About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 12-time qualifier to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He recently won a $24,000 package into the 2016 Kentucky Derby Betting Championship. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is also a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program. He is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 12-time qualifier to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He recently won a $24,000 package into the 2016 Kentucky Derby Betting Championship. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is also a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program. He is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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A First Time Starter at the Wynn Handicapping Challenge

“Here were two tournament veterans wanting in on my action.  A far cry from just wanting to avoid embarrassing myself. “

By Justin Dew

A social media friend of mine pointed out to me that when one’s name is misspelled publically, it’s thought to be a sign of good luck.  Perhaps that’s what led to my 7th place finish in the Wynn Handicapping Challenge.  Or perhaps it was “Misspelled Name’s Luck” better known cousin, Beginner’s Luck.  Regardless, my experience in my first ever $2 Win/Place format tournament with an actual cash prize on the line has brought me to the conclusion that I am going to be taking part in these events for a long time to come.

The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge was my first handicapping tournament of any kind, and since then I have participated in several online qualifiers.  But the 2017 Wynn Handicapping Challenge was the first time I had ever competed for real money, other than the live money BCBC.  I am typically not a big goal setter, so I aimed low for the Wynn event: don’t embarrass yourself.  With $64 in mythical wagers each of two days, I would have been perfectly happy earning a score of $128.10 and looking at my lost $2,000 entry fee as an investment in my education.  Seriously.  My expectations were that low.  Especially after trying and failing to qualify for the event online four times at an additional cost of about $800.

I downloaded the Saratoga and Del Mar past performances on Thursday before my flight from Orlando to Las Vegas, but other than a cursory glance to get a feel for what the respective cards had in store, I didn’t do one second of handicapping before the event.  Not one second.  I am a huge believer in avoiding paralysis through analysis, and my limited experience in online qualifies has shown me how frustrating it can be to warm up to a horse at 12-1 on the morning line, see that horse open at 6-1, find another horse at better odds, and then watch the first horse win at 10-1.  So I knew I didn’t want to make any emotional commitments to any horse before I had a chance to see the tote board.  And with more than 30 minutes between races at Saratoga, I knew I’d have plenty of time to handicap.  So I essentially went in blind.

Me and my iPad arrived at the Wynn Sportbook about an hour before the Friday opener at the Spa.  There was no assigned seat for me since I had just registered that morning.  I was placed at a small table with two other guys who would become friends by the end of the weekend.  We will call them Scott and Brian since I neglected to get their permission to use their real names for this little story.  Scott and Brian were playing as a partnership.  I had seen Scott’s name on tournament leaderboards before.

With 30 selections over two days, I’ll spare you a breakdown of each horse I used and stick to the highlights.  After running last and second last with my first two plays, I used my one daily $4 Win and Place wager in the 3rd from Saratoga [Wynn rules allow one ‘double bet’ each day].  I wish I had kept the PPs from both days so I could tell you why I picked the horse, but I didn’t.  Anyway, Hardened won and paid $18.80 and $7.90.  Since I “fired my big bullet,” that horse was worth $53.40 to me.  After only three races, I knew I was near the top of the leaderboard, which I wouldn’t be able to actually see until the end of the day, per Wynn rules.  The Saratoga card would end with me only scoring on one other horse: Petrov, who paid $7.60 and $4.40.

In the 4th at Del Mar, Into Rissa (if I remember correctly) was moving into state-bred company from open maiden special weights company at about 12-1.  She ran 2nd and paid $10.20 to place.  I had used a short-priced winner earlier on the card and then blanked from there.  So I scored with four of 15 picks and had a Day 1 score of $85.80, good for 16th place out of 241 contestants.  When the Day 1 results were posted, I was identified at J. Drew.  My social media friends had a field day.

I approached Day 2 pretty much the same way.  Minimal prep and low expectations.  And I struck early and hard.  After initially planning to skip the first three races, I ended up playing them and making a move that would make me a contender for the victory.  In the 2nd race at Saratoga, an Al Stall Churchill shipper caught my eye, so I fired my $4 bullet and he won at 6-1.  Behavioral Bias paid $15.60 and $6.60, times two.  And in the very next day, me and my tablemates Scott and Brian both used 9-1 winner Estrechada.  Javiar Castellano had now won two in a row for me, and I was up to $74.00 for the day and $159.80 for the tournament.  The table celebrated together.

