Saturday, May 21, 2011

Monmouth's first live contest Saturday

The 12-race card at Monmouth tomorrow afternoon is not the most appealing, and two turf races have already been taken off the dirt in light of wetness, but the $50 handicapping contest for a spot in the Horseplayer World Series in Vegas next February is likely to come down to the Preakness, which is the final race of the contest (6:16 p.m. ET).  That is, of course, if we can avoid a repeat of last year's event, where the eventual winner nailed a 102-to-1 shot to run away very early with the top prize. 

It is nearly impossible to get a great feel of the contest card, considering the uncertain track conditions, but much like last week's TVG contest preview, I have identified a few prospects:
  • Monmouth - Race 1: Sammy's Trip (5-to-1) is fourth choice in a 7-horse $20k maiden claimer, and the field is awful top to bottom, but a replay of this one's April 7 mile-turf race at Gulfstream showed the horse checked slightly very early (not noted in the past performances) before the first turn and ran evenly thereafter at a $35k condition. The 3-to-2 M/L favorite, Stimulus Program, may be deserving of such short odds, but the 4-month layoff following a 6th-place showing at Gulfstream and 10-week layoff before the next workout, in my view, do not inspire for such a short-priced horse, and I was not the least bit enamored with the second and third choices, so I may land here if 4-to-1 or more.
  • Monmouth - Race 3: Green's Hard Ten (3-to-1). Yeah, there's really not much glory in calling a morning-line second-choice in a meager 6-horse field, but this one gets jockey Wilfredo Corujo, who is 0-for-9 to start the meet and 6-for-144 in 2011 (a meaty 4% win percentage).  I am hoping that the bettors dismiss Green's Hard Ten based on the jockey, but they would be remiss to do so based on some past races, notably the April 15 turf race at a mile-and-a-sixteenth at Gulfstream.  The horse's bold 5-wide middle move against comparable claimers is a bullish indicator for me on the cutback to six furlongs, IF the jockey avoids traffic (which shouldn't be hard in a 6-horse field).
  • Preakness Stakes: The format for Saturday's contest (a $50 buy-in, with each player getting a $30 bankroll and the other $20 put to the contest pot, divided among the top 10 finishers) includes win, place or show (and combinations thereof) wagers on the 12 Monmouth races and Preakness, where I keep looking at Sway Away (15-to-1) and King Congie (20-to-1) as viable long-shots. I was bearish on California shippers in the Kentucky Derby, but Sway Away's San Vincente effort at Santa Anita in February (2nd to The Factor) was visually impressive, and if Garrett Gomez can be more patient with this one than Patrick Valenzuela in the Arkansas Derby (a key race), I think Sway Away will have a shot at speed-favoring Pimlico. Otherwise, King Congie was a very game third in the Bluegrass at Keeneland on April 16, and I know seems like a grass-synthetics type, but I anticipate the pace will not nearly resemble the dawdling 48.3 and 1:13.2 fractions of the Kentucky Derby, and this horse can close well into what I expect will be a strong pace scenario. Right now I'm thinking Sway Away, but the point may be moot, depending on whether I can preserve enough contest bankroll for the finale. 

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