Six of the 10 NHC contest races are part of the SSC#3 card, which includes the full 32 races from Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs. (The other four include three stakes from Turfway Park, and a nine-horse - sure to scratch down to five runners - sprint from Santa Anita.). As always, the SSC requires contest players to make at least 10 W/P/S wagers of at least $10, and as well documented the past few weeks, NJ Horseplayer is hoping to remain disciplined in a show-based contest strategy, incrementally increase a $100 starting bankroll in hopes of making a big win or win-place play at the end -- a winning strategy in recent live-money contests at Monmouth Park.
There are three interesting long-shots tied to the NHC freebie that I've got my eye on; whether I play them during SSC#3, and how (i.e. to win, place or show), is another question.
- Storm Warnings (8-to-1), Gulfstream Race 8, $30k claimer: Probably over-matched last out on December 17 in $44k allowance where one-time stakes runner Santiva lost by a neck. A Beyer-best 82 vs. suspect field, and trainer with pretty decent turf ROI with the switch to Juan Leyva (has been decent on GP turf, from races I've seen) suggest this one is worth a look at a mile on turf, especially with the two favorites drawn way outside (posts 10 and 11).
- Zubani (10-to-1), Gulfstream Race 5, $25k claimer at a mile on turf: Glad that Scott Volk-trained Kelly's Pic scratched, since I had given serious consideration at 6-to-1. The four horses with the lowest morning lines look quite similar, in my view, and looking elsewhere I am willing to toss Zubani's last race, where the horse was too aggressively spotted. Race two back against $25k company at the distance suggests the horse can hang with these, and Allen Irwinski is 13% with turf runners.
- Loaded Lady (20-to1), Tampa Race 6, $16k starter handicap at 11 furlongs on turf: Colleague Red Rock or Bust can attest to my theory that turf races of these distance are the equivalent of a $3k claimer at Los Alamitos, and so I handicapped this race seeking big balloons. There are several angles here for NJ Horseplayer: 11-horse field of mostly so-so talent, third off the layoff for a horse that's 4-for-8 in-the-money on turf (but no winners), and relatively good closing speed and back at a level where bettors may dismiss the horse. Beyer figures do not stack up well versus horses to Loaded Lady's outside, but the horse's connections have spotted this one vs. some much tougher on turf, and the horse ran creditably in some of those races. At the very least, I will be playing this one for show money, but perhaps this is the latter-contest type play where I pull the trigger on a sizable win bet.
Side note: Captain America, a part of NJ Horseplayer's DRF Watch List, is listed at 15-to-1 in the sixth from Hawthorne and might be worth a look and side bet.