Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Gunning for Scott's Dad in Del Mar November Contest
Strictly in jest, the bull's eye this November is squarely on fellow New Jersey resident and NHC XVI qualifier Steven Nico, champion of the Del Mar 2014 Online Handicapping Challenge.
The Tour a few years back changed the rules to allow NHC Tour members to qualify twice for the annual championship. Surely qualifying once in my first four years on the circuit was hard enough, but what the heck...I'd sign on for a second seat in Las Vegas in a heartbeat!
Playing under the pseudonym scottsdad, Nico was the champion of this summer's free online NHC qualifier offered by Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. As billhobo, I finished second.
I assure you that Steven, like me, will not hide from the competition in gunning for a second spot in the 2015 National Handicapping Championship, worth $2.2 million in purses, in Las Vegas, January 23-25.
I had the November Del Mar contest already on my calendar, but Steven reminded me last week that, beginning this Friday and running through November 30, Del Mar will offer another 2 seats to NHC XVI at Treasure Island.
"Bing Crosby Season," as billed by the Club in press releases, is a 15-day race meet that mark's the first autumn racing at Del Mar since the late 1960s. In short, Del Mar is picking up some of the dates vacated by the 2013 closure of Hollywood Park, and at the same time being very generous to contest horseplayers -- a lesson that other U.S. race tracks can learn.
Regardless of the industry's reception to Bing Crosby Season, I am most interested as an unofficial ambassador of the contest circuit in spreading the word among fellow handicapping contest players about a great no-cost opportunity to qualify for NHC XVI (and pick up hotel accommodations and a travel stipend) through Del Mar, and even picking up a second NHC seat or some NHC Tour points along the way.
For those who have never played Del Mar's online contests, the rules are simple -- accrue the biggest bankroll possible and finish in the Top 2 to qualify for the National Handicapping Championship.
Players receive a notional $100 per day to make win, place or show bets on a predetermined race each day of the meet. A player must make mythical wagers of at least $50 on at least 10 of the 15 racing days, and unlike most contest I have played, can hedge bets by playing more than 1 horse in each day's race.
Del Mar posts each day's contest race about 24 hours in advance and provides free past performances for players to analyze each race.
I intend to stick with my strategy of $100 win bets per day, as supported by my tracking of the summer online contest, which ran more than twice as long (36 days) but where playing undervalued horses proved to be the winning strategy.
The shorter Bing Crosby meet, in my opinion, should not discourage the prospect of some overlooked horses paying outsize prices in each contest race.
Furthermore, and ultimately this may not be the case, I anticipate a smaller field of contestants for the November contest, since Del Mar may not yet be on everyone's radar in the wake of the Breeders Cup and considering the "newness" of the meeting.
As of this publication, and within just 3 days of the sign-up deadline, less than 650 players signed on for the Del Mar November Challenge.
Granted, I suspect there are many procrastinators who will sign up either late Thursday or Friday, but it is hard to imagine that 3,000 fresh players will register in the next 72 or so hours to match the contestant base in this summer's online handicapping contest (~3,750).
I certainly hope that all readers will consider signing up for the Del Mar 2014 November Challenge, especially my other friends from New Jersey who have yet to qualify or, like me, would not mind playing two tickets (of an estimated 500) next January for a shot at the estimated $1.1 million first prize for winning the National Handicapping Championship.