It was after the next race, the 4th from Saratoga, that things got interesting.  Scott and Brian used a Mott first-timer named Trumpi who won and paid $47.40 and $20.20.  This put them up near the $150 range, and right into contention with me.  Just then, as I started to handicap the 5th race, I noticed Scott motioning Brian to follow him out in to the casino.  I figured they were going to come back and inform me that tournament protocol dictated that we had to either switch tables or stop talking openly about our opinions since both parties were now in contention for some serious cash.  I was wrong.  They returned to the table and a fresh round of Diet Cokes (I think both of them combined for between 30-40 Diet Cokes over the weekend).  Scott said “So Justin.  We figure you are in the lead and we are in the Top 5.  How about we each agree to hedge for 10% of each other’s winnings, and we keep playing openly like we have been?”  Wow.  Here were two tournament veterans wanting in on my action.  A far cry from just wanting to avoid embarrassing myself.  I agreed, and it was on to the rest of the Saratoga card.

I would only hit three more horses from my remaining 11 selections.  The highlight for me was a D. Wayne Lukas runner in the 11th race named Warrior’s Club, who almost stole the race at 26-1 before Neolithic ran him down.  That extra $54 would have come in handy, but I settled for the $11.60 place payout.  I did manage to score with my final two picks, adding about $20 or so.  After two days, I had accumulated a score of $189.20.  Scott and Brian were in the low $160 range.  It was all over.  Time to wait.

It took about 45 minutes for the final results to be posted.  The people sitting around me speculated that I had a shot at the Top 20.  I was letting myself dream about maybe the Top 15.  Though I was fully prepared to be disappointed by a 25th-place finish, which would have been out of the money and out of the Top 10 percent.

But I was not to be disappointed.  I had finished in 7th place overall.  Scott and Brian also cracked the Top 20 and took home some cash.  My finish was worth $8,500, minus the 10% cut for Scott and Brian, plus 10% of their winnings to me.  I was absolutely stunned.  I never expected to perform so well.  It was truly beyond my wildest expectations.   In a room full of people who had done this many, many times before and who in some cases were viewing multiple laptops at once as they analyzed replays and charts, I had somehow managed to finish 7th without even looking at the past performances until there were 30 minutes to post.  I’ll say it again: I was stunned.

Scott and Brian invited me to the Wynn buffet, where I literally pinched myself half-a-dozen times just to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming.  To be honest, while the money was nice and will fund my return to the BCBC this year, what I really was excited about was knowing that I can compete with the best handicappers on the tournament circuit.  Maybe not every time.  Maybe not even most of the time.  But at least this time.  For at least a race or two, I was in the lead against 241 other handicappers.  And I ended up beating 97% of the field.  Was it Beginner’s Luck?  I guess time will tell.

 

 

Seminole Hard Rock Collects $579 Million, Versus $578 Million For Eight South Florida Racetrack Casinos

Historic Racing game slot machinesSouth Florida racetrack casino owners merely shake their head when they asked how they can compete with the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. My recent calculations illustrate why.

Seminole Hard Rock Resort & Casino The Seminole Hard Rock’s haul for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, totaled more than $579 million. That’s… [Read more…]

Is Horse Racing Dead? KY Derby Telecast Viewership Largest Since 1989

NBC Sports Network horse racing tvNBC Sports’ coverage of the 143rd Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) posted numerous viewership milestones according to fast national data provided by The Nielsen Company and digital data from Adobe Analytics.

Source: Derby Telecast Viewership Largest Since 1989

AGOS Horses to Watch – August 10, 2017

Saratoga Racecourse

7/29/17

Race #7 – Alw – 1 1/16 on the turf – Mom’s On Strike

#7 – Mom’s On Strike = Filly by First Dude and she came flying late last in the $200,000 Pebbles. They made a rider change from Rajiv Maragh to Luis Saez who is winning (16%) on the turf and making her first start in 9 months. She was dropping in class and saw every bit of the track this day getting caught 4 wide on the first turn and 5 wide on the final turn. She closed like a downbound train getting beat by a 1 3/4. She’ll get into gear and rebound greatly off this race.

