Monday, July 25, 2011

A head and a half from potential contest glory

The amazing thing I have learned in just two-plus years of playing on the thoroughbred handicapping contest circuit is how small race margins often determine not only the player's outcome, but prompt change of strategy in a heartbeat.

Friday night's It's Del Mar Time contest at was a case in point. The contest centered on the 8-race card, with handicappers making mythical $2 win-place wagers and earning a point for each dollar of "real" win and place money earned by one's horse.  Of my three contests this weekend (more below), this is one I handicapped thoroughly, but only tied for 46th-place in a 150-person field, accruing 446 points; the winner tallied 1,128 to take down the $2,500 cash prize (for a $50 tournament entry fee).

Race 3 proved the decisive contest race.  After tallying 102 points in selecting second-place finisher Traweek (9-to-1) in the opener, I picked up another 112 points on winner Heleonor Rugby (5-to-2) in Race 2 (paid $7.80 to win, $3.40 to place) to move into sixth-place.  In handicapping Race 3, I identified 4 horses at better than 5-to-1 that I considered playable, and eventually settled on #6 Capalatte, who shot up to 22.5-to-1 off a 10-to-1 morning line and, I thought, would benefit from some rest and had run well last summer at Del Mar against tougher claimers; Friday's 3rd was an $8k claimer at 7 furlongs.

The race shape was exactly as anticipated, and the freshening obviously helped Capalatte. Jockey Alonso Quinonez put this 4-year-old filly in a perfect ground-saving, stalking trip along the rail and passed the leaders turning for home but was gunned down by a head at the wire by 14.7-to-1 Akeela, my second choice ($442 exacta that I did not have...ouch!).  On track, Capalatte paid a healthy $17.20 to place, but the 172 points within the contest format dropped me to 21st-place, since Akeela ($31.40 to win, $11.80 to place) produced 432 points to anyone who had her (or, the 20 players ahead of me in the standings).

From a small sample of people beneath me in the standings, it looked like few had Capalatte, but I kept a positive perspective ahead with five races to go in the contest. Race 4 provided a similarly grueling outcome for my contest hopes, with 6.6-to-1 (the second-longest shot in a 6-horse field) Lift Our Luck gunned down in the final 50 yards to finish second (60 contest points for the $6 place payout).

So, four contest winner and three seconds, with about a half length the difference between my 17th-place standing halfway through the card and, presumably, a decent lead.  From that point on I went 0-for-4, taking some shots on double-digit horses (none of which finished better than fourth), feeling the need to hit some decent prices in order to have a real shot at taking the top spot. Was the decision a bit hasty? Maybe, but by that time, despite some excellent handicapping, I was 440 points off the leader, who went 4-for-4 to that point. From there on, the winners of races 5-8 yielded a total of 678 points, but that was a best-case scenario for even the best of handicappers (NJ Horseplayer not among them).

I have yet to be in a position to "play from ahead," so to speak, but Friday's experience had me wondering how I might have played races 5-8 with the lead.  In Races 5 and 6, I switched away from short-price plays that finished only third and fourth, while in Race 7 I had identified eventual winner Cloud Man as the horse to beat, but not much of a play at 3-to-2. Shoulda coulda woulda, I suppose, but it makes for good self-analysis in preparing for future contests, and hopefully provides some value to my blog readers.

PS. For the sake of disclosure, I did participate in Sunday's NHC Tour Summer Online Challenge, but barely prepared in advance, owing to a massive workload this weekend in preparing for a major renovation at the NJ Horseplayer house. I made hasty selections on the 10-race contest card, but would not put this one among the "value-adds" of handicapping contest afterthought.

Next up...Monday night's Horse Player Now Night School web chat on handicapping two-year old races...hopefully valuable ahead of this Sunday's road trip to Saratoga with Red Rock or Bust, Tony the (retired) Mailman (my Dad) and Walter M, who is dusting me thus far with chalky selections in the free Del Mar online contest.

Friday, July 22, 2011

NJ Horseplayer 101 (as in Post #101)

Amazingly I've had a lot to say about nothing since entering the blogosphere this year -- very Seinfeld-ian...

Alan "Skipper" Hale's
albatross; NJ Horseplayer's
has been picking winners at
Monmouth Park in '11
This weekend will be active in terms of tournament action for me, namely Sunday's NHC Tour Summer Online Challenge, open to anyone who forked over the $45 annual membership fee.  The Top Three finishers (a tough task in an event that draws more than 3,000 players) win berths to the NHC Tour Championship in Las Vegas; my best effort was 16th-place in last year's Kentucky Derby contest.

