'Twas the night before the NTRA NHC Qualifier and all through the house,
Not a thing was stirring, not even my mouse.
The PP's were printed, handicapped, and set in order with care,
In the hopes that a trip to Vegas soon would be there.
The winners were nestled, all snug in the races,
ready to be found by some handicapping aces.
I know it is not quite the holiday season... if anything it felt like spring today and baseball season is almost upon us, but my daughter insisted on singing Jingle Bells before... and it kind of got stuck in my head.
Will one of those aces that snags one of the four spots that are up for grab be me? I hope so. This weeks contest features races from Gulfstream (one of my worst tracks), Oaklawn (I haven't handicapped a race from this track in at least ten years), Fair Grounds (two turf races that appear very likely to be on the main track, if they are run at all - Saturday's card was cancelled part of the way through), and Sam Houston (finally a track that I have historically done well at). I nice sampling of races as well - several maiden races, a couple of lower and mid level claimers, a few optional claimers, and one minor stakes race. Sam Houston has always been a track I have enjoyed playing and done well with... decent field sizes, competitive races, and a good mix of turf and dirt races. I used to cover the Fair Grounds online for a couple of meets - I don't think the track bias has changed too much, and some of the same horsemen are still hanging around that circuit. Oaklawn... other than I have heard the Hot Springs are very enjoyable, I know I have no turf races to deal with. Gulfstream - maybe I should just adopt the 'play anything that Jersey Joe Bravo is riding' strategy... that has worked for me when he has ridden at Delaware Park on occasion in the past.
I could have sworn that the NTRA site had originally said the races would come from Aqueduct (which maybe after the lackluster fields offered at the Monmouth SSC last week, they had some reservations), Gulfstream, Fair Grounds, and Santa Anita. I managed to kill a few trees in an effort to get ready, only to find that I had a couple of the wrong tracks printed out. The contest site for this event did have a couple of wrong dates listed and said that the contest races would be posted on Friday afternoon - I guess 4:45 PM is better than nothing... technically they did sneak that in before the EST 'end of business' for the day.
How do I feel this week? I honestly can't really tell you. I felt pretty good about the Monmouth event last week and 'crashed and burned'. Again, not thrilled with the selection of tracks, but at least feel I have a shot with some of them. I have several new ideas in my head that I want to pursue and refine, so after the qualifier tomorrow, I will take a couple of weeks of limited handicapping and spend more time researching, refining, and analyzing data (and spend a much needed night away with my wife in Atlantic City at the Borgata - the best racebook in Atlantic City and the home of Bobby Flay's!) It will be a nice breather before I get ramped back up for the Public Handicapper contest over the summer (which does offer a few spots to Vegas), maybe another shot at a live event at Monmouth (if/when they are actually running), and another online qualifier at the NTRA site.
I will report how I did, time permitting I may even give a race by race analysis of what went right for me... and with some better luck than I had last week, it will include how I made the top four and what I plan on doing between now and the finals in Vegas in January! We'll see how this one ends....
But I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight,
"You won your way to Vegas, and to all a good night!"