Saturday, January 21, 2012

Empty in season-opening Monmouth contest

At the very least, the Simulcast Series Challenges at Monmouth Park are three of my favorite contests of the season -- live-money events where handicappers play the races of their choice across three tracks. The snow in the Northeast washed out the Aqueduct card, but Gulfstream and Tampa offered 11 races each with full fields and plenty of opportunities for some big prices. I hit none of them, unfortunately.

NJ Horseplayer as "moron"
An unceremonious 0-for-10 on a $100 starting bankroll with minimum $10 win-place-show wagers was highlighted, uncharacteristically, by my inability to pull the trigger on what I thought was a playable long-shot in 24-to-1 Pepe's Valentine in the 8th from Tampa. Down to my last $10, for some reason I could not pull the trigger on the longest price in what was a ragtag field, and sure as heck this nag stalked the "hot" early pace and caught the front-runners with a nice ground-saving rail trip in this $17k claimer.

Instead of increasing my bankroll to ~$260 ($51.80 to win) and easily a top-10 spot (the top 10 of 134 participants split cash prizes, while the top 15 earn 1 of 45 spots in the April SSC Invitational for two spots in the 2013 National Handicapping Championship), I wasted my final bullet in Tampa's 9th. Game, set and match.

Typically I give myself a "cooling off" period before blogging my contest performance, but hosting a little shindig for tomorrow's NFL Championship round I wanted to pound out the unhappy recap and air some grievances. In short, I was close with my first $10W wager, 6-to-1 Fly South, in the opener from Gulfstream, where Javier Castellano gave the horse a perfect trip before succumbing to the clear favorite, 2-to-5 Don Missil. Even in hindsight I'm satisfied with my play against severe chalk.

My only other close call was 2-to-1 Mobilizerin the 4th from Gulfstream, who lost by a head and who took a lot of late money.  I put $10W while the horse was hovering around 7-2 with a minute until post; Mobilizer lost to the even-money favorite by a head.  I skipped out on $7 winner in 5-to-2 Red Orchestra when my top choice, Lady Whimsical, scratched from the gate in the 7th from Tampa, but other than perhaps a slight confidence booster, I'm not sure that "miss" ruined my day.  Pepe's Valentine ultimately did.

Gulfstream was ridiculously chalky (the three biggest win payouts were $11), which bodes poorly for horseplayers like me seeking prices, but I have no excuse at Tampa, where my five selections were generally awful but 5 of the 11 winners paid $30 or more for a $2W wager.

It's back to the drawing board, I suppose, and proof again that I've got a long way to go before even approaching the higher echelons of handicapping and bankroll management.  Until SSC#2 in February, I anticipate sitting tight on the contest front, maybe staying fresh with a few efforts on Derby Wars and maybe an NHC Tour freebie, assuming the Tour is offering five again this season to tour players.


A few side notes...

  • Kudos to the Monmouth Park staff for getting a) the facility open under some icy conditions in the region and b) 134 contest players to turn out even on a day where Aqueduct was scratched because of weather; Sophia Mangalee does a great job spearheading these midwinter events.  I can only speculate that the turnout would have been upwards of 200 had the weather been more favorable, and anticipate a much deeper field for SSC #2 on February 18.
  • Credit to Red Rock or Bust for toughing out the road conditions from the Oranges to participate. At one point Terry found the leaderboard with ~$150 bankroll after a nice win on 9-to-2 Tarpy's Goal in the 7th from Gulfstream but went scoreless thereafter to join me in the basement.
  • Good luck to anyone from the NJ Horseplayer blogosphere involved in the National Handicapping Championship this week in Las Vegas!  After a full season as an NHC Tour player, I have the utmost respect to those who gained entry into what is sure to stack up as a difficult two-day tournament where the pot is worth more than $1.6 million, with the first of roughly 500 contestants taking down a cool mil. 

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