|"May he be healthy...|
and run like Secretariat"
A 37th-place finish (out of 115) last night does not dampen our sentiment a bit.
The "pick and pray" format (i.e. handicap 10 contest races, enter selections in advance of the first, and "pray" that the horses picked win their respective races) is a novel idea, especially considering that many handicappers will often move off of their initial selection because of changes on the tote board, how a horse looks in the post parade, or on some last-minute nugget of info unearthed on the PPs. Basically, there's no turning back. "Pick and Pray" requires contest players not only to handicap races well and show conviction, but also to consider several scenarios -- do I play long shots (hoping to get luck with one max-payout horse) or chalk horses throughout or somewhere in between...am I confident that I'll have enough accrued notional winnings early on to play that even-money favorite I love in the contest finale?
Pick and Pray has its pros (good handicapping and a well-placed long-shot will usually ensure success) and cons (no turning back from predetermined picks or switching to bombers to make up late contest ground, to name a few), but with 115 entrants on a tournament originally listed to draw 70 players, there is no disputing the success and/or popularity of this NHC-focused tournament.
NJ Horseplayer got off to a rousing start with 7-to-2 winner Cardiac Rehab in Race 6 from Penn National, amassing a combined $13 win-place payout on a notional $2 WP wager. After a loss in the second contest race (Lone Star 3), we hit on 6-to-1 Royal Ignition in Race 8 from Penn to up our bankroll to $34.20 with seven contest races to go -- not a bad start.
Following a miss in Race 9 from Penn, we scored $5.40 of place money on Maker in the opener from Hollywood Park to move up to 19th place with $39.60, but that was likely the turning point in not reaching the Top 11 contest finish needed to score the $195 contest prize, as overlay horse Forward Commitment (nearly 10-to-1, off a 4-to-1 morning line) beat us by half a length.
The final five contest races yielded only one place finisher in a race that also helped to turn the tide for at least a few players (Race 9 from Lone Star Park), where 10-to-1 Wild Dixie caught 7-to-1 Southern Art (our pick) in the stretch to produce a notional $32.20 of winnings -- a good score in a contest where $73 of notional winnings was good for 11th place.
Considering that HorseTourneys.com is awarding at least 15 and upwards of 20 NHC XIV spots through May, NJ Horseplayer will no doubt make a return visit(s) to the $20 feeder tournaments, whether or not the tournament involves prayer.
Annual Pilgrimage to Atlantic City Race Course on Sunday
The NJ Horseplayer camp (me, the kids and my parents) will be making the annual trip down to ACRC for a glimpse of 1930s-style racing, and will Tweet some photos and other such stuff tomorrow.
|No, not this Sonny Crockett|
There are several reasons, however, why people within 90 minutes of ACRC should hit the Garden State Parkway or AC Expressway -- full fields (at least 10 signed on for five of the 6-race card), whopping prices (with a lot of wayward horses or those coming off a long layoff to prep for the Monmouth Park meeting yielding some huge prices) and a throwback feel (nearly impossible to hear the race caller, definitely need binoculars to follow the action). With some 8k-10k patrons (to lend a "classier" bent, we'll use the Masters term for "fans") on hand, there's a lot of electricity as well, as many visitors we've rubbed elbows with the past two years mentioned making the trip merely to recount visits from decades past. Plus, Sonny Crockett will be on hand!
Horseplayers are limited to a Race 1-2 double, win-place-show, exacta and trifecta wagering, and a Race 6 (the finale, a 12-horse field) superfecta, and the teller machines are antiquated, making for long lines at the window; but it's a trip worth taking, and one we'll do Sunday afternoon. There'll be plenty of inexpensive beer on tap, bingo hall-style eats and more. First post is 330p.