Generally I do not get riled up about Horse Player World Series (HPWS, not as prestigious as the National Handicapping Championship, far as I know) tournaments, but the calendar was open (a rarity), so I plunked down my C note to participate in a contest with a $60 bankroll and $40 going to a pot to be split by the Top 10 finishers.
Players were required to make at least 5 win, place or show wagers (or a combination thereof) of at least $6 (one-tenth the starting bankroll) each on the cards at Monmouth Park and Saratoga, and my 100 Twitter followers know I'm not averse to place and show wagering, though low-budget contests make this tough.
|Right-track...good 'capping of
Monmouth card...left track...BAD
'capping by NJ Horseplayer at
Saratoga in Saturday contest
The two other wins were on the place and show ends of respective $10 win-place and $10 win-show wagers where, had the horses had just a bit more, I speculate I'd have had a legitimate shot at placing at least in the top five of the contest. In Race 4, bettors totally dismissed 10-to-1 morning line Chief Operator, who went off at 39-to-1 and finished a game third to at least allow me to recoup the $9.20 show payout. In Race 7, Violator went off at 23-to-1 off a 20-to-1 morning line that, in my view, neglected the horse's 5-for-10 in-the-money record on turf. Alas, Felix Ortiz rode the horse well, but could only muster second place in what was a convincing win for...you guessed it...the chalk, Alke John (1.9-to-1).
After two of what were an afternoon of awful calls on Saratoga races, I put about half of my bankroll on another selection I doped out in advance of the contest -- Berni de Mint in Race 9 at Monmouth. This Charles Harvatt trainee was in the money in 5 of 7 turf tries (including 2 of 3 at Monmouth) and making his second start after breaking his maiden in mid-June. Figuring the bettors would bite on Joe Bravo's Cacaway, a horse I knew would be over-bet, I considered 16-to-1 on Berni de Mint an egregious overlay and went for it (I kept the other half of my bankroll in reserve for a horse I liked in the Monmouth finale, who never panned out). Bravo's horse never factored as expected, but Berni simply did not have enough to win and finished third, a length-and-a-quarter behind 3-to-1 winner Exeter Road.
Considering the highest win payout on the entire Monmouth card was $10 (Winiliscious in Race 10), one could argue that playing races from Monmouth is fruitless from a contest perspective, but in hindsight I feel somewhat validated in having mapped out 4-5 playable longshots who seemed to have a decent shot at scoring at a price and ultimately outran their odds.
Saturday's outcome suggests, at least to me, that there's a very fine line between yet another loss in a live-money handicapping contest and taking one down. I cannot assume that no one else bet on the same horse as me, or bet even more, but a prospective $240-$250 payout on a $10W wager on 23-to-1 Violator, for instance, would have assuredly given me enough ammo to gravitate toward playing shorter-priced horses or, possibly in Race 9, making a large show wager on a horse where I had some confidence.
In the end, Saturday's HPWS was worth the effort and proof yet again of my theory that often it takes only one well-placed long-shot play to be a factor in a live-money handicapping tournament.