Sunday, March 25, 2012

Best Laid Plan Gone Astray...Partly

The show-based handicapping contest wagering strategy contemplated here and that prompted a NJ Horseplayer blog respondent to coin the plan as "flawed" actually proved valuable in yesterday's SSC #3 contest at Monmouth Park, but ultimately two poorly ridden horses put an end to my contest hopes.

Of my first six (of 10 mandated) contest wagers, I scored on all three show wagers (each yielding at least 2-1) and missed on three $10 win wagers, getting me halfway through the Aqueduct-Gulfstream-Tampa card with a 6% ROI on my bankroll. I theorized going into SSC #3 that I could "move the chains" toward the mid- to later-card and "save up" for 1-2 well-placed win wagers that could vault me into the Top 15.

As noted Saturday, I found two horses mid-card that I thought had a decent shot of scoring at big odds, and rested my contest hopes on these, for lack of finding any plausible shots later in the afternoon.

The first was Loaded Lady ($10W/$16S) in the sixth from Tampa, listed at 20-to-1 but bet down to 8-to-1 at the open.  This four-year-old ultimately drifted back toward 15-to-1 and got off to a great start from post 4 in a 10-horse field at 11 furlongs on the turf, but jockey Willie Martinez inexplicably settled back as the field crawled to a 27-second opening quarter and nearly 54-second half before the horse ultimately finished dead last. Typically I do not harp on "poor trips", but I knew Loaded Lady had NO chance after seeing the opening splits.  There went one-quarter of my bankroll.

Another quarter of my bankroll ($25S) disappeared only moments later (the races almost went off simultaneously), when in Race 5 from Gulfstream (8-horse field, 1-mile turf), a $25k claimer, Jesus Castanon put 10.6-to-1 Zubani to sleep out of the gate.  The horse looked sharp (not a front-runner, but looking spry) out of the gate, but was pulled back to dead last and ultimately ridden 3-4 horse wide around the oval in a race run in 24.4-50-1:14 through three quarters before finishing seventh.

Two misplaced wagers launched my capital-preservation strategy out the window.  More than halfway through the contest card, and recognizing that show-based wagering would not give me enough winnings to make one big bet in one of the final races, I made six losing $10W wagers to put an unceremonious conclusion to my Simulcast Series Challenge season.

In the end, good handicapping rules all, and with the majority of winning horses in yesterday's 32-race handicapping contest card winning at 7-to-2 odds or less, kudos to those who were able to able to manage their bankrolls better and call enough shorter-priced winners to hit the top 15 and qualify for April's SSC Invitational.  However, I am not yet ready to abandon the notion of capital preservation to survive into the later stages of live-money contests and make one well-placed win wager in the late stages.

The next opportunity for NJ Horseplayer is the Preakness Day contest at Monmouth Park. Between now and then, we'll dabble on the online circuit and see what happens.


Went the Day Well came between what compounded a maudlin day and what could have been a glorious afternoon for the NJ Horseplayer camp. The Vinery Spiral Stakes was the ninth of 10 carded for Saturday's NHC Tour Online Challenge, and I was high on Holiday Promise to upend this Grade 3 Derby prep field at 9 furlongs, and got 25-to-1 to assume that risk.  I was banking on Heavy Breathing to be the favorite off an impressive hand-ride win at Gulfstream and going to the lead, and thought Holiday Promise might stalk and have enough late kick to get lucky down the stretch.  Mission accomplished...except for Graham Motion-trained Went the Day Well (5-to-1), who was stronger down the stretch and took the Vinery.

Sure, I got more for Holiday Promise's place finish ($21.80; NHC Online Challenge awards players notional win and place earnings) than Went the Day Well's combined $18.40 WP, but my move in the standings from 101st to 35th suggests a win rather than a runner-up finish might have been the difference in grabbing a Top 4 spot (qualifying me for Vegas) and finishing 49th as I did. Note, too, that I originally had NHC contest Race 10 winner Close to the Edge (Race 6 from Santa Anita; 5-to-2) but shifted to the absolute longest shot in that field at the last minute, knowing I needed at least $24 of notional winnings to crack the Top 4. I would never have selected 61-to-1 El Pocho otherwise, but therein lies the difference between live-money and points-based handicapping contests.

Finally, congrats to fellow blogger Ray Wallin (Jersey Capper) for finishing tied for 40th in the NHC Online Challenge and landing within the Top 25 of SSC #3 going into the final race before bowing out. It was great to finally meet Ray yesterday, and to mingle with some other players during SSC #3, which is a great venue.

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