Sunday, December 23, 2012

Racing Resolutions for 2013

It has really been quite a year and still did not find my way to Vegas for either the NHC or HPWS...  mostly because I did not put myself out there other than one SSC qualifier at Monmouth Park and all the freebie NHC/HPWS events (likely would have had a better chance hitting the Powerball and getting struck by lightning during a blue moon on a Friday evening than win one of those free for alls...)

Through all the highs, lows, and curve balls that life threw at us this year, I do find myself wrapping up 2012 on a more positive note, but know that I still have a ton of work cut out for me before I am ready to fulfill my quest to win the 'Big One' (or the smaller one) in Vegas.

Reflecting back on 2012, where did I see my improvement?
  • A good run at the SSC qualifier at Monmouth - went all-in on the wrong horse in the last leg, but made it to the final race and had the field down to two choices... the one I didn't select won for fun.  That day gave me a new perspective on contest/tournament play and really reinforced my preference to a format that allows you to select your plays versus mandatory-only formats
  • Improved my Pick 4 strategy by tracking 'contenders' per race rather totally toss a race where I didn't see a play jump out at me.
  • Assigning a logical play per race with a confidence rating... after all, most contests require a minimum number of plays out of 2 - 3 full race cards and you need to have a bullet late in the game.
  • Improved on my work with horses that have an early pace advantage - when identified, I am seeing a 50% win rate and nice ROI, but like anything else I do, I am still looking for ways to improve on that (track to track par values, form factors, etc.)
  • Started to take race conditions more seriously as a step in evaluating a race - been finding some locked in horses and some hidden value.

What do I do differently moving forward into 2013?
  • Blog more frequently.  My last post was about 9 months ago....  A lot has happened with my handicapping, my takes on certain conditions/angles/etc.  All are things that I should be writing about and discussing more freely with the handicapping community.
  • More interaction with the handicapping community.  Fellow bloggers (and Rutgers Alumni) Terry (Red Rock or Bust) and Bill (NJ Horseplayer) are two great guys I had a chance to meet in person at Monmouth earlier this year.  I enjoy reading their blogs and takes on the industry and how they approach tournaments being in a similar boat as myself ( a full life outside of handicapping ).  The Knight Sky Racing Blog is always a good read on the state of racing here in NJ (and industry wide).  Twinspire's Derek Simon has been a pleasure to interact with via Facebook - between his blog entries, free plays, and the ability to discuss some spot plays, it is great to see his insight and how open he is to discuss thoughts and plays. A new blog I recently started reading more is Equinometry by Lenny Moon - a lot of great subjects and information to be shared there as well.  I have been absent in a lot of this great conversation and exchange of ideas/concepts - something that will be changing in 2013.
  • Make better use of social media.  I have a twitter account that I rarely use... time to post some plays and do more than post a link to my blog entries (or harassing PSE&G as I did post-Hurricane Sandy)

  • Pace.  While I made great strides with analysis of early pace advantage, I need to focus more on the late pace of the race as well.  In races where I feel that the early pace will collapse or be weak, I can isolate the group of late runners - but can't quite put my finger on what makes the eventual winner stand out from the rest of the pack.

  • More focus on the conditions of the race.  I think another good, in-depth read of James Quinn's "The Handicapper's Condition Book" is in order. 

  • Introduce my kids to horse racing.  I have fond memories of going to the track as a kid and doing the early morning backside tour and spending time with my grandmother and late Uncle (who was a professional gambler post-retirement).  They are the future of the sport... let them fall in love with the excitement, the horses, and the setting - they'll be hooked for life like I am.

  • Lastly...  win my way to Vegas for January 2014.  I will be playing the Monmouth SSC and all the freebie NHC/HPWS events, but look for me to play a Horsetourneys or Derby Wars feeder event (like the low price for buy-in)... 

Happy Holidays everyone! 

Here is to a happy, prosperous, and fruitful 2013!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hindsight is Always 50/50

I usually joke at work that when faced with a 50/50 decision, you have an 80% chance of being wrong.  That sums up how my day ended at the Monmouth Simulcast Series Challenge #3 yesterday. 

Entering the 32nd and final race of the day, I sat perched in 22nd place and about $30 of bankroll out of qualifying for the finals.  While not a race I would have normally played, I knew I had to add to the bankroll if I wanted to have a chance to advance.  I had the finale at Gulfstream down to two choices... #3 Eclipticalspraline 3-1 and #10 J. R. Porsche 6-1.  My gut told me to go with the #10, I liked him stretching out after a poor effort going short on the grass, positive jockey switch to Jersey Joe Bravo who rides well for Romans, and the drop from MSW to a 35k tag.  Conversely, #3 had already run well at this level once with what I felt were lesser connections and turned back in distance after running well against a sluggish pace.  My old software had the #3 pegged and even said it was value playing this one down to 4-5.

I chose the #10.  I think he may still be running.  #3 won and returned $6 on the win bet.  I had gone all in.  The net result would have been a bankroll of $522 which surely would have secured me a spot and likely a paycheck. 

Overall, I cashed on 6 of 14 wagers I placed.  Looking back at the day, I saw 4 wagers that were not in my best judgement. 

First, after starting 0-for-3, I elected to go with a show bet on one of my stronger plays with the rational that it would keep me moving in the right direction and save some ammo for the middle portion of the contest - horse won and paid $7.60 ($3.80 on the show) in the 3rd at Gulfstream.  I was gun shy after missing two of my top plays earlier in the card.

Second - in the next race, 5th at Tampa, I had lukewarm feelings about the #11 and figured I could make up the difference on my botched show-instead-of-win bet by playing this one to show... and finished out.  This race wasn't even on my radar for the day.  Ugh.

Third - in the 29th leg, the 11th at Tampa, was my original 'hail mary' play if I was down to my last $10...  #4 Wana Play was a morning line 15-1 shot, my value odds had him playable to 10-1... opened at 3-1 and floated up to 8-1 by post time.  Being later in the day, I threw 20WP at him and watched him burst to the front, only to gimp home after losing touch with the field by the top of the stretch.  This race was meant to be my last ditch effort to take a swing for the fences, not a play I was feeling too good about.  Had he fired back in his old form, he could have taken this field wire to wire... not the case today.

Lastly - in the final race as I described above, I went with a bet on what I thought should have been the most value, but in the end, I should have followed my old tried-and-true software's pick.  Why mess with a good thing?

Overall, I pleased with my performance yesterday.  After peaking at 10th place through 28 races, I made two bad decisions, but otherwise my handicapping was fairly sound.  On the Equibase weekly contest, I ended in 42nd out of about 2,950.  At the freebie NHC online contest, I managed a 40th place finish out of 1,623.  The Meadowlands Winter Survival challenge now finds me sitting in 29th place overall out of 4,895 players.  I am even still alive in the Remington Quarter Horse Survival Challenge.  While please with the direction my handicapping is taking, I realize I still have a lot of work to do and find confidence in some of my newer revelations as well as putting my trust in my old software that I have been making money with for well over a decade.

Lastly, kudos to Monmouth Park for hosting another great event.  I had the pleasure of meeting fellow handicappers / bloggers Terry from Red Rock and Bill from NJ Horseplayer.  Complimentary soda and water coupled with a $10 food voucher (and a decent off-season menu) made sure everyone was fed and happy.  Sophia Mangalee was through the crowd stopping to talk to just about every table offering words of encouragement.  Fellow horseplayers swapped stories, advice, and were a far cry nicer than the crowds I found on recent trips to Atlantic City casino racebooks.

Next live contest for me will likely be the Monmouth/Woodbine contest on site in June... until then, I have some work to do!!!