Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Not Yet Ready for Primetime

Sunday's futile outcome in the Woodbine-Monmouth Park Handicapping Challenge at Monmouth proved, yet again, that I have a long way to go before becoming a credible contest challenger.  At least I have a day job.

Reflecting upon Sunday's contest, and halfheartedly sticking to recent consideration of a handicapping contest strategy predicated on place wagers, not all was bad, hitting back-to-back $10 win wagers on 5-to-2 winners in Leonessa and Pound Foolish in the sixth and seventh from Monmouth.  However, the bottom line was that my conviction for (and larger wagers on) three longer-priced horses sealed my fate in squandering my $100 contest bankroll, though not officially until the second-to-last contest race.

I stuck to my guns early in the context, hitting on a $10 place wager on Bluedacious in the opener from Woodbine to push the bankroll to $114.50.  (The contest mandated at least five wagers of at least $10 each on the Woodbine and Monmouth cards, and Bluedacious was a clear "move-the-chains" type bet).

Five consecutive losses (two straight win wagers, two win-place plays and a pure place bet), including my first of three "best bets" on the day - Miss Keller in The Canadian Stakes - dropped me to $54.50 before the two straight Monmouth victories, where I could not justify making place wagers on 5-to-2 horses and ended up climbing back to a $105.50 bankroll.  (Too bad Garrett Gomez miscalculated the 9-furlong Canadian distance by about a mile, as he waited too long to rally Miss Keller, who CLEARLY had enough but met BQE-type traffic and rallied too late to have threatened at nearly 11-to-1.)

From there, bupkis.

I loved Widgmore Hall in The Northern Dancer, but could not justify a wager at less than 3-to-2 and landed instead on 11-to-1 Hailstone, who finished fifth, about three lengths back.  Then, I burned up most of my remaining bankroll on two long-shots late in the contest who nearly gave me a thrill - Golden Galleon (a two-length loss in The Politely Stakes at Monmouth at 7-to-1) and 34-to-1 Riding the River, who almost pulled off a shocker before relenting in the shadow of the wire in the Woodbine Mile.  I have yet to see official contest standings, but my $20 win wager would have yielded about a $700-plus payout and perhaps a shot at the top of the standings (where the leader had less than $500 on what was a mostly chalky day).

If nothing else, the contest provided me with some thrills, and consolation in seeing my man Red Rock Or Bust briefly get into the Top 5 when hitting on a $50 wager on Turallure in the Woodbine Mile, but as both of us eventually met our ultimate contest demise, the NHC Tour Championship seems far less attainable this season.

The live-money contest slate is likely complete for me in 2011, though I will certainly compete in the Ellis Park make-up event this Sunday and some other online freebies, but I'm still looking for some answers as to how to go about playing the live contests, from both bankroll management and wagering perspectives.


  1. This is a humbling game! I too am trying to qualify for NHC 2012 and was there at Monmouth last Sunday. I made it in '08 & '09 and am desperately trying not to strike out for the 3rd year in a row.

    I prefer the live-money contests at the track over the now more popular and proliferating internet tourneys. My strategy with live money contests is too always bet to Win and not be afraid to pull the trigger on a horse you love (essentially treat your real money bankroll as fake money). It typically takes about 10x the starting bankroll to win or at least qualify in these live money events. So the $830 or so it took to win the MTH-WO tourney was a bit of an anomaly.

    I was down to my last $90 going into the Woodbine Mile race and had selected Turallure as the winner at home, but unfortunately changed my mind to the #10 at last minute because of his "juicy" odds. My initial plan was to go all in with Turallure, but chickened out and bet $50 to win on the #10. Ouch!! I'm still kicking myself over it.

    Good luck and hope to see you at the NHC in January!

  2. Paul, glad to hear you've been to NHC; good luck trying to earn a spot in '12, and I do hope to see you there!

    Tough call, switching on Turallure, but it's always easy to second-guess after the fact. I had Right One before switching to Riding the River, so I'm glad that change didn't cost me in the end. Still, I agree w/your assessment about having to get 10x the starting bankroll.

    If you know of any live-money contests in the NJ-NY-PA area, keep me posted. I wish Monmouth hosted more contests, but the ownership scenario constrains the seats they can buy to NHC. Maybe in '12 they'll offer more, because the live events are way more fun than online.


  3. Bill, yeah I know hindsight is 20-20 but still..

    Good picks with both Right One and Riding the River as they both looked like winners in deep stretch (at least it was an exciting finish from your perspective). I on the other hand, had to watch in horror as Turallure flew by them all late to win, meanwhile, I was secretly hoping Courageous Cat would win (so I wouldn't feel so bad). I was intially hopeful as Kara's Orientation took an easy lead in the opening quarter but then knew my chances were slim when P. Val and CC made an early challenge for the lead (which in retrospect probably cost him the race).

    I actually think CC ran the best race as he put away the early speed horse and then held off all challengers in the stretch except for Turallure who he didn't see on the far outside, and all this off a couple month layoff. I hope he gets one more prep before the BC Mile as I think he has a huge shot in that race, plus I love horses making their 3rd start off a layoff (favorite betting angle).

    Nope, no more live money contests in our area. There use to be several (Delaware, Laurel, and Philly), but I think they aren't associated with the NTRA anymore. I hope that changes in the future as I agree that live money is much more fun!

    Take care,


  4. To relive my agony, I just watched the replay and I change my mind on who the best horse was in that race. Take a look at the trip of the #11 Dance and Dance. Perfect example of a horrendous trip: broke slowly (spotted the field 2 lengths), moved into contention turning for home behind a wall of horses and never was allowed to run. He appeared to be full of run and was constrained the whole length of the stretch while only being beaten a couple of lengths.

    Who knows where he'll reappear next, but in my opinion he should have won that race. I hope he stays in this country and runs in a prep for the BC Mile because I surely will take notice.

  5. Paul, excellent call on Dance and Dance in the Woodbine Mile. Certainly worth watching if indeed the horse stays here for the BC Mile. I attempted unsuccessfully to download of few of his UK races but may try again later on if the BC scenario works out.

  6. Paul, I'm not sure you're reading today, but I'm going with Dance & Dance today in the Shadwell Turf Mile. Looks like a nice M/L @ 8-1.