"13th place not all bad, U beat a lot of pros."
Reality: Part-Timer vs. Pros
A decent run of "pre-qualifiers" in Horse Tourneys' contests padded my bankroll enough to enter a few NHC qualifiers ($240 entry fee), and yesterday provided prime conditions (i.e., disgustingly humid outside, kids away with friends, wife out and about) to throw my hat in the ring for a meaningful NHC qualifier.
The 12-race contest featured races from Woodbine, Arlington, Hollywood and Ellis Park (home base for HorseTourneys.com).
Payouts on notional $2 win-place wagers were capped at 20-to-1 for win and 10-to-1 for place. Top 2 finishers won spots to NHC XV. Tour points were awarded to the top 10% of finishers.
When I handicapped that race from the shores of Avon-by-the-Sea on Sunday morning, I thought I had a diamond in the rough. As a 2-year-old, Surtsey won a restricted stakes stalking the pace, and I anticipated much the same race shape Sunday and was not worried about the first-time turf angle.
In addition, the Damsel field was not that great, and Surtsey's 2013 debut was a toss, as I saw it, considering a 9-month layoff and the curious rider assignment. I totally respect Chantal Sutherland as a rider, but suspected perhaps some cobwebs in her return to Woodbine last month off a stint in retirement and perhaps Surtsey got short shrift in the 2013 debut on June 15.
I stayed hot, picking up another $16 of win-place money with a 4-to-1 score on Norma's Dream in Race 6 from Ellis Park, where, by default, Norma's Dream seemed to be the only runner who liked the dirt and ultimately won by five widening lengths. At that point, I was in a 3-way tie for third or fourth.
As fate would have it, however, my next pick -- Bug Juice (nearly 5-to-1) in Race 7 at Arlington -- was strong but got stuck in traffic and finished third by a half-length, proving the first of a scoreless finish for NJ Horseplayer for all ensuing contest races.
Aside from Miss Giacomo, whom I marked as a contender but passed on in the finale from Woodbine and paid a handsome $14.60 to win and $5.90 to place, I would not have played any of several short-priced winners as the contest approached the finish, so I have no huge regrets there.
The final race, however, is where I faced a dilemma and kicked myself thoroughly afterward, and where Jim Peake's tweet provided proper grounding.