Spring is here, I can smell it! Alright, so that's not the smell of spring, just one last ditch effort by winter to mess with us - really snow after I was ready to get my golf clubs out? The road to the Kentucky Derby is starting to heat up with tons of important prep races to either further establish a spot or make a last ditch effort to show that they belong... so what am I doing other than getting ready for baseball season to start?
Since I didn't make the cut for the Monmouth SSC finals (congrats again to Terry at Red Rock or Bust for finishing second in the SSC#3 and making the Finals next month) and with no other events on my radar until May (start of the Public Handicapper Summer contest, TVG NHC freebie, and probably one NHC Qualify event in June), I find myself thinking about what I can do to hone my contest skills over the next month and a half.
Tonight, while contemplating a lot of things and having a Rocky Patel Renaissance (medium body cigar, wasn't sold on the first third, but the cigar finished much better than it started), I found myself thinking about contest play and value. I am a stubborn son-of-a-gun and still find myself falling back to my tried and true angles and methods. Anyone who knows me well knows that I spend a lot of time analyzing favorites (strong favorites, false favorites, and my 'Favorite Likelihood Factor' that I figure for all non-maiden races). I have made a lot of money going with strong favorites as keys in doubles and Pick 3's, while also capitalizing by playing against weak favorites. My arsenal of angles may find one or two playable races per card (if I am lucky), but if I am given 30 or so races to play, I may find a few playable races and need to start taking some 'shots' to take late (Jagermeister if you are buying). So what am I not looking at that I should be looking at? Connections. The same jockeys and trainers win a lot... for good reason - winners keep on winning in their niche.
Fact - last year was my worst year at my home track (Monmouth). In the past I have owned that track, knew all the connections, jockey moves, trainer plays. It appears the arrival of another tier of horsemen threw me for a loop. Why? The niches of the horsemen were not the same as what I knew in the past.
Fact - As much as I may hope and wish, the NHC will probably not include Turf Paradise, Penn National, Philadelphia Park (aka Parx), and Hawthorne as any of the contest races... I need to spend some time with the classier crowd at Santa Anita/Del Mar, NYRA, and the Kentucky circuit where horses are less automatic and better 'placed' - change my mindset for these venues and maintain what I do on a day-in-day-out basis at my bread-and-butter tracks.
Fact - I need to find another 'edge'. It is too time consuming to track key races or bias on a circuit I don't regularly follow... finding connections is a little less intense, more observation and gut feel based on 'karma moves'... time to go back and read some of the tabbed chapters of the many books that make up my handicapping library.
Fact - As much as I am still not sure I enjoyed that Rocky Patel, I do have a couple of solid Cohibas in my humidor to assist in further contemplation during my 'downtime' before Derby Day kicks off a few new qualifying opportunities.
Well, I do have a couple of weeks to try to figure things out (again). I must deviate from my comfort zone... time to hit the past performances and start crunching some data...