......and pull out a $100 bill! That was the theme of my day at the National Handicapping Qualifier held yesterday afternoon at Sunset Station Casino in Henderson, Nevada.
My day started out in the rental car line at the Mirage to rent a car for the day trip to Henderson. Since it would be a $100 round trip cab ride I decided the $35 rental was money well spent, and would also curtail any alcohol consumption while handicapping. I arrived around 8.30am and registered with no problem with the $40 buy-in and received the rules. The folks at the Sunset Station were very pleasant and helpful answering the 40 questions I had. I learned there would be 5 mandatory races (which I could not obtain on Wednesday...that's a whole other rant) starting at approximately 1pm and running through 2:15pm back to back to back to back and a final race at 5pm. This was the only complaint I had as I had figured to be out of there by 3pm, but now had to alter my day's plans. However it is a casino and they want to keep you there playing/gambling as long as they can, so I guess I could see the reasoning.
The buy-in would be paid out in total (75 contestants @ $40) to the first five finishers (50%/20/15/10/5). No takeout!!! So ~$1,500 to the first place finisher and the top ten finishers qualify for another qualifier on 12/13 at the Red Rock with 2 spots available for the national tournament in January. I had no intentions other than to make a respectable showing and learn a few things on contest play. So here was my strategy going in......1) play nothing lower than 5-1; 2) look for turf races with lots of contenders; 3) stay away from tracks you don't know, concentrate on Belmont; and 4) save a selection for the end, cuz you may need it.
Of course, by 1pm that strategy was out the window. The SpaceGal even gave me implicit instructions to stick to the plan (I never do) because I always regret it when I change the plan even when things aren't going well. My strategy after the first three races turned into "go big or go home."
9:50am: First race...I'm between the opener at Monmouth and the opener at Belmont. Broke rule #3 "stay away from tracks you don't know." LATG left a good suggestion on Joaquin Memphis and I had scribbled some notes in my form about him. He drifts up to 13-1 or so and pays $12.80 to place. Would've been a nice start. Of course, I played Miss South Slope (9-2 ML) that drifted up to 13-1 and it finishes off the board with Joey Bravo's horse the winner paying $6. Note for later, Joey Bravo is the best jock at Monmouth (this much i know)...0 for 1.
11:14am: Third race at Laurel. Again, breaking rule #3 (way to stick to the plan). However, Bella Cavello has a horse in this race (M.E's Smile who I have blogged about), so I looked for a little inside info and traded a few emails on how pace would set up. I play Doots (8-1), who the experts love in the Form, his running line looks good and it's a wide open turf race (so i figured rule #2 overruled rule #3 plus I had some pace info from the BCS owner). I'm worried about the two Gilded horses (Gilded Arrow and Gilded Thread). The Gildeds run 1-2 and Doots finishes 10th with no rally. I'm 0 for 2 and starting to worry about the shutout.
12:12pm: I calm down after an hour of fretting, but letting 3 or 4 races at Belmont pass as I can't decide and think they are chalky (sticking heavily to rule#1). Although I kick myelf for not playing Javier on the turf to get on the board with Show Me the Cash (winner of the 4th paying $9.80/$4.20). So I drift back to Laurel Park again (am I nuts?) and play the 5th race, a 9 horse turf sprint. I really like the chances of What She Said (5-1 ML)...who stays right at her monring line. The race unfolds and she is closing late...i start to yell (i never do this) and there is some bumping...she can't get there and finishes 3rd. I'm going to shoot myself. Wait. Inquiry. Hold the phone. Yep, the stewards move her up to 2nd and I'm on the board, shutout averted. It pays $5.80, I must be in 72nd place.