Race #9 – G2 Bowling Green – 1 3/8 on the turf – Sadler’s Joy

#4 – Sadler’s Joy = Son of Kitten’s Joy was making his first start off the shelf in 49 days for Thom Albertrani. He was exiting the G1 Manhattan and looked to fit like a glove in this race. Javier Castellano was weaving in and out of traffic getting caught wide a few times. Once he shook free and started to roll he was inhaled by the top two down the lane. I’m tossing this one to “race-rust” and we’ll look for good things to come on the next outing.

Race #10 – G1 Jim Dandy – 1 1/8 – Pavel

#4 – Pavel = Trainer Doug O’Neill shipped in from California off an impressive 6 1/2f mdn win. This son of Creative Cause may be a good runner to follow as he had to show the connections he has the makings but he may need a little more time. From a maiden score to a G1 across the country may have been too much to ask. Keep your eyes peeled for him next time out as I think he’ll reward his backers coming soon.

Saratoga

7/30/17

Race #8 – A.O.C – 6f on the main – Duquesne Whistle

#3  Duquesne Whistle = Son of Posse from the Linda Rice barn had the services of hot rider Ricardo Santanna. He was making his third off the shelf (25%) and had a bullet work on 6/25 before his victory on 7/1/17 at Belmont. He looked like a good play at (12-1) and he lost his footing at the start and then had to be “snatched” up by the rider to keep off of another runner. Once he got moving he made a solid effort running 4th this day.

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Maryland’s Ben’s Cat was Something Very Special

Delaware Park walking ring, horses. June 2013. Photo by Art Parker for AGameofskill.com

copyright Art Parker & AllStarPress.com

Through his eight-year racing career, Ben’s Cat developed a cult-like following among thoroughbred horse racing fans in the mid-Atlantic region. It got to the point that it was an event when Ben’s Cat ran. His admirers traveled to watch him in the …

Source: HORSE RACING: Ben’s Cat was something very special

AGOS Horses to Watch – August 7, 2017

Saratoga

7/22/17

Race #7 – AOC $62,500 – 5 1/2f on the turf – #10 – Vici

Vici = Irad Ortiz for Ben Colebrook as they brought a son of War Front to post. He made a flying move going 6f on the sod getting beat at the wire. They dropped him back to 5 1/2f on the weeds and he was 3/3 ITM going this distance. He came into the race with a bullet work at Keeneland and tipped off going four wide to get rolling. The four wide trip became 7 wide and was beaten by a head in a photo by his ultra talented brother Jose. This wasn’t the first Ortiz brother exacta, and it surely won’t be the last. But this guy will come guns blazing next out at the Spa.

Race #9 – The G3 Sanford – 6f on the main – #4 – Free Drop Billy

Free Drop Billy = Robby Albarado in the saddle for Dale Romans. This son of Union Rags was (15-1) on the morning line and was sent off (3-1). – He was an impressive winner at first asking at CD and had a blistering work over the deep Louisville track two works back in 1:00.03 1/32 for the day and distance. The public hammered him at the windows and so did Admiral Jimmy leaving the starting gate. Once he got rolling he went 4 wide chasing down the leader only to settle for the place spot. – Kentucky runners are doing well at Saratoga and you can’t keep Romans off your ticket if you want to cash it right after the race.

7/23/17

Race #7 – Claiming – 6f on the main – #6 – Nisha

Nisha = Irad Ortiz in the irons and was shooting for three-in-a-row. He stumbled badly at the start and recovered his action only to slam into Courtmewithcarats. After that little smash-up, he was pinched back and made a stout five wide move to be third. He’ll come back nicely and probably it will be on the Saratoga lawn.

Race #11 – Mdn Claiming – 1 mile on the turf – #11 – Prognostication

Prognostication = Jose Ortiz for Chad Brown and is a good stalker. Ortiz sensed average fractions and made a quick move and jumped into 2nd keeping an eye on the leader. He was a beaten chalk last out and was sent off the odds-on choice today as well. – He couldn’t have looked any better with the talented Ortiz aboard but got leg weary down the lane getting the show dough. Next out he’ll be a major player.

