Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ideas for Saturday's "TVG Online Challenge"

At quick glance, today's TVG contest offers some compelling price plays on the 10-race card featuring three races each from Monmouth Park (6-8), Belmont Park (8-10) and Hollywood Park (5-8).  Entry is free to any NTRA Inside Track member, and the top three finishers win coveted spots in the 2012 NHC Tour championship in Las Vegas.

Aviator shades...resurgent, but
still not cool anymore.
In these kinds of contests, where there are usually upwards of 2,000 contestants, some long-shots are an absolute must, and I am hoping to wheel back to last year's Kentucky Derby day contest where I finished 16th and was close enough to win heading into the final contest race, but it's hard to get one's hopes up in this kind of free contest, which I suspect will draw some sophisticated handicappers and the random TVG viewer taking shots in the dark. Still, it's a shot worth taking.

There are three longshots I find particularly intriguing, one at each track, but outside of calling the $418 ArchArchArch-Nehro exacta in the Oaklawn, I would discourage my scant readership from betting the ranch on any of these (and my picks for the contest are subject to change, based on weather conditions closer to post time); I took a quick glance at all 10 races this morning before heading out for my big date today with a 12-yard pile of mulch).
  • Primary Witness (8-1) - Race 8 at Monmouth: Assuming all 7 entrants go on this mile-and-70 yards $32k optional claimer, I recognize there are sexier picks in graded stakes-placed Nacho Friend (7-to-2), Eltheeb (5-to-2) and inside horses Mia's Angel and Dueling Alex (both 3-to-1), but throw out Primary Witness's two lackluster Gulfstream efforts (both 1-turn miles) and like that this one is 3-for-4 at today's distance and has a win and show in two tries on the Monmouth strip.
  • Beer Meister (20-1) - Race 9 at Belmont:  The Grade 2 Peter Pan (a 9-furlong, 1-turn race) is LOADED with talent, and in my view it is hard to ignore Ramon Dominguez on 6-to-1 Alternation (5th in the aforementioned Arkansas Derby), but in spots like this where I am intrigued by a half-dozen decent price horses, I am willing to take a shot on jockey Alex Solis in this spot from Post 3.  I suspect the bettors, too, will look at Beer Meister as an immediate throwaway, considering this horse is shipping in from less-prestigious Turf Paradise (Phoenix, AZ) and finished an uninspiring 5th in the Sunland Derby on March 27.  However, this is a horse who can make up ground in a race with speed, and I expect that to be the case here, hoping that Solis can save ground and chase down the leaders in the stretch. Beer Meister, in my view, will not be 14-16 lengths back as he was in his last two tries, and after a sluggish start from post 10 was eating up ground in the Sunland Derby before being forced 6-wide on the final turn, which was too much to make up in a Grade 3 event.  Note, too, that Plum Pretty came off a victory in the Sunland Oaks to take home the Kentucky Oaks as well at a favorable price.  Maybe this is an emotional pick, considering I'm still licking my wounds from just missing out with my pick of 16-to-1 St. John's River in the Kentucky Oaks, but Beer Meister is worthwhile. 
  • Chokecherymary (8-1) - Race 6 at Hollywood: Much as the Sunland Derby video told me that Beer Meister did not get the best of "trips" but is nonetheless talented, the video on Chokecherymary shows a decent horse at a favorable price who may be dismissed by bettors.  This 3-year-old filly, ridden by Chantal Sutherland for trainer Gary Mandella, ran a game 4th in her debut at Santa Anita (6 furlongs) at 38-to-1 on April 3, stalking the leaders into the stretch before getting forced into the rail, checking ever so slightly and flattening out in the stretch.  The winner of that $57k maiden special weight, Screaming Regal, came back to finish second in a $125k stakes race on April 23, which is a bullish indicator for Chokecherymary this afternoon. And I'm willing to throw out CCM's second start on April 23, when she was declared a "non-starter" from post 13, when a gate attendant was literally standing in front of the horse inside the gate as the race started, and the horse had no choice but to back out of the starting gate.  Plus, the horse to her inside lost its irons at the start, making for a complete throwaway, in my opinion.    
Best of luck to anyone else participating in the TVG contest, and especially to those making it out to the opener at Monmouth Park! 

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