Although this close to a much more favorable outcome in the fun 2-weekend TVG Tampa Bay contest ($2,500 first-place money went to “John E” from Massachusetts; $750, $500 and $250 went, respectively, to 2nd-thru-4th…TVG puts up REAL money winnings for its free-entry contests), I came away with valuable lessons and renewed confidence in my 10-cent theory that it is a mandate to identify vulnerable favorites and attack those races. Perhaps not scientific to veteran players, but key to newer players like me.
To recap, I finished tied for 41st-place (no figures have been published, but there are usually about 4,000 participants in these freebie events run by TVG, so I finished the top percentile or two) at a $1,464 bankroll (367% return on investment, or ROI). I went 2-for-10 in my 10 mythical $20W/$20P plays, hitting on 39-1 Great Patriot in Race 2 on Saturday and 13-1 Sword Play in Sunday’s opener. Otherwise, I had two close calls with Show finishers at 21-1 and 25-1, and two game 4th-place finishers at 6-1 and 33-1.
Where I “lost” a shot at a higher standing, in retrospect, was in pre-picking an 8-1 M/L horse (5th or 6th choice in a 12-horse field) in a maiden special weight on Saturday that was pounded down to 2-1 and that I would have never touched had I been in front of the TV participating “live” (rather, I was coaching youth basketball games at the time). The horse didn’t run a lick, and it cost me.
Perhaps first and foremost is to be patient. Granted, I was away and did not have the capacity to even participate on the Jan. 22-23 cards, but it was clear that with the first-place person at the end of weekend 1 at only a $900 or so bankroll that there were plenty of opportunities to pass the leader this weekend. In any contest with 40 races to choose from and limiting players to 10 wagers, you have to pick your spots.
Meanwhile, this weekend, I was able to identify 8 of 10 races where the favorites proved very vulnerable – a winning proposition for a player like me who is looking for 5-1 or higher. Plus, in these free contests where anyone can theoretically win picking their favorite number or silks color and still win, you have to hit at least 3 long shots to have a shot, as the winner’s $2,124 mythical bankroll (on 5 winners out of 10, or a $400+ mythical payout per race) would prove (the fourth-place finisher, or the final money-winning spot in this contest, accrued $1,836).
On Saturday, I should have kept to 5 (rather than 6) races and bypassed the 10th race, where, yes, the favorite was beaten, but I was only lukewarm on a 17-1 shot that ultimately finished mid-pack. I could have saved that selection for Sunday, where I identified all races where the favorites (or a short price) would get beaten, and thought seriously about taking Angel’s Concerto in a 6-horse Race 2, but laid off as the odds at the gate were 9-2 and I wanted to preserve a pick for deeper races and bigger long shots later in the card; Angel’s Concerto went up to 7-1 and paid $16 to win. This still would not have put me in the Top 4, but all the more closer and another winner.
Finally, it cost me in end, but is not a lesson so much as it is a lament…I was between 25-to-1 H M S Anniversary and 16-1 El Poppie for my final pick in Sunday’s 8th and went with the former, mostly on the trainer (Jane Cibelli) and jockey (Wilmer Galviz), who rode the horse to perfection but didn’t have enough in the stretch and faded to 3rd to El Poppie by 4 lengths. El Poppie paid $474 in the TVG contest (and would have put my bankroll at $1,938), which brings up the final lesson…
Never discount Calder shippers. Another one got me in the end.