Sunday, February 27, 2011

Little Bit O' Luck

Other than being an annoying character for the NY Lottery commercials, I could have really used a "Little Bit O' Luck" on Saturday at the 2nd Round of the SSC at Monmouth Park.

It was really a decent set up by Monmouth, I was able to grab a table to myself in the Terrace Dining Room where they had complimentary soda and water set up.  Included in the contest package was a $10 dining voucher which covered all but a few bucks of lunch from the menu they had available.  Registration did get a little backed up, but all in all, I was impressed by the effort they put forward in my live debut in a NHC qualifying event.

Things I would have done differently...  Knowing now that there was actually a place to set up, I would probably bring my laptop next time so I could make changes to some of my sheets when scratches were announced... finding a table near an outlet would just be an added bonus (good thing I have a spare battery!).

How did I do?  Well, started off 0-fer-6 (a bad start, losing an inquiry and objection, and then a race featuring my horse dumping the jock and taking out a good portion of the temporary rail on the turf course didn't help).  Finally, I 'broke my maiden' and scored a winner.  At that point, I was falling far behind the leader board and starting having to take a couple of shots with a price, which didn't pan out too well.  Ended the day exhausting my bankroll on 1-fer-13.  I did find that a number of the other contestants were very friendly and willing to swap strategies and stories.  I walked away with a number of lessons learned.  I had made an effort to look at all three race cards, when I should have focused more on one or two, and scanned Gulfstream.  If the contest had included my bread-and-butter tracks (Finger Lakes, Turf Paradise, Hawthorne, etc.) I would have felt more comfortable with the connections and track biases (and cheap claimer sprints).  I probably should have stuck to sprints, claimers, and maiden races where I do my best (instead of thinking about who that day would have a shot in the Kentucky Derby).  I should have made my selections and sent my wife to bet... I can pick 'em, but she is the one that can really play 'em. 

Well, time to quickly lick my wounds, rebound, make some changes in strategy, and get ready for the NHC freebie online tourney on March 6th.   Maybe the 'mandatory' style and set wager amounts will be more comforting than pick the races you want and the value and wager you want.

Maybe Sunday will be different...  win that head bob, clean starts out of the gate, keeping the jockey in the irons for the entire race, have my ML 6-1 horse go off at 10-1 instead of 9-5...  Sometimes all you need is just a "Little Bit o' Luck"!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gettin' prepped for the SSC Round 2

The change in handicapping strategy from my normal day-to-day routine is welcome and a little intimidating at the same time.  I am trying to turn my normal handicapping upside as I prepare for the Saturday Round 2 qualifer at Monmouth Park!  This will be my first in-person live contest event, the balance of my contest experience has been online with mandatory races or via the great website (who really does a great job - it has been amazing to watch how that site has flourished over the last several years).

I guess being a fireman in my former life helps me with my day-to-day handicapping... sort of a 'rapid triage' of the entrants and races... if I see nothing I like, I move on and try to find something that raises a flag.  Faced with a minimum of 10 bets, thinking I will probably need to make at least 15, out of 32 races this Saturday.  Aqueduct (inner) is really the only NYRA track I have historically done well at, Tampa Bay has always been a good place for spot plays for me (granted hit or miss on what I find that day), and historically Gulfstream has never been too kind to me.

So what is the strategy?  Aside from my conventional approach looking for spot plays, I am bringing back my old software and over-analyzing pace (early thanks to Fraser for some insight on this one!)  Besides pounding horses I know should win, or have a high probability of winning, I see the need to look for some value late in the cards since I think most entrants will be finding themselves 'swinging for the fences' at some point.  Knowing that the first round was won with a bankroll of of $1,698; with the 15th place (last qualifier) in the range of more than $500; I think I will need the percentages on my side tomorrow.

We'll see if I can 'break my maiden' tomorrow... it has certainly been an interesting couple of days preparing for this contest!  Good, bad, or indifferent, I will learn a lot from this experience tomorrow, and hopefully secure a seat in the April 9th finals!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Who am I? Why am I here?

Okay, so I started off with a bad reference to former vice presidential candidate Admiral Stockdale.  Really though, who am I and why am I here?  Well, with the growing popularity of the NHC and increased purses and exposure, all of us weekend/part-time handicappers have the thought that we could go and win the whole thing out in Vegas some January (heck, just making it there would be an experience... granted, winning would just be the icing on the cake). 

A little background on myself...  I've going to the track for the last 20+ years courtesy of my late uncle who worked at Fort Monmouth and spent many of his lunch hours at Monmouth Park, who passed a lot of his knowledge and gambling skills on to myself.  Being an engineer, I am fascinated by numbers, trends, streaks, and finding anomalies.  Some of my friends will joke that if I saw two cockroaches running along a wall, I could probably analyze the pace and assign speed figures to them!  I started touting online for a variety of different websites (all now defunct) back in the summer of 2000, covering primarily Monmouth/Meadowlands, Philly Park, and Delaware Park;  and finally gave that up in 2006 so I could pursue spending more time with my growing family, focus on my career more, and shoot for my professional engineer license.  The passion for racing and all of the research and data I had been collecting and analyzing never wained.

I have always done well at the track (or simulcasting), using discipline as the most important factor in my playing.  I have kept countless records and databases, even down to analyzing the exact types of bets that I do my best one and limiting play accordingly, so when I was back to handicapping regularly again in 2008, I was ready to hit it hard.  The lure of big money in Vegas was then staring me in the face and with a local man winning the whole thing in 2006 (Ron Rippey - Star Ledger handicapper) I was even more inspired to one day do the same thing. 

So here I am...  realizing my quest is not unique, but the paths we all take to get there are.  I have read several other blogs here (Red Rock or Bust is one I particularly enjoy) and with my wife's urging to use this as an outlet for my frustrations and joys in the process, I decided that I would give the whole writing thing a shot (remember, I am an engineer...  writing was never one of my strong points).

Already having failed miserably in the one freebie NHC online event of the year, I pointing myself towards the Feb. 26 SSC Round 2 Qualifier at Monmouth and the NHC Freebie on March 6th.

A couple quick thanks to end my first post... first and foremost - my wife, she has put up with my banter for years about this angle, that angle, ROI, this track, that bum jock, what if I did this, early speed does that....  Secondly, I would like to thank my late Uncle Dutch... who taught me everything he knew about racing and gambling in general...  my late grandmother who would sit by the phone waiting to hear my Triple Crown Analysis... my friends Jake from Kentucky and Fraser from British Columbia - we have been discussing and bouncing thoughts and ideas off of each other for years.