Thursday, September 19, 2013

'13 Monmouth Contest Season: In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb

Rest assured, NJ Horseplayer minions, I am alive and well!

All's well in the Garden State
An email from Monmouth Park handicapping contest friend Paul Zerbst last Friday, questioning my safety in response to an abnormal blogging hiatus of 3+ weeks, reassured me that, yes, some people care and actually enjoy my ramblings.  

One does, at least...

The latter part of August and early September provided a chance to unwind from my editorial (small-cap equity research) profession and vacation with the wife and kids.  After a great guys weekend in Saratoga for the Alabama Stakes (who doesn't miss the Spa already, we hightailed it to Niagara Falls, the New York State Fair and Lake George, ahead of our anticipated return to chaos.

Now it's back to piles of work, school for the kids (my daughter began middle school, yet another new adventure) and reams of homework and forms to sign, Board of Education meetings and so forth.  Ugh!

On Sunday, however, I got back on the live-money handicapping contest horse in the 2013 finale for Monmouth Park -- the $200 Monmouth-Woodbine Challenge.  

Save for 1-2 races, mine was mostly a performance to forget, but based on the Top 10 standings posted, one tough loss probably did not matter much, as the winner (Eleanor Milewski) turned a starting $100 into a nearly $2,400 bankroll, while 10th-place finisher Anthony Kite ended at $807.  Tough company, and perhaps the most competitive and lucrative final bankroll standings that I can recall in four years.

Bring back red helmets!
I preface my commentary with an excuse -- it's Rutgers football season, and I'm the leader of a 19-person season-ticket group and tailgate coordinator, so Saturdays otherwise dedicated to handicapping now center on menu, liquor and enjoying a great day rooting on my beloved Scarlet Knights.  Gone are the easy-going mornings at the beach or on the back deck perusing past performances, so I spent little time assessing Sunday's 21-race card.

Not that it mattered.  I made bad early decisions from the get-go, as I liked Lorjam at 7-to-2 in Monmouth's opener and switched late to a more-speculative Larcenyinmyheart.  Lorjam won easily, paying $9.40.  

After dropping my next 7 plays (all $10 win wagers), I returned to break-even with Bert B Don at 8-to-1 in Monmouth 8, but with only a handful of races left in the contest and nowhere close to the Top 25, needed a high-priced winner to have a shot.  My chance to make really waves fell a neck short as 15-to-1 Pugsley, who was held up in traffic a bit into the final turn, could not catch 5-to-2 favorite Port Severn at the wire in Woodbine 9.

Instead of a possible $230-$240 bankroll with a Pugsley win, where I could have taken one late shot at a reasonable horse, I made three fruitless late stabs with my remaining $69 and depleted my bankroll to $4 (I kept a few bucks just in case everyone on the leaderboard went "all in" and lost...a step that proved helpful in winning 989 NHC Tour points in the SSC Invitational in April). 

Net-Net...A Decent Season

Sunday's performance put a cap on what was otherwise a relatively productive and fun season for me at Monmouth's NHC-based contests.  

It's nothing to write home about, but in contest play I came out $55 to the good after three Simulcast Series Challenge qualifiers, two entries in the SSC Invitational, and the July and September Monmouth-Woodbine contests, summing to $1,400 of entry fees.  

Of course winning an NHC berth was my goal, but I'll take a slightly profitable over a losing season.

Merits of Tracking Contest Fates

An innocent question while contesting on Sunday with friend and horseplayer extraordinaire Terry Flanagan (yes, Paul, he's still alive, even though he has not posted a blog entry since June) about my contest outcomes on motivated me to keep better tabs of not just my seasonal ROI, but how I am doing in particular contest formats.  Hence, my calculation on Monmouth Park for 2013.

On HorseTourneys, for anyone who cares, I am 0-for-1 on NHC qualifiers (13th place out of 80 in mid-July) but 6-for-39 with four refunds in $26 pre-qualifiers (Top 10% finishes yield $240 of site credit), and 0-for-3 in other contests.  In short, I am outperforming what I have payed to play in those contests. 

Combined with this year's Monmouth tally, I learned more that I'm much more proficient in the context of thoroughbred handicapping contests than "one-off" days at the track, such as this year's Saratoga trip and a random visit here or there to Monmouth or through my defunct TVG account. 

There's still plenty of time on the NHC calendar through autumn to make some waves and either finally win an NHC qualifying contest outright (it'll have to be online, as I cannot play in any on-track tournaments left on the calendar this season) or to build upon my NHC Tour points standing (currently 327th; Top 150 achieve berths in the NHC next January). 

It's great to get back to posting, and thanks as always for reading!

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