Monday, August 13, 2012

When A Flared Nostril Flares MY Nostrils

Perhaps there's nothing more frustrating in the handicapping lexicon than when your pick loses by a nose.

NJ Horseplayer pulls a
"McKayla Maroney"
Fresh off the Summer Olympics, ask anyone that finished fourth in the medal round and just missed out on the podium.  They'd rather have finished last.

As a relative newbie to the contest circuit, but one extremely interested in handicapping strategies, logic and wagering methodologies, I probably have little room to criticize a rider for an poor outcome since I have zero experience riding or training, but I will blame my slide down the standings Sunday in the Del Mar 2012 Online Handicapping Challenge on the jockey.  

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Let the video of race 7, a $40k optional claimer at a mile, show that Planet Sunshine, not winner (by a flared nostril) Shaun Washington, was the best horse in the race and with a ton left coming into the stretch until Victor Espinoza tried his hand at parting the proverbial Red Sea.  Alas, he's no Moses, and ended up losing in a driving photo finish. 

Alright, maybe I should calm down, especially since this is a no-cost-to-enter contest and my chances of winning 1 of 2 NHC XIV spots awarded this year are slim, but as a contest player, this is the kind of loss that alters outcomes and future handicapping (especially around the halfway point of this particular contest) and churns up memories of nose-bobs lost.  

Entering the race, I was $88 in the black (not a huge sum by any stretch, but on the plus side and in the top 25% among 4,000-plus players), having built momentum with a $16.20 winner (a $710 profit on a notional $100 win bet) in Friday's Daisy Cutter Handicap with 7-to-1 Nechez Dawn.  On Saturday, although my pick ended up some 6-7 lengths behind a runaway 1-to-5 shot, Hot Affair ran a very game second at 23-to-1 as sixth choice in a 9-horse field in Race 7, so with some luck I could have scored big at $100W.  

Sunday, in the ill-fated seventh, confident in Planet Sunshine (went off at 5-to-1) I put down another notional $100W, only to see a potential $600+ payout turn into a nose defeat to a horse that ran extremely wide in the stretch but had a trouble-free trip where, as expected, a handful of horses burned each other out into the stretch.  So, rather than an approximate $700 bankroll to the good and being in the Top 300 (i.e., striking distance of having a better shot), you'll find my alter ego (billhobo) at No. 1,168 in the contest standings. 

Of course my recap is very tongue-in-cheek.  In all seriousness, I use this contest for practice and casual play, realizing that out-handicapping 4,000+ players is an egregious long-shot, but Sunday's setback got me thinking this afternoon how one outcome can alter a handicapper's contest strategy.  

For the next two weeks I intend to handicap as I have throughout this particular contest, where I try to identify a logical horse at 4-to-1 to 10-to-1, recognizing there's enough time for, say, two winning picks to get me back into the upper realm of the leaderboard.  Once we turn into the homestretch, however, my logic may change, and I may look back upon this weekend's defeat as an inflection point in my contest outcome. 

I am interested to know how other players react after a "tough beat" in a handicapping contest, particularly during the middle to late stages, so fire away with those comments.   


  1. Bill,

    Here's one for you: early in the meet I liked Broken Dreams. I decided to bet a $100 to win on the horse in the contest. Broken Dreams went to the lead and held on in a photo at 7/1. I was relieved, then stunned when I realized I forgot to put the bet in.

    Also I took a terrible beat in the Daisycutter. I had a Nechez Dawn/Madeoffwiththemoney Exacta. Madeoffwiththemoney missed second by a nose after running at least 10 lengths further than the runner-up. The horse drifted out bad, was all over the track and when finally straightened out in the stretch made a desperate run but came up an inch short. The exacta was paying around $115 for $1.


  2. I had Broken Dreams that day, but for less. And that sucks about the Daisycutter. I remember the Madeoff horse but, hey, I forgot to congratulate you on that $2900 mud winner...great call!