 

Belterra Park

7/23/17

Race #8 – Claiming – 6f on the main – #4 – Super Franchise

Super Franchise = Gabriel Lagunes for Webster Rosello (28%). He was dropping down from condition $10,000 to condition $7,500. – He hopped at the start and was off poorly. Lagunes had him in high gear and put together a late rally that really caught my eye as he finished a solid third.

7/29/17

Race #3 – Mdn Sp Wt – 1 1/16 on the turf – #6 – Grey Queen

#6 – Grey Queen = Shipping in from Indiana Grand for the Calumet Farm connections. Edgar Paucar was the rider and trainer Jose Fernandez is winning (20%) on the year. – This daughter of More Than Ready was blocked, shuffled back and still came flying very quickly to be a bridesmaid this day. – She gets her picture taken next out with a cleaner trip.

Race #4 – Starter Alw – 1 3/16 on the main – #4 – National Defense

#4 – National Defense = Solid gelding shooting for three-in-a-row. He was 6/8 ITM over the track and made a perfect stalking move under Euclyn Prentice Jr. – He made a ground saving move against the rail and tried to tip off for clear sailing. He was impeded and blocked and was forced to settle for 3rd until a DQ placed him 2nd. I spoke with the riders after he had a meeting with the stewards over this incident and the rider felt he had the best horse by far and lost much of his momentum after being forced to check up off heels. – He’ll be a tough guy next time to the races.

 

Show Us The Money? The Plight Of A Simple Pari-Mutuel Wager

Where money goes in horse racing

The modern menu of betting options in North American horse racing has reached dizzying levels. Daily Double, Pick 3, 4, 5, 6, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, Super High Five, Pick 6 jackpots, Grand Slams, Place Pick All. You get the idea.

Source: ‘Show’ Us The Money? The Plight Of A Simple Wager

August 26 Travers Stakes Set for a Great Horse Race

walking horse through Saratoga crowdSource: NYRA

Grade 1 Haskell Invitational winner Girvin shipped in to Barn 77 on Saratoga’s Oklahoma backstretch Monday morning after his victory by a nose over McCraken on Sunday afternoon at Monmouth Park. If all goes well in the next few weeks, the son of Tale of Ekati will make his next start in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on August 26, said trainer Joe Sharp.

“More than likely, we’ll run here,” Sharp said. “That is the way we are leaning, but we will also look at the Smarty Jones [at Parx, September 4] and the Pennsylvania Derby [September 23]. We always keep our options open.”

“He gives it his all every time, and he did that yesterday,” he added. “He never wins by a lot. He likes to engage other horses, he likes to be in a dogfight. It makes it fun to be around him. He is a very honest horse, he tries very, very hard. He continues to go above and beyond our expectations.”

The Louisiana Derby winner finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby before finishing as the runner-up to Irap in the Ohio Derby. The Travers would be Girvin’s eighth career start.

A Haskell rematch could be in the works in the Travers as Ian Wilkes, trainer of runner-up McCraken, who also returned to the Spa on Monday, has expressed his team’s intentions to point to the Mid-Summer Derby as well.

“Yeah, I am planning on it, the Travers,” Wilkes said. “As long as he trains well, because I’m not just going to run him just to run him. A final decision will be made in a few days after we get him back to the track.”

The son of Ghostzapper finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby, but returned to win the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs in his previous start before the Haskell.

Is Horse Racing Dead? Wagering Increased at Laurel Park Winter Meet

Usain Bolt lessonThe Maryland Jockey Club reported substantial across-the-board wagering increases during the 56-day winter meet at Laurel Park.

Source: Wagering Increased at Laurel Park Winter Meet

Does Weight-for-age Give 3-year-olds an Unfair Advantage?

Punters / Handicappers Decide for Yourself

The Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on Saturday is known as ‘the clash of the generations’ because it regularly pits the best 3-year-old colts and fillies in Europe against the cream of the older horses.

Source: Does weight-for-age give 3-year-olds an unfair advantage? Decide for yourself