|Courtesy of Shared iDiz|
Players must wager at least 10 races (Gulfstream, Tampa and Aqueduct) and at least $10 per race.
Deciding which races to play and when to make plays (and how much) is probably the biggest challenge, with more than 30 races to handicap.
The element of bankroll management is unlike online contests typically based on notional $2 win-place wagers.
Plus, a nearly $11,000 first-place prize was at stake, so it was back to work.
Plus, my selections in those spots were based on valid handicapping and not "stabs" at long-shots as players of online "notional bankroll" contests often contend, so I have no regrets.
It's Luis Saez's World
I had the statistics in front of me on when Coa teams up with Ryan, but as a part-time player I watch few tracks daily and generally rely less on favorable jockey-trainer angles and instead prefer pace and a horse's form. The rare times I select a horse based on jockey-trainer, it is often based on anecdoctal observation of a singular prior race, and so the sample is typically too small for me to incorporate when handicapping.
About a Length Shy of a ~$13,000 Payday
However, I could not confidently find a horse to bet big or "all in" for races 10 or 11 from Gulfstream in hopes of winning the contest or reaching the Top 20.
Rock Fall simply outclassed the field, however, setting me back $40.
Still, that left another 10 horses to consider. Yikes!
After the fact, I learned secondhand that veteran clocker Bruno De Julio rated Sonoma d'Oro's aforementioned workouts 4 of 5 stars, noting strength against a "very nice workmate" in one and "worked super" and "beautiful move" in the other.
Hindsight's Always 20/20
The silence on the restaurant level at Monmouth Park was deafening of the 50 or so players around me.
Unless someone was devoid of emotion, no one had Ascot Girl . The final standings suggest that maybe one player (Carlos Delvalle) bet $20 to win on the horse, which paid $99.30 for a $2 bet.
I would posit, too, that I'd have been maybe the only player invested in Sonoma d'Oro.
Needless to say, I was deflated to see Sonoma d'Oro run so valiantly but come up a mere length-and-a-quarter from victory and three-quarters shy of second place, which at 12.5 times the place payout probably would have been enough alone to secure a Top 20 finish.
Missing out on a $1,500 payout at 22 times roughly a $68 win mutuel...plus prospective place winnings...plus potentially $11,000 of prize money is a bitter pill to swallow, but I am a firm believer that one race does not make a contest and I could have been a better bankroll manager and more-confident better earlier in the sequence.
The smarter play would have been to invest, say, 50 bucks or my remaining $61 bankroll at the time on Demander, where I had several good angles for playing the horse. A confident "all in" on Demander would have yielded a $823.50 score, good enough not only for Top 5 overall but hefty prize money as well.
I got gun-shy, not wanting to crap out with plenty of racing to go and remembering SSC#2, where I bet strongly on a horse that did not factor at all.
So is the difficulty of the live-money format, which at times is the direction I think the organizers should go with the NHC, since handicapping is not merely picking the most winners, but rather maximizing profits.
Going for the score was my goal on Sunday (since I am unavailable to play in SSC#4 on April 11 and therefore out of the running for the SSC Invitational), but perhaps I went the wrong way about it.
Another lesson learned for future play, and that lesson is not to simply make bets on the hot jockey.