Sunday, February 19, 2012

Considering Contest Capital Preservation

The February Simulcast Series Challenge at Monmouth Park yesterday proved frustrating for NJ Horseplayer, in that pretty credible handicapping proved fruitless as I squandered my $100 bankroll to finish out of contention for a spot in April's invitational for 2 National Handicapping Championship spots.

NJ Horseplayer asks:
Can slow and steady win the race?
The first two wagers ($10 to win on 7-to-2 shots) were a microcosm of my contest outcome, with Hardrocker in Gulfstream 2 and Sovereign Default in Aqueduct 3 finishing second.  Down to $80, and intrigued by Roger Attfield first-timer Perfect Tay in a $75k turf claimer in Gulfstream 4, I played a conservative $5 win-place on this 13-to-1 shot who finished second, putting my bankroll at $106.

Exhibiting uncharacteristic patience, thereafter I picked my spots and made a combination of seven win and win-place wagers only to get two seconds and four thirds, including 22-to-1 Bell by the Ridge in the Animal Kingdom race at Gulfstream (Race 5) and 31-to-1 Key Victory in the 12-horse eighth from Aqueduct.  With $26 remaining and needing to make up quick late ground with only 6-7 races remaining on the contest card, I took two wild stabs in hopes of nailing a big price but came up empty.

The postmortem conversation with fellow SSC#2 contest players Terry "almost-lucked-my-way-to-victory-in-Saturday's-free-NHC Online Challenge" Flanagan and 2012 NHC qualifier Paul Zerbst, then over pitchers of PBR at Zachary's in Oceanport with my dad, made me consider...can a place, show or place-show wagering strategy work in live-money handicapping contests?

Based on yesterday's first 10 contest wagers and race outcomes, and assuming the required $100 starting bankroll and meeting the contest minimum of a $10 wager, here were the potential bankroll outcomes:
  • $10 all show: $217 
  • $5 place-show: $197.50
  • $10 all place: $169
Considering my official bankroll was down to $26 after 6 fruitless win wagers, 3 win-place wagers and 1 straight place wager, either of the above scenarios would have been far better and, most importantly as I'm learning from playing in more of these on-track contests, given me enough ammo to make it into the top 15 and qualify for the April SSC invitational, or take a stab at taking down a contest where 265 players competed for a $13,250 first prize.  

In any event, hindsight is always 20-20, and there's no guarantee I'll be able to again handicap adequately enough to call 9-of-10 races with horses that finish in the money, but the data argue in favor of a conservative capital-preservation strategy based on either a combination of place-show or straight show bets. Perhaps NJ Horseplayer will have even more discipline next month and follow through with one of these strategies at the SSC#3 on Saturday, March 24.  

It's clear to me that $10 show wagers will not be enough to win a contest, and lacks the excitement or opportunity for braggadocio of "picking winners," but preserving capital for one major push late in a contest is a far-more attractive consideration than finishing tied for last again in an on-track live-money contest. 


  1. Bill,

    I have always wondered the same thing. Since I generally only find a handful of plays I really like in the contest format Monmouth has, I am often left trying to fill out my 'minimum' plays. Conceivably I could see playing some safe place, place-show, or show wagers to pad the bankroll for a late play - I had even considered some sort of incremental place/show parlay... a strategy I may very try out at the SSC#3 next month.


  2. Very much a balancing act, Ray. I suppose if of my first 10 picks only 2 finished in the money the concept would be a flop. It always comes down to good handicapping, so that's first and foremost, but I'm seriously considering trying this out during SSC3 in hopes of saving some powder for a big late play. If you're going to be at SSC3, let me know.