At quick glance over lunch, the 10-race card is tough, featuring three races each from Del Mar and Woodbine, and two apiece from The Spa and Monmouth, the latter of which has been a handicapping albatross for me this season. Plus, tournament organizers included a bunch of maiden events, which should make for a wide-open result where pedigree players certainly will be at an advantage (not my strong suit).

Saturday's action will focus on the Public Handicapper, where I am 3-for-27 this season but at a $22.80 profit, good enough for 333rd-place in a contest with nearly 3,500 players and a big lead over Red Rock or Bust for annual bragging rights and fine dining at Vic's in Bradley Beach.

Meanwhile, and maybe I missed this because of my affinity for the Daily Racing Form, but I realized that Equibase offers free contests; this week's features four races each from Saratoga and Del Mar, with the Top Five finishers (looks like 1,500 or so compete regularly) either earning small cash prizes ($75-$300) or premium past performances for three months.  Good practice at no cost, regardless of my result.

Finally, tonight I'm giving it a shot in a $50 online contest run by, where up to 150 paid contestants get a shot at winning upwards of $2k for accruing the highest notional bankroll ($2W/P bets) through the 8-card program at Del Mar.  I had been hoping all week to head over to Monmouth Park for the late-afternoon portion of the card today, but alas the entire slate was cancelled due to the oppressive weather here in the Garden State. So, hopefully, the power will stay on, the AC will kick and my picks will pan out while handicapping and watching TVG from the couch.

Saturday I'm going to be kicking it at Avon By The Sea with my son and two of his friends, but I hope to weigh in on Sunday morning with some thoughts about the NHC Tour Summer Online Challenge.

PS. It's OK to be a follower in the blogosphere. Scroll down the right side of the page and click on the "follower" link to become one of the coolest half-dozen people in America.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Need PhD. to follow proposed changes to NHC Championship

Let's just say that an email from NTRA on Tuesday left me excited but confused all at once.

The NTRA erroneously congratulated me (and presumably all registered Tour players) on qualifying for the 2012 NHC Tour Championship ("NHC13") in Las Vegas, which I'll take (if they want to let me in after such horrific handicapping this season).  However, the note appeared intended for all Tour player feedback on some changes proposed as soon as January 2012's event, so I'm figuring the tournament organizers have discovered the erroneous email.

NJ Horseplayer lost yet again...
Predicting pace scenarios, studying past performances and managing contest bankroll and selections are certainly hard enough in preparing for handicapping contests, but the details of NTRA's plans for the Championship are even more vexing, in my opinion.

The current tournament structure is a two-day event, where 500 contest players who reached the Championship through local qualifiers gather in Vegas and are required to make mythical $2 win and place wagers on 15 races each day, with 8 mandatory races (i.e. all players make a selection) and 7 optional races. Mythical winnings are capped at 20-1 to win and 10-1 to place.

It appears, however, that the Championship organizers are seeking feedback on a plan to extend the Championship to a third day, where the Top 80 finishers from Days 1 and 2 would compete in a series of 4-race elimination rounds, in essence halving the field in a progressive format akin to the World Series of Poker, where players "win their table" and move to another table as the field size shrinks before determining a tournament champion.

Granted, I have not made it to the Championship in just two-plus years of trying, but I responded unfavorably to the survey.  As I commented in the survey, three straight days is way too taxing (not to mention coming off as the host casino looking to fill rooms another day).  Personally, I am spent even after an afternoon contest, what with the preparation, constant monitoring of contest bankrolls and leader boards and the decision making of which horses to select.  I could not imagine going back for a third day, and would be even more upset (though unlikely to happen) to have outpaced a 500-person field for two days, only to be eliminated on day three just for picking four races poorly.

In short, 30 races is more than enough of a sample to determine the NHC Tour champion in a particular season.  Adding a handful of races to give a WSOP feel to the event is a bit overzealous, if you ask me, and I am hoping that other NHC Tour members share my sentiments.  Otherwise, if I need to read an email a half-dozen times to figure out what the proposal spells out, then I want no part.  Handicapping tournaments are hard enough already.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A length short of advancing in BC contest?

As noted on Saturday, I was extremely high on a 20-to-1 shot, Casino Host, in Saturday's Grade 2 Virginia Derby, the 9th of 10 races in the contest at

With only 200 yards or so to the finish of the mile-and-a-quarter Grade 2 turf race, I honestly thought I had an excellent shot, with Casino Host benefiting from a nice ground-saving trip before poking his head in front down the stretch, only to be surpassed by Air Support and Banned to burst my hopes for a Top 30 finish and a spot in next week's 90-player championship for two NHC Tour Championship seats.

