Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fragments of My Imagination

"For disappearing acts, it's hard to beat what happens to the eight hours supposedly left after eight of sleep and eight of work." - Doug Larson

Honestly, I can't remember the last time I got both eight hours of sleep and only spent eight hours at work in a day???  2014 was a blur of a year.  I can't remember a year in my adulthood that blew past as fast as 2014 did.  A lot happened this year - thankfully more good than bad.  It just seemed we never had any real downtime at all this past year and we were always on the go for something...  While I wonder where the time went, I guess more importantly I should ask that if we were so busy all the time, why does it seem like we never actually got anything done?

My quest to make the NHC Finals in Vegas started off strong - I had regrouped, was seemingly in a groove, and had been making a lot of winning wagers, had a rough go of it in the Monmouth SSC but was gaining ground on the way back when losing a photo finish stalled my all-or-nothing comeback attempt.  I was undeterred.  I was making some mental adjustments with each race and each card I handicapped.  I was ready for the summer tourney's to start at Monmouth.  I was squeezing in racecards (and plenty of winning wagers) for a couple of more months when the wheels completely fell off the bus in May.  I missed out on a nice payday on the Kentucky Derby superfecta due to my own stubbornness and not wanting to wager money at Churchill.  I couldn't shake that non-play out my mind and once again found myself doubting my abilities and passion for a almost the rest of the year while talking myself into plays that I should have stayed clear of looking for another potentially large score. While I did have a few moments of brilliance, I ended the year on a more sour note - not even handicapping after September and finishing in the red for the first time in over 15 years.  I passed on all of the on track contests I had originally targeted at Monmouth with Woodbine even after having spent most of the year tracking key races and horsemen stats.  Mentally I wasn't into immersing myself into the past performances.  Suddenly, handicapping found itself relegated to the cold back burner.

"As far as Jimmy was concerned with Tommy being made, it was like we were all being made.  We would now have one of our own as a member." - Henry Hill (Goodfellas)

About the time I was throwing in the towel, a great, if not inspiring, story was evolving.  The NHC Finals are this upcoming weekend in Las Vegas this and while I failed to qualify, Bill Hobolowski from njhorseplayer.com will be making his Finals debut (read how he did it this summer in his post Vegas Here I Come), and in a way representing all of us - the weekend handicapper, the guy squeezing in a couple of races on the bus or train, and guy who gladly puts the races to the side to go throw the football around in the backyard with the kids.  His ability to win a spot via the Del Mar Contest against 3,700+ players is a true testament to his handicapping ability, strategy, and persistence.  So just like in Goodfellas, it is win and gives hope for those of us who have been sharing this journey of ups, downs, and near misses for the last few years.  The only exception here being that we expect that Bill will do a little better than Tommy did getting 'made' - he is currently a huge overlay to win at 100-1 as a propositional bet!

"Don't give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you." - John Wooden

I still want to make it to Vegas and win the NHC as I have over the last four years of on and (mostly) off blogging.  Over the last few weeks I knew I had some decisions to make... Should I renew my NHC Tour membership?  Should I place my annual order from Progressive Handicapping for Sire data?  Should I take the couple of days to update my software's database for the new (and closed) tracks?  All being at the expense of both time and a decent chunk of change (still haven't bought new track par data in a while).

So I made a deal with myself...  I won't give up the dream in 2015, but aim to be more efficient at it.  Purge the handicapping demons of years past.   I know what is working and not working, I know where I need to make some improvements (such as knowing a race sets up for a closer, but can't differentiate which closer will be the right one).  Utilize the tools at hand better and more often - not that my software replaces the need to handicap the races, but it does alert me to favorable (or more predictable) pace scenarios within races.  If a race looks like a poor betting opportunity - PASS!  Actually get to the track for live racing - probably the most enjoyable day of wagering last year was a warm Monday in April when my wife and I shot down to Parx and I watched every race live from the rail.

"Saying goodbye doesn't mean anything.  It's the time we spent together that matters, not how we left it."  -Trey Parker

This wasn't originally going to be part of this blog post, but with the timing of the announcement, I felt like I should at least shoehorn this one in.  It was a matter of time and I think we all knew it was inevitable.  The grounds had fallen into disrepair and the likelihood of anyone sinking a nickel into improving the place was nil.  I can't even remember the last time I remember seeing the infield tote board working.  Atlantic City Race Course is closed.  Aycee and it's gorgeous turf course will likely be another strip mall or condo complex in the near future.  I can kick myself for not getting down there over the last few years, but can at least hang on to the memories of my late grandmother, who would only bet on the grays, and many trips there with my wife where you could get a cheap beer out of a keg, a hot dog from a local high school group, and then shoot over to a casino afterwards to spend your winnings.  I will miss the analysis between races by "the legend on the lawn" and all around great guy - William Hudgins.  His insights there will be missed, but his website continues to provide great information as do his turf angles and commentary in American Turf Monthly.  In years past, I would rush home from work to pull up TVG and the live streaming video of ACRC and William's comments between races.

"I'll be seeing you.  In all the old familiar places." - Frank Sinatra (and many others)

The local online racing blog community has been a great group of folks to interact with and get to know... so feel free to seek me out at the Monmouth SSC #3 in March - I'll be sitting in the Terrace Restaurant down by the glass and, as usual, looking for a table with an outlet.   Otherwise I am planning on a couple of weekeday Parx visits in the spring and "Fair-weather Fridays" in the picnic area during the Monmouth meet this summer will be in order - stop by for a drink and/or cigar...

However, this weekend I will be routinely checking the NHC Finals leaderboard expecting to see Bill's name at the top!  Good luck and may you cash early and often!!!


  1. Awesome post, Ray! I appreciate your kindness, and you really hit on some good points across the board. By no means should you question your handicapping ability. See you at Monmouth in February?!

  2. Thanks Bill! Good luck this weekend! I can't make the February SSC, so I will settle for cleaning up in March!

  3. Best of luck with work, your wife and kids and of course, handicapping. Any time at all that you want to talk horses, betting or ???, we can email or Skype. Fraser Rawlinson