "unbiased" study on Atlantic City, Xanadu, horse racing and the prospects of a Meadowlands casino) ahead of giving the state's horseplayers the best possible product.

Perhaps readers will sense a bit of venting on my behalf here, but this is justified, considering the uncertain ownership and 2011 meeting schedule for Monmouth Park, plus the inability of organized labor at the Meadowlands to recognize that, without a Jeff Gural or complete 180-degree turn by Governor Christie on the North Jersey casino issue, extinction is near.  But it's just another example of how the NJ horseplayers are screwed and generally not factored into the equation.

In the meantime, I suppose I should delve more into my handicapping (though there's not a credible open NHC contest in NJ until two months from now), because the opportunities in my state are fewer and more far between than, say, a resident in a state that offers a privately-held ADW that has much better tie-ins to the NHC Tour's 500 championship tournament seats.