Instead, I finished 221st with only $9.80 in mythical winnings, with two second-place finishers and a few others that ran gamely, which amounts to nothing, really.

Outside of putting my contest eggs in the Casino Host basket, here's a brief recap of Saturday's plays:

  • Arlington 6: Cantonic (6-to-1, down from 8-to-1 M/L) - decent fourth, ran to the lead as expected but gunned down by the 4-to-5 favorite toward the wire
  • Arlington 7: Charter Class (11-to-1, up from 10-to-1 M/L) - finished about an hour after everyone else; never got to the lead as needed and started running in reverse after about four furlongs
  • Arlington 8: Capitol Appeal (10-to-1, up from 8-to-1 M/L) - trouble from the word go; never close
  • Colonial 4: Ancil (7-to-2, down from 8-to-1 M/L) - finished second, paid $4.20 to place; perfect trip and appeared to have it late, but lost by a head to Major Magic
  • Colonial 5: Jazil's Song (3-to-1, down from 10-to-1 M/L) - really slow start, but finished 4th, but probably a contest-changer for anyone who had the winner, 30-to-1 Softly Lit, who I never considered in handicapping the 10-race card on Friday night
  • Colonial 6: Rules of Honor (7-to-1, down from 20-to-1 M/L) - good mid-pack trip and covered up well along the rail, made up ground at the top of the stretch and flattened to finish 5th
  • Colonial 7: Summer Savory (9-to-2, down from 8-to-1 M/L) - great rail trip and was easily good enough to win, if not having to delay twice along the rail down the stretch, with Mystical Star in the way; finished second by a half-length and paid $5.60 to place
  • Colonial 8: Casino Host (20-to-1, on par with morning line) - simply beaten late by two better horses and finished third, but convinced the win could have put me within the top 30 and yield roughly $60 of notional win/place money; sample showed only two of the top 60 finishers picking this one, suggesting few others likely made this call; moot point, though
  • Hollywood 7: Ambassy (13-to-1, up from 12-to-1 M/L) - never a factor
  • Hollywood 9: Fund Raiser (16.9-to-1, up from 8-to-1 M/L) - late switch from original pick Tanda (7-to-2, up from 4-to-1 M/L), looking for a big price out of desperation in the final contest race but never really factored finished 6th; Tanda finished a game third
There are really no tremendous takeaways or regrets from Saturday's contest picks (outside of not winning or advancing to next week). Next up is next Sunday's NHC Tour Summer Online Challenge, which will be more about practicing my handicapping, since there will be roughly 3,500 contestants competing for 3 NHC Tour Championship seats. Odds are slim, but I'll be involved.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Signed up for Saturday's contest

It's not that I did not enjoy discussing the politics of the racing industry the last few posts, but rather time to embark upon another journey toward an illustrious seat to the $2 million NHC Tour Championship and my diary about this season's effort.

Saturday's docket features the last of three July qualifying rounds for, whereby the Top 30 finishers of the 300 contestants each week make it to a 90-player final next Saturday for a shot at two NHC seats, as well as a berth the Breeders Cup Betting Challenge this November at Churchill Downs, which itself is a great opportunity and very lucrative two-day handicapping contest.

NJ Horseplayer banking on 20-1
long-shot in Virginia Derby
The 10-race card affords players the opportunity to make $2 notional win/place wagers on three races from Arlington, five from Colonial Downs and two from Hollywood Park.  I handicapped in advanced, figuring that I will be on the beach tomorrow wearing SPF 1,500 and then off to the Lobster Festival in Bradley Beach for the afternoon and it was best to enter my selections tonight.  There is little deviation from my typical strategy of playable long-shots, so take the following with a grain of salt, race by race (morning-line in parenthesis).

