The 2014 winter Simulcast Series Challenge (SSC) series was enjoyable but totally unproductive, unlike last season, when I qualified for two entries to the SSC Invitational.
|No seat for NJ Horseplayer|
at the 2014 SSC Invitational
No passing "Go" and collecting $200 for NJ Horseplayer.
No room at the inn.
Shut out of the prestigious SSC Invitational.
There were no "brutal beats," so to speak; only inconsistent handicapping and bankroll management. It really came down to bad end games, where I will need to improve in live-money tournaments. Online tournaments as well, for that matter.
As a part-time player, I have yet to come up with a viable system for late-contest, live-money wagers.
In SSC No. 4 this past Saturday, for instance, after playing patiently on a 30-plus race card from three simulcast tracks (Aqueduct, Tampa and Keeneland), I failed to capitalize on a good mid-contest score at 12-to-1, whereby I conservatively played the minimum $10 win bet instead of doubling down or risking my remaining (at that point after 6 unsuccessful win wagers) $40 live bankroll in a sink-or-swim bid.
The Esquire TV show Horseplayers has me thinking more about late-stage bankroll management.
There was a scene where professional horseplayer Christian Hellmers wagered something like $16,000 on two bets late in a high-stakes contest, convinced he could connect. Instead, he lost on both, but came away not second-guessing his logic, which was predicated on tried-and-true handicapping and a lack of fear.
That type of mentality is one I need to channel more as a handicapping contest player.
Speaking of Horseplayers, and extending the theme of inadmissibility, the show offers a stark reminder of how difficult it will be for a part-time player of my caliber to get to and succeed at the National Handicapping Championship.
Several of the show's scenes were filmed on location at extremely expensive tournaments -- the $10,000 buy-in Breeders Cup Challenge, the $3,000 Grade One Gamble from Keeneland, a $1,000 mid-week NHC tournament at Saratoga and an exclusive, almost made-for-TV tournament from Louisiana.
There is an air of exclusivity that I did not sense as much early on in the show, but have noticed more lately.
The NHC Tour, and the thoroughbred industry on the whole, needs to be extremely wary of this, in my opinion.
|NHC Tour new points system|
misses the boat on pre-qualifiers
Opening the door for Tour players to earn multiple berths to the National Handicapping Championship is in itself ludicrous.
Is playing two tickets in a tournament a show of one's true handicapping skill?
I say "no," and therefore see a conflict in the Tour offering players a shot at 2 NHC seats per season, simply for the sake of increasing in-season contest participation and tacking on seasonal points standings.
Perhaps that is what the NHC Tour wants, and therefore I am merely the outlier who can afford (i.e. time- and money-wise) to play a few $100-$200 on-track tournaments a season but am otherwise relegated to bankroll builder tournaments and NHC qualifiers via HorseTourneys.com and other online hubs.
The new Tour points system, meanwhile, misses the boat on certain nuances of on-track tournaments and, with the SSC series in particular, devalues what is otherwise a great but difficult event. Monmouth Park will need to take note of this loophole, since players could choose to stay away from SSC and participate in what is now a far more lucrative summer schedule of direct NHC qualifiers in Oceanport.
At the same time the NHC is encouraging on-track contest play, the Tour gives zero reward to players at Monmouth Park who, over the course of four SSC qualifiers, like myself, paid $200 per tourney, or $800 in total. The reason for this, as I understand it, is that "pre-qualifying" tournaments (i.e. those that do not directly give away NHC berths) do not count toward NHC Tour scoring.
Under a new scoring system rolled out this year, players who participate in an NHC qualifying tournament at the track receive 150 NHC Tour points just for entering (online tournaments award only 50 points).
So, those of us that sign up for the $300 May 31 contest at Monmouth will receive our 150-point participation bonus.
Those who signed up for any 1 of 4 live-money SSC pre-qualifiers this winter got zero points.
Same goes for players who pony up $165 to play in a "pre-qualifying" tournament on NHCQualify.com -- zero points.
Such participation bonuses are, therefore, really no incentive to increase player participation.
Personally, I see no difference in someone forking over hard-earned money to play in either an NHC-oriented tournament, whether it is a pre-qualifier or a qualifier.
In reality, too, reaching the NHC is even that much harder for players who, in essence, have to win or place highly in two consecutive tournaments, so why not reward Tour participants for their efforts and supporting the game financially.
This is especially true for those of us who cannot canvass the U.S. (i.e. the Esquire TV Horseplayers set) playing the elite tournaments from week-to-week.
Regardless, I do give the Tour credit for amending the tournament points system in what seems a fairer distribution of awards to the top 10% of players in a given event, but think the leadership needs to take a second look at allocating points for NHC-focused pre-qualifying tournaments.