It's just a much better deal!
See, it cost me $200 to enter Sunday's NHC qualifier at Monmouth Park ($100 bankroll, $100 toward the pot), plus $4 for parking and $3 to get through the turnstile -- a $207 "all-in" investment (excluding my cost to subscribe online to Daily Racing Form and print two sets of past performances from home; but, hey, I could have picked those up for "free" at the contest registration desk).
|Weighed down by nickels, dimes
And being that Sunday is "Family Fun Day" at Monmouth, those who brought their kids also probably got some free face paint, bouncy houses and pony rides (my kids, 10 and 11, opted out).
- Monmouth Park had run out of simple paper charts that I depend upon to organize my contest wagers
- No food and beverage voucher.
Get Over It, You Say
Listen, hear me out.
I am steadfast that when players are making a concerted effort to visit a track and fork over contest entry fees probably above the budgets of many track visitors that day (and probably also wager on the side into the betting pools), a nickel and dime mentality is not a wise business model.
Belmont Park and Aqueduct, from what I gather, each provide a nice lunch and beverage spread for its two-day, $400 buy-in handicapping contests.
Suffolk Downs, which I am planning to visit again this summer, set up an air-conditioned room solely for its tournament players and put out a nice lunch, beverage and dessert spread last year...for a $60 buy-in tournament!
And did I mention that Suffolk offers one more NHC seat (3) than Monmouth (2) did this past Sunday?!
Yes, Suffolk Downs.
A contest turnout of around 300 registrants at Monmouth may prove otherwise, but in my opinion, certain things should be provided to keep the customer coming, like a simple sheet of paper (not one of the 5-6 people at these tables even so much as made an effort to say "let me see if I can get you one") or a measly $10 voucher (given at the winter contest series) to get a few sodas on a 95-degree day.
|"At your service, sir!"
In short, the Groupon-driven customer, who may never visit Monmouth Park again or comes once a season for s**** and giggles, gets a handful of perks and may not even pump a single dollar into the wagering pool.
The full DRF chart, to be sure, would suggest that the average bettor among the 7,277 in attendance wagered, on average, a little more than $66 into the $483,146 on-track pool.
I can only speculate that at $0.0001 per sheet of printing paper, plus the prospect of 300 contest players eating into the track's concession profits, would be a huge hit to the track's sustainability at this point, since what other reason would there be to upset a customer who is investing $1,000+ a season to play in Monmouth's on-track handicapping contests?
|$4 for my spot
All the more reason to head to Boston instead of Monmouth on Saturday, August 3. Yes, I'll drive the 10 hours round trip to play at Suffolk on August 3, instead of the $100 Horseplayer World Series contest at Monmouth Park that same day.
Adding Insult to Injury
Speaking of the aforementioned fourth race from Woodbine, the outcome was a harbinger of my day. I told my equally heat-stricken sidekick Red Rock or Bust that this $50,000 maiden special weight was ripe for a first-time starter to win.
Citing a decent work tab, I sided ($10 to win) with first-timer Rexton, who went off around 11-to-1.
Rexton stumbled at the start and recovered to finish sixth of 13, but was no threat to fellow first-timers Regal Warning (34-to-1) and Csonka (35-to-1). Ouch!
Next up, a $10 win wager on Staff Sargeant in the fourth from Monmouth, a $20,000 claimer at a mile on turf. Playing a 5% jockey on a horse nearly double its 6-to-1 morning line is probably not the recipe for NHC contest glory, but I did so at my own risk.
The full chart gave a more-generous classification of Staff Sargeant's finish ("...raced off the pace inside, advanced on the far turn, came wide and rallied mildly between foes"), but in my view Shannon Uske cost me a nice win mutuel with a weak stretch run after positioning the fresh horse perfectly to that point. I took solace, at least, in Red Rock winning that one with 17-1 Michael P.
After an admitted reach in the 5th from Monmouth, I loved two horses in the 6th from Woodbine -- 10-to-1 No Explaining (#9) and 5-to-1 Solid Appeal (#10). In a last-second call, my $10 win wager went the wrong way -- Solid Appeal won by two lengths to pay $13.10. My horse finished third.
Down to a $20 bankroll, and noting the obvious bias to front-running speed on the dirt at Monmouth, I found value in 9-to-1 Indian Spell in the 8th from Monmouth.
As luck would have it, Indian Spell, facing winners for the first time off a maiden-breaking score in Oceanport on June 9, zipped to the lead, only to be the sole dirt runner on the day to get nabbed in the stretch -- 3-to-2 Lucky Liberty got my horse by a head at the wire to halve my bankroll...ultimately squandered on a 31-to-1 bomb I liked in the Queen's Plate at Woodbine but finished fifth.
Bad Karma, But Always A Few Positives
Neither of my two gripes with Monmouth Park on Sunday had anything to do with my contest misfortune, so I'll just chalk up Sunday's outcome more to bad alignment of the planets.
My logic and handicapping were not as atrocious as in some other contests, and despite an extremely hot afternoon, I had the benefit of hanging in the picnic area with a respected handicapper (Red Rock, who got off to a $300+ bankroll but could not hit late) and being graced with a great visit from NJ Horseplayer reader John Millili, who braved the heat and my profuse sweat to stop by and say hello.
|Yes, horseplayers, this IS
the place for you!
It's nice to meet fellow NHC contest horseplayers in person and garner positive feedback about my written ramblings on handicapping contest play. Had I not had to bring my kids with me, I'd have spent more time socializing with other players, and probably in an air-conditioned environment.
As Monmouth Park has yet to post final contest standings from Sunday, I can only hope that John (and/or wife Barbara) ended up atop the leaderboard when all is said and done and booked a spot in NHC XV.
That, or before the long drive from, yes, Furlong, PA, he at least bought the Groupon.