First, a quick personal note.
LoneSpeed is not yet what I had hoped it would be. To this day, it is essentially nothing more than a personal blog. My hope is that it will eventually become a place where racing fans and bettors can come to be informed and entertained. For most of the last year, my actual career has prevented me from dedicating the needed time to LoneSpeed. So we’ll see if that can possibly change in the future.
On Saturday, Mongolian Groom kicked me in the groin. Hard. And it hurt. Allow me to back up and explain why, while adding some additional historical context.
Last January I qualified for the NHC for the first time, having just joined the “contest circuit” 18 months earlier. I went to Vegas for the NHC in February and did really well, finishing 47th and taking home $6,000. I felt like I had truly arrived on the contest scene.
Six weeks later, at the end of March, I traveled to Chicago to compete in the televised Hawthorne Invitational. Long story short, I grew my $2,000 bankroll into about $5,300 on just five bets, sitting in first place with one race to go- The Floria Derby. Since all 40 contest participants had, by rule, no less than $800 left and were required to wager at least that amount on the Florida Derby, I knew that I had to bet aggressively if I wanted to win. So I wagered it all on Hidden Scroll, and we know how that turned out. I went bust. First to last. $5,300 down the drain. No 2020 NHC seat for me. And it all happened on television.
Fast forward past several abysmal online performances this spring and summer, to August, when I traveled to Indiana Grand to play in their NHC qualifier, which offered NHC seats to the top three finishers in a $2 mythical win/place format. I played two entries, worked my way up the leadboard with both of them throughout the evening, and sat in 3rd and 4th with two races to play. Those two races (the last race of the day from Indiana Grand and the Pacific Classic from Del Mar) were run nearly on top of each other, giving me very little time to look at the leaderboard before the Pacific Classic so that I could make the proper plays with my entries. After missing on the last Indiana Grand race, my two entries were in 4th and 7th as they loaded into the Del Mar gate.
I had decided earlier on the day to play Tenfold with one entry. With the other entry, I settled on Mongolian Groom who was around 18-1 if memory serves (I’m too lazy to look it up). I put in my play just seconds before the broke from the gate.
With 1/8th mile to go, Tenfold wasn’t going to run 1st or 2nd. Mongolian Groom was battling Draft Pick for 2nd. Mongolian Groom rallied late to put a head in front about 50 yards from the wire, only to get re-passed by Draft Pick just strides from the finish. I scored $0 with both entries and finished 5th and 8th in the contest. Had Mongolian Groom managed to stay in front of Draft Pick, I would have been 3rd and would be qualified for the 2020 NHC today.
And then on Saturday, I forked over $3,000 to play in the Santa Anita Win and You’re In NHC/BCBC Qualifier. $1,000 entry fee, $2,000 live bankroll. I had some really good opinions early in the day that just didn’t pan out. And I was down to my last $400 heading into the 8th race and the second of two horses on the Santa Anita card that I really thought could get me into the prize money. The first horse didn’t pan out, obviously. The second horse was Rogallo.
At a juicy 25-1, I gave this one a reasonable chance to run big and maybe pull the upset. This was a 6 furlong allowance race, and given the only prior start sprinting was a win over the surface, I felt it was ok to dismiss the three poor route efforts. So I went all-in, hoping that the odds-on Bob Baffert runner, Comical Ghost, might need a race coming off the four-month layoff.
And this is what happened…….
Yep. He ran 2nd at 27.4 to 1. Beaten 1/2 a length by the 4/5 favorite. $11,360 would have been the return. Instead, I was out. Broke. Bust. I didn’t have the 28-1 exacta, in case you were wondering.
Had Rogallo won, my $11,360 would have put me in 7th place at days end. The Top 8 won prizes. For me, it would have been either NHC or BCBC. I am unclear as to which prizes the six people in front of me would have chosen.
But Rogallo didn’t win. And I had $0 left in my bankroll by the time Mongolian Groom, the horse that just couldn’t get it done for me the day I needed him to merely run 2nd in the Indiana Grand contest, won the Awesome Again over McKinzie at 25-1.
The amount of money I have lost this year in contest play is embarrassing, both live and online. At this rate, I am going to have to make the final table at the NHC just to break even (not really, but I’m not exaggerating that much). It has been a year full of loser words like “almost”, “so close”, and “if only”. In two Canterbury Park contests in September, I made win bets on 14 horses that ran 2nd at odds of between 8-1 and 16-1. After one of my $200 win bets ran 2nd at 11-1, another Canterbury Park contestant looked at me and said “we all have bad luck stories, but I’ve never seen anything like the bad luck you’ve had this weekend.”
I think I am too good of a handicapper not to have an NHC seat at this point, with a mere four months left to qualify. This year, I have made some bad decisions and handicapped too many races badly. But I have also had my share of sharp opinions that just missed. Luck has, undeniably, been against me.
So where do I go from here? I think I have to keep firing. At some point, luck has to shift my way. Eventually, a horse like Rogallo is going to get to the wire first for me and I’ll win a seat and maybe some cash. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.