12:45pm: Go big or go home strategy now in full force. Channing Hill (the mad bomber) is my guy. I watched him win on two pretty niced price horses yesterday while in downtown Vegas and he's my guy right now. He's on Turaath in the 6th (a $500K horse running in a $53 Mdn Sp Wt) with 20-1 morning line. I also have highlighted in the Form the workouts by Vindgari, a firster, from handicapping late Weds night (6-1 ML). I play the bomber who skies up to 41-1. I watched him throughout the Spa meet hit on bombers...this is the one. He looks good, staying back in the early stages, and then makes his charge. I start to yell again as he tries to hit the board with a late close. Arrrrr. 3rd place. Who wins? Vindgari at 17-1 paying $37/$19, which would have added $56 to my tote. Oh well, mandatories start in 15 minutes. I have one non-mandatory play left and a total of $5.80.
12:57pm: Mandatory play #1...8th at Monmouth. I get a place ($2.60) with 8-5 Sister Shockey (the aformentioned Joey Bravo up), who inexplicably went from 4-1 to 8-5 with 1 MTP. I played it too soon. Total after 5 races: $8.40.
1:12pm: This is where I commit the worst mistake ever. I play the mad bomber again, giving up my last non-mandatory play, when I have a horse I have starred and highlighted in the 8th at Belmont (but it's a 12-1 ML and Hill's horse has gone up to 22-1) so I decide to shoot my wad with Channing on Classic Impact who has won at the distance and looks to be freshened. Huge traffic issues and he finishes 5th, only about 5 back. More on the mistake to follow.
1:17pm: Mandatory race #2...8th at Calder (at least I stayed away from there). Don't I have the 6-1 winner Old Faithful (making a major class drop from Sp Wt to Clm) who closes late (no yelling this time) and it pays handsomely ($15.40/$8) adding $23.40 to my total, so I'm now at $31.80, with 3 races to go.
1:37pm: Mandatory race #3...8th at Laurel. I play 3-1 (it was up to 6-1) on morning line favorite Brickel, who wins and pays $7.60/$3.40, so now I'm up to $42.80. Hold the presses, they post the leaders and I'm only $13 out of 10th place. Holy cow.
1:45pm: So now I'm still in the thick of things with 2 races left (both mandatory and one is at Belmont) and feeling ok. But here's where I frigged up. I am watching Belmont's 8th and the horse I liked last night, Let's Fly Away (the horse I have starred and highlighted) with CV up and it creeps up to 20-1. I have no plays left (breaking rule #4 to save one), so what the hell...i play $5 win/place with real money and watch him close to victory paying $43.80/$12.80. I win $141.50!!! Stepped in the mud and pulled out a C-note. I sheepishly collect and the teller asks me for my contest ticket for the play also? Umm...I was out of plays. The $56 would have vaulted me to the lead. Oh well, live and learn. Shoulda listened to the SpaceGal.
2:17pm: Mandatory race #4...9th at Belmont. Sweet Bama Breeze is the odds on favorite. Last night I liked intoxicatinglady and my Weds night handicapping had been on the money so far. SBB has seconditis (as noted by LATG in same post) and I need a longer play. I decide to go big with the #5 Token Choice at 28-1, a horse who has run off turf twice and was meant for turf, so I think it might have a shot to hit second. Finishes 5th , SBB wins (with a total that wouldn't have helped me) and intoxicatinglady finishes 3rd (wouldn't have helped either). Well, that was that.
5:00pm: Mandatory race #5...9th at Fairplex. I've done fairly well at Fairplex throughout the week in the race book. I play Lucky Honey, who finishes 2nd, paying $6.80. I finish with $49.60 on my mythical $40 bankroll ($2.48 ROI). I am pleased with the showing and lessons learned. I leave with a smile on my face. The Sunset Station manager, Paul Morris, promises to send me the final results, but I figure I'm in the top 25 based on the leaderboard postings. I also walk out with a spare $141, thanks to Let's Fly Away.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda. But what a blast. Definitely going to try again someday.
Next time though, I'll stick to the plan (yeah, right).
They're calling my plane.....back to normal tomorrow. I didn't have time to spell/grammar check this post, so forgive any issues.
I love Vegas.