Wednesday, August 26, 2015

From Out Of The Clouds

To quote Rambo, "nothing is over."

So I'm not being hunted down in a small mining town.

Rather, I am relaxing on a deck after a 5-mile run and sipping coffee while writing to you a few hundred yards from the Atlantic Ocean on Long Beach Island on a gorgeous Jersey Shore midweek morning.

This morning, squarely in 3,793rd place in the Del Mar 2015 Online Handicapping Challenge and despite my state of relaxation (and perhaps delusion), I refuse to believe I am out of the contest.

More contest players need to take this approach.

Play (and handicap) to the end, I say, rather than losing complete interest or tossing darts at horses with little chance of winning.

NJ Horseplayer agrees; "You just
don't turn it off."
Find a playable long-shot and take an educated risk.

11 Races To Go

There is plenty of time to make up ground; maybe not to repeat as one of two champions in 2014's tournament for spots in the National Handicapping Championship, but perhaps to come away with a Top 200 finish and secure some points in the NHC Tour standings.  

Right now, for example, 200th-place in the Del Mar contest only has an $1,100 bankroll.

According to the NHC Tour points calculator, 200th is worth nearly 2,000 NHC Tour points; not a bad haul considering the field of nearly 5,000 players.

Granted, I am $810 in the minus, but in this contest format, where one good longshot gets me back to the plus side and the cap on winners is 30-to-1, a $1,900 deficit (to 200th) is not insurmountable.

Now, Wednesday's contest race is not entirely conducive to a cap horse.

The contest organizers picked as today's contest race the $80,000 Brubaker Stakes at a mile on dirt and featuring only 7 horses (sans potential scratches and most horses here better on the turf).

Contrary to 2014's wide open contest races, this year's contest has featured thinner fields, but handicappers need to play the race(s) in front of them, and so I will follow the flock.

So far in the hole, I cannot sit out the race, but my goal is to end this week on the plus side of the ledger and surge to a positive bankroll, perhaps giving me a shot in the contests final six races over next week, culminating in what I am guessing will be the Del Mar Futurity on Labor Day (Sept. 7).

Including today's mythical $100 wager, I can easily make up $810 this week; or that's my goal anyway in playing this contest through the end.

Safety Belt Makes Sense

The Brubaker is not a great race.

The 2-to-1 favorite, Motown Man, is clearly the most accomplished dirt horse in the field.

On dirt, Motown Man boasts 4 wins and 5 in-the-money finishes in 13 lifetime starts and has amassed $276k of lifetime winnings on the surface for trainer Ted West.  The horse has a Cal-bred stakes win to his credit at today's one-mile distance.

There are come chinks in the armor, however, as I see it, in that more of the horse's wins are at the optional claiming and allowance ranks, and in my view he benefitted from a dream trip in his last win at Del Mar on July 31.  Otherwise, this is no 2-to-1 world-beater.

Second-choice Big Cazanova is 5-to-2 and a need-the-lead type who is the only frontrunner in the field, in my view, but is 1-for-15 lifetime in dirt starts and will be overbet as the pacesetter and with a 3-for-3 record at Del Mar (albeit all on when the track had a synthetic surface).

And do not let the perceived class plunge for Big Cazanova fool you; save for a graded stakes win on the horse's favorite surface (synthetic), the horse has been largely overmatched.

Co-third choice (4-to-1) Smooth Roller is a 4-year-old Hard Spun gelding making only his third career lifetime start, but 2-for-2 lifetime (both on dirt) and I anticipate will take money.

For long-shot players, this leaves few options among the other four, who are a combined 0-for-10 in races on the dirt, but for my money there is appeal in the rail horse, Safety Belt.

The 12-to-1 morning line in my view discredits a 6-year-old who at the end of his 2014 campaign nearly ran down multiple stakes winner Regally Ready in the $75,000 Big Bear Stakes at Santa Anita at a whopping 50-to-1.  Please excuse the grainy video, but in that replay note the late kick by Safety Belt in the stretch, and consider the horse had a very strong gallop-out.

In making his first start of 2015 for 0-for-31 (2015) trainer Ron McAnally, I suspect that bettors will be chilly on Safety Belt, an Argentine whose two wins in 2014 were on turf against optional claimers.

Plus, the horse's seven works since June 18 have all been on turf, signalling that this horse will be perceived as a field "filler" in what on paper looks to be a race to be had by one of the three top choices.

As a longshot player, I relish angles such as this where, in a short field, there's a chance of a horse being set off as the longest shot, but for no great reason.

There's enough in the Big Bear to make the case for Safety Belt, and so I am playing him ($100 to win) in today's Del Mar contest race and hoping to upset the applecart early this week en route to a return to a positive bankroll by week's end.

Exemplifying with my comments to Josh Kamis with The Tournament Edge, here we have what I perceive to be a vulnerable favorite and a long-shot (Safety Belt) with three in-the-money finishes in five lifetime dirt starts, and who showed some late foot against a dirt stakes field last fall.

All that jockey Felipe Valdez needs to do with this horse fresh off the bench, in my opinion, is save ground and sit just off the front-runners ahead of a late bid in the stretch.

Perhaps a stretch, but one worth taking with less than a dozen races remaining and significant ground to make up in this handicapping contest.

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