  • Arlington 6: #2 Catonic (8-1) - A play against 2-1 favorite Perfect Casting, who appears best by far, but like Catonic's form in winning last two gate-to-wire on the Arlington turf. The Michael Maker-J.Z. Santana connection otherwise is 38% since the start of 2010 (48-race sample). Worth a shot.
  • Arlington 7: #7 Charter Class (10-1) - Horrible field of $5k beaten claimers. May switch to #3 Galloping Gulch (10-1) at some point, but a race with a 4-1 morning-line favorite does not smack of conviction, so I'm landing on the horse that has been in-the-money 7 of 9 starts at Arlington. 
  • Arlington 8: #4 Capitol Appeal (8-1) - Intrigued that Ronnie Allen, Jr. gets the mount here instead of on the #7 Jr's Exchange (8-1), who he has steered to victory in 7 of the last 9 starts.  Gerald Bennett trains both, but I like how Appeal was aggressively placed (and finished third, beaten by three-quarters) in a Grade 3 off two decent allowance efforts at Presque Isle.  This one looks prime second off the bench, and I anticipate will stalk a fierce early pace set by the four outside runners. 
  • Colonial 4: #1 Ancil (8-1) - In the first of five straight turf races (a big reason I entered the contest), the $50k Chenery, I like the rail for this 2-year-old colt's third start.  The Beyer progression (29, 59) is favorable versus this field and I'm hoping Alan Garcia puts him in a good spot to pounce late. 
  • Colonial 5: #1 Jazil's Song (10-1) - Another 2-year-old 5-and-a-half furlong spring that is "absolutely wide open," as Tampa Bay Downs announcer Richard Grunder would say.  This one finished fifth, but only a length behind the winner in her debut in late April at Keeneland after falling 11 lengths behind early in the race.  Experience should do this gal good. 
  • Colonial 6: #9 Rules of Honor at (gulp) 20-1 - This is a stand against morning-line favorite (2-1) Cherokee Artist, who appears to be the class of this 11-horse field for the $50k Kittens Joy. Sure, the Graham Motion-Julien Leparoux combo is daunting, but I am not entirely sold. I like the Canadian shipper here and the horse's progression up the ladder from the claiming ranks to an allowance victory on May 29 at Woodbine. Rules has been freshened since and sports a nice work on July 8 and I am speculating is sitting on a big one and showed late speed three races back, finishing the final eighth of a 9-furlong turf race in under 12 seconds. 
  • Hollywood 7: #10 Ambassy (12-1) - Bottom of the barrel-type stuff from Hollywood on the final weekend of the meeting. A $10k claiming event with Los Alamitos shippers (horses and jockeys) that Chad Ochocinco would even have a shot at winning. Ambassy, at the least, is 2-for-3 at the 6-furlong distance and showed speed in a July 9 workout (5 furlongs in 59 seconds, tops out of 29).
  • Colonial 7: #2 Summer Savory (8-1) - A versatile sort who could stalk or close from way off the pace (made up 14 lengths to win a $30.5k allowance last out at Arlington) and I like the confidence shown here by trainer Michael Stidham to put this horse in against a Grade 3 Virginia Oaks field headed by 8-5 Excited and 2-1 Dynamic Holiday
  • Colonial 8: #5 Casino Host (20-1; Best Bet) - Maybe going to the well too often on a big longshot in a race that's also part of this week's Public Handicapper card, but I am willing to toss the disinterested June 18 effort on yielding turf in a Grade 3 at Belmont.  The Chad Brown trainee showed a nice Beyer progression (73, 82, 84, 88) before crapping out on the wet Belmont strip, but was odds-on favorite in his first four races (with one first and three close seconds) and only finished a length-and-a-quarter behind in King Congie's (8-1) maiden breaker in November 2010.  I think Casino Host will be overlooked by the betting public (presently 22-1 on Public Handicapper) and could surprise (and am willing to take any ridicule after this one finishes way up the track).
  • Hollywood 9: #8 Tanda (4-1) - I am hopeful to have locked up a Top 30 spot on the heels of a Casino Host shocker, but just in case I am at zero and need to merely hit the board to save face, I'm going with the second choice in the Grade 2 Gleam.  The cutback from a mile to 7 furlongs for this front-runner should help, and the horse's last three mediocre efforts could turn bettors off and provide some value here.  
As always, these selections are subject to change (and do not account for scratches), but I figure to be too sunburned and stuffed with lobster rolls to be able to move swiftly enough to make last-minute changes in my contest selections. Best of luck on all of your horseplay this weekend!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Timely ADW report and legislative update

First, the legislative update and quick lunchtime follow-up to my post last week about 4NJBets...

The Chief of Staff for District 12 Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, who sits on the New Jersey Assembly's Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee, contacted me this week about the email I sent that encouraged the committee to explore legislation to allow NJ residents to sign up for accounts with out-of-state advanced wagering systems (ADW) that provide customer benefits, especially contests that reward seats to the $2 million annual NHC Tour Championship in Las Vegas.  This is an excellent start.

