Surely he will post thoughts on Red Rock or Bust, but my friend Terry Flanagan had an outstanding performance in yesterday's 3rd Simulcast Series Challenge at Monmouth Park, finishing second out of 262 players by turning a $100 bankroll into $860 and taking down the $5k+ second prize contest money. Way to go Terry...and proof that one can turn around an 0-for-25 schneid! Terry played the contest about as well as possible, building up to about $230 late in the contest through a combination of well-timed W/P wagers and even picking a 2-to-1 favorite, and ultimately nailing a $150W wager on 9-to-2 Rules of Honor in the Gulfstream nightcap. For him, now it is on to the 45-player April 9 contest for 2 coveted NHC seats!
For me, yesterday was not so productive, though, ahem, I did cash out a whopping 20 cents. On two separate occasions, I built my bankroll to about $130, first with a $10 bet on 7-to-1 winner Merlin Bay in Aqueduct 4, my sixth contest bet. I felt highly confident about my homework to that point, finishing second on a $10W wager on Broken Sound at 13-to-1 in the Gulfstream opener. The horse rebounded from its prior effort as I had expected, but COMPLETELY blew the turn into the homestretch, vanned about a dozen lengths wide and lost all that ground to 17-to-1 shot Tappinintovictory with an 0-for-21 jockey. It was amazing how Broken Sound, after blowing the turn, STILL made up ground to finish second. Ugh. That was an extremely difficult start, considering that Broken Sound had enough to win and would have put my bankroll at $230 after one race. Three $10W bets later, in Aqueduct 3, I had runner-up Stud Muffin at 8-to-1, meaning I was on or very close to live long-shots in 3 of my first 6 selections.
Two contest selections later, in Aqueduct 5, my $10W bet on 7-to-2 Ontothenextone was nosed at the wire by 6-to-1 Tapped Out Bruno, lowering my bankroll to $107 before I proceeded to lose my next 8 wagers in ugly fashion, with half merely bad and the other half compromised by poor trips, but most notably Vanquisher in the Tampa Bay Stakes (Race 9), who clipped heals early and was never a factor. I was extremely confident with a $20W wager on this 26-to-1 play, but the start compromised any chance of me running way up the leaderboard (a $540 payout sure would have been nice) and left me with a $17 bankroll - enough for just one shot (Monmouth Park's SSC series contests require W/P/S bets of at least $10) with about eight races remaining on the 33-race Aqueduct-Tampa-Gulfstream contest card.
Lose None, at 6.6-to-1, proved to be that successful last shot in Gulfstream 9, edging out short-price favorite Bella Moneta to turn my $17W bet into $129.20. From there, however, the wheels fell off the bus, as I took some chances in the late races and went bust (sans 20 cents), and am beating myself up about a $40W bet on Beautician in The Inside Information at Gulfstream. This is the second time I've backed this horse (2010 Kentucky Oaks Day as well) and, again, she did not run a lick, but even if she ran her best, I'm not sure she would have gotten to Hilda's Passion, who is top-notch. It was just a bad play on my part. Otherwise, in the kicking-myself category, I seriously considered Indian Empire in the finale at Tampa and greedily went instead to 41-to-1 Cluny in the $12.5k 6.5f maiden claimer, who the track appropriately noted as "through early" in the final charts; Indian Empire won by a neck at 19-to-1.
In the end, I'm ecstatic for my partner in crime, easing the pain of what proved a competitive, albeit unsuccessful, effort for me. The art of handicapping can be very humbling, so it is nice when you can share in a friend's success at the track, especially to the tune of a $6k score.
Presumably like most NHC Tour players aiming for the $2 million championship in Las Vegas in January, I am beating myself about particular contest plays or strategy. In hindsight, it was my obvious bad call on Beautician; I identified that horse as a play in my early preparation and she stunk. Otherwise, maybe I spread myself too thin otherwise in betting 22 of the 32 possible contest races, but I was very game early in the card, and had I hit on Broken Sound, in particular, my outcome and strategy could have been different, so I have no significant regrets. I did wake up once in the middle of the night around 3:30 a.m., bothered by my Beautician ignorance and not siding with Indian Empire, but otherwise I turned back over and completed what was an extremely solid, peaceful 10-hour sleep.