Friday, July 11, 2014

Consistency, Where Are You?

Sidetracked by several professional and personal matters, I have had little time in the last 4-5 weeks to pursue (or write about) my bid for a berth in the National Handicapping Championship

This season in particular, I am finding it difficult to generate any consistency as a part-time player on the NHC Tour, and when I have the scant time to play between professional licensing exams, shuttling kids all over creation and other priorities, I have been beset by bad fortunate.  

Take this afternoon, when a shortfall of player entries into a late-afternoon bankroll builder contest on (HT) prompted cancellation.  

Sums up recent fortunes for
NJ Horseplayer
Whereas I could not hit the broad side of a barn with my picks in Sunday's NHC Tour qualifier at Monmouth Park, this afternoon I ID'd the opening race winner of Friday's HT event to no avail.  

Picking an $8 winner is nothing to write home about, but after this past Sunday, getting off on the right foot for once inspired confidence.  You know the expression about best-laid plans.

Backtrack to Sunday's Monmouth Park tournament, I had no plan.

Perhaps was not a good idea, but based on a 1-for-36 start (-$52.80) to this season's online contest at the Public Handicapper, winging it seemed as good a plan.

My 0-for-10 performance at Monmouth ultimately proved otherwise, but I would chalk some of that up to rustiness or lack of consistent daily handicapping.

Strike 1

In Race 5 at Monmouth on Sunday, I knew that Magic Mesa was the best sprinter in an 5.5-furlong, 11-horse turf sprint and told my playing partner Red Rock or Bust as much, but as stupidity would have it, let an easy $8.40 winner pass in search of "better value."  

My horse, 16-to-1 Trish's Wish, finished a decent fourth about 3 lengths back, but instead of running my starting bankroll from $90 to at least $132, I ended up down $20 (to $80). 

Strike 2

As an equity research editor by day and extremely familiar with the stock market and Wall Street compliance, I know that past performance does not measure future success, but made an awful selection in Race 7 from Woodbine based on sentiment.

Surtsey scored for me at 41-to-1 last July in an online contest and was a long-shot in an 8-horse field where I thought Deceptive Vision was the best horse, even if a short 2-to-1 morning line.  Deceptive Vision lost by a nose, but Surtsey never really had a shot, getting hemmed in on the rail.  

The loss was only a $10 setback, but by then, and with the top two on the contest leaderboard already at $1,000-plus and $500-plus, I felt sort of drowning in the tide.

Strike 3

The nail in the coffin was my fifth wager -- $10 to win on 3-to-1 overlay Constantino in an allowance race from Woodbine (Race 8). 

In a 6-horse field devoid of early speed, I liked Constantino and figured he could dictate tempo and wire the field.

Two other bullish indicators, for me, were second time at two turns off a decent second-place finish on June 15 and top Woodbine jockey Patrick Husbands riding for high-percentage trainer Mark Casse.

All went according to plan as Constantino carved out slow fractions under scant pressure (three-quarters of a mile in a dawdling 1:13) until 2-to-1 Steel Dust Dancer got up in the final strides.  

Ballgame Over!

Down to $50 and deflated, I took some wild stabs with my last batch of selections, figuring I needed a big price to have a puncher's chance at a Top 2 finish needed to secure an NHC berth.

Yes I do, poet Dan Liberthon...
from "The Pitch Is On The Way"
In hindsight, that proved accurate as the winner and runner-up finished with respective bankrolls of $2,093 and $1,845. 

Regardless, I had a dreadful performance on Sunday, underscoring what with the exception of one Simulcast Series Challenge qualifier this winter has been a dreadful season in on-track tournaments.

On the other hand, as of this posting I am in 78th place of 1,279 remaining active players in Monmouth Park's Survival at the Shore online contest (with a "life preserver") to boot, so not all is lost.

Consistency, however, seems well out of reach and probably to be expected when entering contests off a sporadic work tab.

Next Up - Summer Freebies

In addition to Survival at the Shore, I will "refresh" my handicapping skills with more-daily online play, focusing on a select few races per day instead of jumping into the 8- to 10-race feeder-type tournaments on HT or now, which is cannibalizing the market with a similar "bankroll builder" concept that Horse Tourneys first perfected (more on the latter theme in a later blog post).

Other part-time players could benefit as well from two "freebies," in particular.

Public Handicapper remains a weekly option, offering its usual card of 4 notional win-bet races per weekend, and I would highly recommend any players (and NHC Tour members, in particular) sign up for the Del Mar 2014 Online Handicapping Challenge.

First off, top 2 finishers win berths and a travel stipend to NHC XVI.

Otherwise, NHC Tour points are awarded for strong performance. 

The Del Mar contest runs from July 17-September 4 and gives players up to $100 notional dollars per day to place a win, place or show bet (or combination thereof) on a pre-selected race each day.  This is a season-long bankroll building contest and one I have played for a few years.

Free past performances for the daily race are generally available on Del Mar's contest site, making for a seamless and fun experience, even for the casual player. 

Here's to getting back on the horse and maybe establishing some consistency as the NHC Tour moves into the second-half of its 2014 calendar.