Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Costly Jockey's Objection

As horseplayers are apt to lament the "tough beat" more than revel in a big score, I'll play along.

Inactive from writing here on handicapping contest play on account of a great new job and four-month run coaching my son's CYO 8th-grade hoops team, I'll use my first post of 2017 to whine about how Tampa Bay Downs jockey Daniel Centeno cost me about $1,500 and a seat in an NHC qualifier.

It happened in Saturday's Simulcast Series Challenge at Monmouth Park.

With a scant 152 participants, the bar was low for a Top-15 finish needed for a berth in the April 29 SSC Invitational.

After squandering most of a good 7-1 score (on a $15 win wager) on aggressive losing plays on my two best bets of the day (including Centeno's Tampa Bay Derby entrant No Dozing), I had a seemingly meager $18.50 of bankroll remaining with time running out.

In the SSC's live-bankroll win, place and/or show betting format, however, a player can make up ground in a hurry.

There were two options -- put "it all" on a gigantic long-shot and cross my fingers, or parlay two horses that I had liked in the final races at Tampa and Gulfstream Park, scheduled about five minutes apart. And the latter track, notoriously late and inconsiderate of its customers' time.

Confident, and in a shift from my penchant for long-shot plays, I opted for a parlay, even as I joked to my father about my low hit-rate on picking back-to-back winners. I figured I would have enough time to wheel my winnings from Race 12 at Tampa into a sizable win wager in Race 13 at Gulfstream.

I figured incorrectly.

After a slow loading process -- common in a race for "maidens," or horses who've never won or in some cases even run a race -- Boudicea's Revenge won at odds of 3-to-1, and so I figured my bankroll would be $60-$70, which I would use to bet the rail runner to win Gulfstream's 13th race, where the horses were still a few minutes from starting.

Excitedly, I moved to a betting terminal and waited for the Tampa race to be declared official so that I could collect those winnings and complete the $60 win bet that I prepared on Yankee Perfection, the rail horse, who was trading at odds of about 9-1.

Then it happened. 

About two minutes after Boudicea's Revenge crossed the finish line first, the track's race caller announced that Centeno, the rider on the 6th-place runner in the Tampa finale, lodged an objection with the race stewards against the jockey of the 4th-place runner. Jockey's objections are a part of the game, but usually when it involves winners, and NOT ones that finished way off the board. 

That announcement came at 6:21 p.m. Eastern time, and 40 seconds later the track photographer snapped Boudicea's Revenge's picture in the winner's circle, while over the loud speaker the track announcer confirmed that the jockey's objection didn't involve the top 3 finishers. Ugh.

I and a few other contest players waiting for Tampa to post the final winners' payouts were left sweating it out as, on Florida's other coastline, the runners at Gulfstream were seen on the TV starting the loading process for race 13. 

That race ended up going off at 6:23.56 p.m.

Tampa's announcer couldn't declare until 6:24.24 p.m. that Centeno's claim of foul had been disallowed and Boudicea's Revenge paid $8.20 on a $2 win bet

That $74 hit my contest wagering account about 30 seconds too late.

And as fate would have it, a little more than two minutes later, Yankee Perfection would cross Gulfstream Park's finish line first, paying $20.40

In other words, a $612 payout, plus $425-$850 of contest prize money for fourth or fifth place and a berth in the SSC Invitational, that I missed out on because of a jockey who got his rear-end kicked all afternoon at Tampa Bay Downs on the track's biggest day, failing to win a race in six mounts and wanting to act out.

If you watch the replay, the claim of foul was baseless and should at least merit a fine for wasting everyone's time. That it was on a skittish horse who finished a well-beaten sixth, five lengths off the winner, against another who barely finished fourth is even more infuriating. My horse did nothing wrong.

Turning the experience to a positive, however, as a handicapper I suppose I should be the anti-Centeno, avoid further whining, and take solace in having mapped out consecutive winners to end a live-money contest. It's a good reminder for when I'm in that spot again down the road.

My handicapping logic and strategy were clearly solid, which is a good takeaway as I try to win my way into the National Handicapping Championship for the third time in four seasons.

Next time, I'll just need a little more on the "luck" and better timing ends of the equation.