I hope to provide a more-comprehensive update after we speak again on Friday, but my initial reaction is favorable and that Assemblywoman Casagrande and staff are researching and very interested in the issue of whether NJ-based horseplayers would be better served by a third-party outfit like, or DRF's new online platform. 

Such discussion is proving timely in the wake of a press release from Horseplayers Association of North America, which released its 2011 HANA Track Ratings -- evidently uses a proprietary algorithm of some sort to rank the best- to worst-performing North American thoroughbred racing venues.

Monmouth Park jumped to No. 6 overall, presumably on the heels of the 2010 Elite Meet and comparatively low 15% Pick 4 and Pick 5 takeouts that are favorable to horseplayers, while (believe it or not) Atlantic City Race Course ranked No. 12, a spot behind Saratoga (which has a 26% takeout its Pick 3s and 4s).  So, contrary to Governor Christie's portrayal of the state's racing product as one bankrupting the state, New Jersey is clearly doing something right to the players' benefit (though not from an ADW perspective)! 

Interestingly, a follow-up Monday on the HANA blog to the survey press release addressed some compelling issues pertaining to the ADW market, notably the organization's citation of 7 key value-adds to customers, namely (from my perspective) free past performances, handicapping contests, customer rebates (i.e. lower effective takeout) and choices among competitors -- all items I have addressed in the aforementioned email.  Clearly these are area's where 4NJ falls short for the customer, and was the impetus for reaching out to Ms. Casagrande and her colleagues on the State Assembly's gaming commission. 

In the meantime, I look forward to continuing the discussion and await some feedback on my Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Good perspective on ownership

The organizers of Saturday's Thoroughbred Ownership 101 seminar at Monmouth Park deserve much credit for shedding light on a dream of many horseplayers or track goers: thoroughbred racehorse ownership.

Kenwood Founder H. Robb Levinsky
H. Robb Levinsky, founder and managing partner of the Kenwood Racing, offered about a 45-minute presentation about the numerous ways people can get in the game. About 25-30 attended the forum at the Monmouth Park clubhouse, and clubhouse admission, the seminar and track program were free to those registered in advance.

Mr. Levinsky's presentation was anything but a hard-sell of his product; instead, a candid look at the steep expense and different ways to approach thoroughbred ownership, from starting one's own stable ($100k or more) to forming partnerships with friends or family to joining a "syndicate," where owners essentially buy a share of a group of horses, kind of like buying a mutual fund, for a one-time fee and split the earnings.  Kenwood's syndicates typically cost $5k or less.

The economics of ownership were takeaways for me, especially the cost at particular tracks: about $40k per year (per horse) at an elite track like Saratoga, $25k-$30k at Monmouth Park and $18k-$20k at smaller venues.  Otherwise, like any investment, Mr. Levinsky (a CPA as well) encouraged the audience to treat the investment as an investment (even if owning a horse for fun), and consider legal and structural issues, knowing when to buy and sell, and extensively interviewing and knowing the people running the barn.

Mr. Levinsky quashed any notions of grandeur for anyone thinking that the ownership game is about huge profits and setting up camp in the Winner's Circle, for most horses lose money.  To be sure, Mr. Levinsky set a 20% win-50% in-the-money benchmark for a stable to pay the bills -- a daunting assessment.  As well, he cautioned about knowing when to buy and sell; in one example, Mr. Levinsky noted a $25k claimer he held too long and lost money in placing the horse in overaggressive spots, before it was claimed for around $8k.  On the other hand, a claim on the successful Hermosillo has worked out especially well for Kenwood.

In my view, everyone has a different set of motivations for entering the ownership game, but much like investing in the stock market, the decision comes down to one's financial standing, risk tolerance and passion for the investment.  From the smattering of questions from seminar's attendees, it is clear that people are still passionate about ownership, and in my view this is a good sign for an industry reportedly on life support but seemingly taking at least baby steps toward encouraging new blood to get into the ownership game.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Taking Ownership

Out of curiosity I will be attending the Thoroughbred Ownership 101 seminar at Monmouth Park at noon.

The concept of ownership is appealing to me, though the short-term prospects, personally, at this stage with two young kids and a big home renovation underway are probably a bit unrealistic.

Nonetheless, as a fan of the game and a handicapping (and writing) hobbyist, it makes sense to at least gather information for some proper discussion on the subject.

