In the wake of my maiden NHC score, I was in the unusual position of having already locked up a berth in the NHC finals, to be held January 23-25 at Treasure Island in Las Vegas, and so I had a different perspective than normal.
No concerns about going oh-fer the contest.
No "guess I'll have to wait until next year" mentality about NHC qualification.
No "could have used that hundred bucks a better way" lamentations.
|Photo courtesy of|
However, last Sunday was the first time that capturing the top cash prize ($10,500) was at the forefront of my process -- a foreign feeling, but, oddly enough, admittedly an afterthought when trying to qualify for a $1.8 million tournament in Las Vegas.
From a handicapping perspective, I was not disappointed with 4-of-15 in-the-money finishes.
Perhaps playing 15 of 21 carded races reflects a lack of selective decision-making, but in live-money contests such as last Sunday's my goal is to generally to survive and accrue enough to make a late splash.
I hit with two winners, 4-to-1 Theogony in Race 7 from Woodbine and 5-to-1 Social Network in Race 10 from Monmouth, and two for place that would have produced nearly $600 of winnings had the horses scored on the win end of my wagers.
Specifically, 33-to-1 Soniko ran lights out but faded to second in Race 5 from Monmouth. The $10 win portion of my wager would have produced roughly $350 of earnings and perhaps altered my thesis entering the second-half of the contest card. That's irrelevant at this point.
Meanwhile, in the second-to-last contest race, 11-to-1 Lady Diba lost by a head at the wire. Hitting the win portion of my $20 win-$10 place wager there would have produced another $235 or so of earnings and based on my real bankroll at the time, given me around $370 for the final contest race.
Instead of being in the top 5 heading into the final (mandatory) race, I was left with a still-respectable $159.50 bankroll heading into the Woodbine Mile.
The leader at that point had amassed a little more than a $1,000 bankroll, so I figured I needed at least a 6-to-1 or 7-to-1 in the Woodbine Mile to have a shot at winning the tournament, and assumed that a good number of players ahead of me were shopping that price range as well.
I landed on Lookout, a Mark Casse-trained sprint closer stretching out but that I thought made sense at a 17-to-1 overlay (off a 10-to-1 morning line) in a speedy field. Lookout, however, looked on while beaten by half of the 11-horse field and finishing a never-threatening sixth to British invader Trade Storm.
Mission accomplished in having enough to make one big play at the end, but $100 win-$50 place on Lookout went out the window, leaving me at a final $9.50 bankroll, which I held in the event that a bunch of others went "all in" and maybe I could collect a few cheap points in the NHC Tour standings. Ultimately, $9.50 was good for 22nd place but no Tour points.
The final wager was infinitely my largest ever and well outside my comfort zone, but was the correct decision and sort of monumental in my history of contest play, in that I had no regrets about backing a horse with conviction and giving myself a true shot at a significant victory. Maybe other players ahead of me in the standings landed on the same horse and ultimately would have beaten me regardless, but I have to believe that others bet "safer" horses than Lookout.
If nothing else, I can look back on the September 14 contest as a great learning experience.
Perhaps I should have been more aggressive than $10 win-$10 place on Soniko earlier and said "so what" if I crapped out with half a race card to go and the horse ran dead last as the betting public had expected.
Perhaps I should have been paying closer attention to the late odds on Social Network, which I wagered at 7-to-2 with about two minutes to post time but I had not noticed was sent up to 5-to-1 and started the race before I could increase my bet by another $20 to win as I had intended.
Perhaps I should have gone "all in" on Lady Diba. In hindsight, I liked her a lot more than Lookout a race later.
None of these hypothetical scenarios mean anything in the end, but the real-life cash management and wagering choices last Sunday inspire a greater sense of self-confidence in advance of future live-money contests, namely next winter's Simulcast Series Challenge.
In the meantime, I have no other live-money contests on my radar until next season (another luxury of NHC finals qualification), but in the meantime will focus on online tourneys as time allows and to stay fresh and hope to see you there!