Today's $20 entry fee to today's tournament ultimately proved worth it, considering a few impressive wins, credible long-shot handicapping, and that likely I was less than a head away from finishing at least in the top 3 with a 21-to-1 shot (Passing Game in the 8th from Santa Anita).
The 10-race tournament got off to a good start, with 9-to-1 winner Travel Advisory in the 7th from Fair Grounds putting my bankroll at $32.20 with about 30 other players. I hit the board in the 3rd contest race ($3 of place money) and went cold for 4 more, but got rolling in the final three races from Santa Anita.
|Uncanny resemblance to NJ
Horseplayer's pet, "Mr. Cat"
Unimpressed by anyone in particular in the finale, an $8k claimer at 6 furlongs, I landed on 5-to-2 Folk Dancer, who finished 3rd in his last two outings, including a $12.5k claimer and a race prior where he was steadied hard. I knew I needed at least an in-the-money finish to advance, and recent form seemed to be a credible angle in a field where the hot-riding Eswan Flores appeared the only credible foe on 5-to-1 Sizzling Gold, who ended up finishing second by a neck. Dancer's victory assured me a spot in the Top 21.
If nothing else, the finish gives me a 1-in-50 shot at qualifying for an NHC seat (HorseTourneys.com is rewarding up to 12 NHC spots in March), whether it be next Sunday's tournament or one at a later date. For tonight, however, it lets me rest a little bit easier that I am gaining as a handicapper and at some point will reach Las Vegas.