On to handicapping, the only action this weekend for me is the Public Handicapper weekly "free" contest.  I posted my two cents there, for anyone interested, and maintain obvious leanings toward long shots (two plays at 8-to-1, one at 12-to-1 and another at 15-to-1). This week's contest races feature the eight through tenth at Arlington, plus the Hollywood Gold Cup, where Twirling Candy is the clear favorite.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Big Can of Worms

The relatively dry contest plate (at least for me) for the next two weeks, and inability to participate in the appealing Twin Spires Handicapping Series on account of my New Jersey address, got me thinking that it is time to rattle a few cages to see whether something can be done to give Garden Staters a chance to use third-party online wagering (ADW) platforms -- if nothing else, for contest play.

Never discount the longshot...
Perhaps my efforts will draw the attention of a tree falling in a secluded forest, but why not ask questions.

For background, as I have blogged in the past, I have serious qualms with, which seems to be owned (at least partly) by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority patronage cafe and, from my short-lived experiment with a subscription, offers zero value-add to handicapping contest players. NJ law requires state residents to use the state-supervised ADW, though I have my doubts about "supervision," based on the lack of promotional efforts from the site, which is more or less a base horse wagering repository.

In other words, even though Twin Spires and DRFBets Tournament League offer low-cost options for contest horseplayers to earn a berth to the $2 million NHC in Vegas, in addition to other incentives, NJ'ans are shut out completely...and that's extremely aggravating in a free market.  The notion of a state-run ADW monopoly is ludicrous.

This led me to make contact on two fronts:

  • First, I emailed my Assemblywoman, Caroline Casagrande, who sits on the State Assembly's Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee, encouraging the committee to consider legislation to allow NJ'ans to sign up for out-of-state ADW accounts. The thinking is that, if lacks any forward-thinking approach to customer value, then why should contest horseplayers be prohibited by law from using a Twin Spires, even for contests involving notional (fictitious) wagers? I'll post any responses from Ms. Casagrande or the other committee members, assuming one hits my inbox.
  • Secondly, I filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request with the NJSEA, requesting some financial information about the specifics of 4NJBet's leadership structure, annual budget and operating expenses, ADW-specific data on subscriber counts (defections, as well) and online handle. This could prove too far reaching, but there's not enough information to glean from the 4NJBets website to make a determination of how the ship is run, though I suspect my request may be stunted at the gate. If nothing else, I hope to rattle some cages, but ultimately need data to suggest any reform, involving a free-market system whereby NJ'ans can use third-party ADW venues.
By all means, please share your feedback, and let me know if you'd be willing to join the cause. I have some form letters and OPRA request information if needed.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Tasty, but REALLY expensive clam chowder

Troubled trips and plain old poor handicapping were the downfall for yours truly in Saturday's NHC Tour super qualifier contest at Monmouth Park, where 286 contestants competed for the $13,750 top cash prize and, most significantly, one of 10 seats to the year-end championship in Las Vegas.

Cheaper to drive to Boston or Manhattan for soup...
The afternoon started decently, with a very conservative "move the chains" $5 place-$10 show wager on 8-to-1 Wee Freudian (finished second) increasing my opening $150 bankroll to $172, but the rest of the afternoon was on 0-for-11 travesty replete with horses that stumbled, tripped out of the gate, were incapable of changing leads or simply did not want to compete.

Normally I try to take something positive away from my contest play, but today's effort (along with an 0-for-4 in today's Public Handicapper plays) was one that I'd like to forget about quickly.

With no live-money contests on my radar until the Monmouth-Woodbine Challenge listed on the NHC Tour schedule for September 19, a hiatus from contest play is probably a good thing, considering my atrocious play in four at Monmouth this season.  Indeed, as I maintain this diary I am learning more than ever that the craft is humbling and difficult, but the NHC Tour Free Online Challenge and well-run Del Mar summer contests will tide me over through July and August and perhaps provide a lottery-like outcome as the NHC Tour qualifying season enters the second half.  Plus, with a plus-$36 in the Public Handicapper standings, I will have a puncher's chance come the end of the long PH season, which concludes with the Breeders Cup weekend in November.

PS. Sophia and the rest of the Monmouth crew did a nice job of organizing and deserve much credit for running Saturday's tournament and reserving the first-level theater for contest players.

Back in the U.S.!

The trip to Ireland was a mixed bag, but I missed out on two of the three things I really wanted to do while in the Emerald Isle - golf and live racing, so I'll be mixing it up today at the Monmouth Park contest. More details on the outcome either tonight or tomorrow, depending on the energy level. Otherwise, here are my picks for today's Public Handicapper card, which is really not all that compelling but probably ties in with the big NHC Tour contests taking place this weekend at Monmouth and Hollywood. Good luck to all participants!