Friday, August 3, 2012

Next Stop: Suffolk Downs

The NJ Horseplayer caravan is headed to the Boston area bright and early Saturday for the NHC Qualifying Tournament at Suffolk Downs.

NJ Horseplayer on to Beantown
OK, it's not such a big caravan -- just me and Red Rock or Bust (got a few seats left if anyone else from Jersey wants to tag along) -- but the two of us are loading up my VW Sportswagen diesel for the five-hour trip to East Boston in hopes of qualifying for National Handicapping Championship XIV next January in Las Vegas.  Three seats will be up for grabs.

Personally, I am entering the tournament a bit apprehensive from a handicapping perspective, considering I could just as well stay home and save myself the time, but Suffolk is throwing in lunch as part of the $60 entry fee and offering cash prizes to the top 10, while I'm sure I'll come away with some fine stories and experiences.  Rumor has it, too, that we'll be meeting Donna (@travelbyrv) and Susan from the Saturday Afternoon Horse blog (@asaturdayhorse), so fraternization with fellow horseplayers will be a big plus!

Win or lose at Suffolk,
Ted's is a winning wager
And Terry doesn't know it yet, but we're absolutely hitting the world famous Ted's in Meriden, CT for steamed cheeseburgers on the way back to NJ for dinner. 

For those in the Boston area or insane enough to travel far and wide like me, Saturday's contest will comprise 15 races in a "pick and pray" format, whereby players make a notional $2 win-place bet on each race and must enter all picks for the entire card before the first contest race (Suffolk Downs, Race 6).  From there on out, the outcome is in the hands of the horse' connections.

The format is pretty interesting and mirrors that of some contests on, where I hit on a minor award once but have not played enough to gauge my prowess.  I will spend this afternoon and evening doping out the 15 races (which will conveniently wrap up by about 6 p.m.):
  • Suffolk Downs: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
  • Saratoga: 5, 6, 8, 9, 10
  • Monmouth: 7, 8, 10
  • Del Mar: 1, 2
I figure, like most contests, picking winners will be key, though in reality it looks like a few big long-shots could prove more valuable.  Unless I've misread the information on Suffolk's website, I'm seeing no citation of a cap on winning payouts.  Most online tournaments I've played put a 15- to 20-to-1 cap on win payouts and 10-to-1 on place payouts for the notional $2 WP wager.  I'm going in assuming that the rules sheet will spell out some kind of caps, though I've never been one to shy away from horses 20-to-1 and above; the last two pre-qualifiers where I've won awards come to mind.

Anyway, best of luck to everyone else headed out to Suffolk Downs on Saturday, and anyone looking to connect there should either reach me on Twitter (@NJHorseplayer) or call/text (732.322.0130).

Haskell Day Afterthoughts

I hadn't planned on making it to Monmouth Park on Sunday considering plans for NYC Marathon training (man, does it suck training in this humidity) and cleanup from a Saturday house party, but my man Chris Skurat from Tinton Falls had never been and asked if I'd be interested.  It didn't take much arm-twisting.

Chris (left) didn't need it, but I certainly could have used
Joe and Jeremy's (far right) insights on the Haskell
The crowd was announced at 35k, which seemed accurate, though some of the best action was in the picnic area, where after the racing concluded I had the pleasure of running into Joe Kristofek and Jeremy Plonk, co-creators of Horse Player Now.

Because we did not show up until Race 9 on Sunday's 13-race Haskell program, we did not spend a lot of time at Monmouth and instead opted for the comfort of the grandstand, but in hindsight discovered that Joe and Jeremy were on hand to promote, yet again, fan education.

These guys have done a wonderful job as true ambassadors for the sport and deserve a lot of credit for educating fans in all aspects of the thoroughbred (and now harness) racing game -- from wagering strategy and horse ownership to horse pedigree and handicapping -- via their Night School program, held online every Tuesday night from 830p-10p ET.

Simply put, these guys get it, attempting to generate grassroots interest while educating the fans in a wonderful but fragmented and perceived dying sport.  Certainly some tracks (Saratoga comes to mind) offer handicapping seminars and such, but most are under-publicized and probably turn many people off who feel too inexperienced to get involved at the track.

Night School welcomes fans of all levels, and I sense the online chat format makes even the newest of fans comfortable asking questions and learning online, as opposed to walking up to someone and admitting they have no idea, for instance, what to do with their racing program.  I would recommend anyone who has yet to try Night School to give it a whirl, and check out the online archives for a flavor of what the guys present each Tuesday night.  It's definitely worth your while!


  1. Hey I think I saw that burger place on a food network show one time. Looking forward to it.

  2. That's the place. Unfortunately, I never made it with Kathy's uncle before he passed away; they lived like 10 minutes from there.