Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Seasons Greetings!

As I'm not a "happy holidays" kind of guy, I hope that everyone has a safe and Merry Christmas!

My 2013 quest to qualify for a first time to the National Handicapping Championship fell short this season, officially ending this Sunday with a sub-par effort in the NHCQualify.com qualifier.

Realistically, I needed a Top 6 finish to make it to NHC XV next month, considering I slid down to 270th in the NHC Tour points standings and there were not enough tour points outside of, say, a Top 4 finish to qualify through the back door.

I plan on a richer recap to the season after Christmas, but in general come away feeling that as a part-time/weekend player, anything short of direct qualification (i.e. just winning a qualifier) is a reach, and the Tour points route is a bit of a pipe dream.

Well, at least the 2014 season starts bright and early, with the first of 4 Simulcast Series Challenges at Monmouth Park slated for Saturday, January 4!

I hope to see some of you there!

Merry Christmas!
Bill Holobowski

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Onset of Discontent

Already discontented about my prospects for qualifying for NHC XV in January 2014, I have primarily turned focus toward prepping for next season's run at National Handicapping Championship glory.

The current season's standings find NJ Horseplayer in 240th and on the outside looking in at the Top 150, with one tournament in my price-point to go -- the $165 event on NHCQualify.com on December 22.

Unless something else in the sub-$200 range comes up, that will be my make-or-break run at NHC XV.  It will take a Top 5 finish to either qualify outright or score enough tour points to make it to Vegas.

Lamenting about not entering the full-freight HorseTourneys.com qualifier on November 3 and missing out on 3rd-place Tour points is useless at this point, so I set my mind forward.

So, this afternoon kicks off what is a fun, no-cost tournament through January on Public Handicapper -- Winter of Our Discontent. 
Edison: Way smarter than me

The name captures it all.

Cold weather.

Drab December stakes cards.

Some early 3-year-old preps, but nothing enthralling in January.

The inner dirt at Aqueduct.

In a nutshell...discontent.

Public Handicapper offers the perfect cure.  Four "top" races each week where players can hone their handicapping contest skills during the off-season with little commitment.

Top prize isn't the lofty NHC package for winning the regular-season contest, but $500 and some NHC swag is a nice offering.

With that in mind, and keep in mind that I was 7-for-108 during the NHC qualifying season for the Public Handicapper contest (but 2-for-8 on Breeders Cup Day), I'm kicking off my season with four selections.

Either enjoy the selections, or run for the hills.
  • Tropical Turf Handicap (Grade 3): Calder, Race 6
    • Exothermic (12-to-1) is testing graded company for the first time and is facing salty competitors like Bad Debt and Paris Vegas, but seems to relish the longer distances and can close well in a race where I'm expecting somewhat testy fractions.  Reflecting (6-1) is my backup pick. 
  • My Charmer Handicap (Grade 3): Calder, Race 8
    • Rose to Gold, another 12-to-1 shot, is trying turf for the first time but is a Grade 1 winner and is fresh off a tough trip in the Kentucky Oaks back in May.  Speculative, but worth a shot.
  • Claiming Crown Iron Horse ($110,000): Gulfstream, Race 8
    • Stakes race for claiming horses...a cool concept, in my opinion.  I'm rolling the dice on 20-to-1 Whatthecatdrugin, who breaks from an extremely difficult and wide post at Gulfstream but, to me, clearly has the best gate speed and gets Jose Lezcano.  A bad break spells doom, but these are claimers, remember, and trainer Tevis McCauley has put this horse in far tougher spots than today's.
  • Hollywood Starlet (Grade 1): Hollywood Park, Race 6
    • This track cannot close soon enough.  Fields have been spotty at best, from what I have seen on television, and races have not been that appealing.  Regardless, Rosalind (3-to-1) ran a game second in the Alcibiades at Keeneland from way outside and gets Joel Rosario again after closing from the clouds in the Juvenile Fillies on Breeders Cup Friday.  
Good luck to all players today, and embrace your Discontent!