Tourney Talk- My BCBC Flop

The reason I can sleep at night in spite of a couple of hugely moronic decisions I made in the BCBC is that I was never making money with the final three races being won by Monomoy Girl, Enable, and Accelerate.  It’s not that I didn’t respect those horses.  In fact, I was preparing to use Accelerate in the Classic in a back-up play before deciding on another, stupider, course of action.  It’s just that I had stronger opinions on bigger price horses and decided to swing for the fences.  Those opinions missed, as did most of my opinions over the weekend.  But to be honest, I wasn’t THAT far away from a pretty good performance that probably should have resulted in me leaving Churchill Downs with about $10,000.  Let’s take a look at my bets and discuss where my mind was (or wasn’t)…

For starters, by far my strongest opinion of the weekend was that City of Light was going to win the Dirt Mile.  At one point last week, Plan A was to bet $600 to show on Newspaperofrecord, Line of Duty, and Game Winner just so I could make the minimum Friday wagers and advance to Saturday with something approaching or slightly exceeding a full $7,500 bankroll.  Then, in continuing Plan A, I would have played $600 to show on Marley’s Freedom, skipped the Turf Sprint, and hopefully taken between $7,500 and $8,000 into the Dirt Mile, bet it all to win on City of Light (minus $600 to give myself one bullet should City of Light lose) at odds of 5-2, and take my score to somewhere around $25,000 if City of Light won.  But there was a major problem with Plan A.  Almost everyone I talked to loved City of Light and had serious doubts about Catalina Cruiser.  So was I even going to get 5-2?  It seemed unlikely.  It honestly felt like City of Light might actually go favored in the Dirt Mile, and if he dropped to, say, 9-5, was I willing to risk my nearly my entire bankroll at that return?

And there was another problem with Plan A, and it’s a problem that I need to get over quickly if I am going to continue to compete in live money tournaments.  If I spot something in a race that I like, it is VERY hard for me to make the decision to pass that race out of fear that my opinion will prove correct and I will have no money (or very little money) backing up that opinion.  For instance, in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, I really thought Lily’s Candle had shown such an impressive late kick in Europe that she would be a huge threat to run down Newspaperofrecord.  And in the Juvenile, I loved that Jerry Hollendorfer thought enough of Dueling, who was favored over Game Winner in that one’s debut, to send him to the Breeders’ Cup. And his maiden win was pretty impressive visually.  So did I have the stomach to pass on those opinions in an effort to stay conservative and protect my bankroll for my big bet on City of Light, who might end up being favored himself?  The answer was no.  So I chose Plan B.

Plan B was to try to maximize every opinion I had, giving essentially no added weight to any of them.  My mindset as we approached the Dirt Mile, knowing I had some strong opinions on prices in the races following the Dirt Mile, was to try to hit something with City of Light on top and grow the bankroll for the end of the card so that I could take a big swing and maybe get near the top of the leader board with one bet.  But let’s go back and look race by race at a high level, starting with Friday.

In the Juvenile Turf Sprint, I liked Stillwater Cove and Pocket Dynamo.  They both missed and killed my double in the first leg.

In the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Lily’s Candle was a bad opinion.

In the Juvenile Fillies, I played a cold double with Reflect to Line of Duty.  It missed.

In the Juvenile Turf, I abandoned the planned win bet on Line of Duty when he opened at 2-1, and went with that Baffert horse who was supposed to go to the lead but broke slowly and did no running.

In the Juvenile, I had enough sense to jump off Complexity at nearly the last minute, landing on Dueling who ran like he didn’t want to be there.

I can’t remember exactly where I ended Friday in terms of bankroll, but it was around $4,800. Had I stuck with Plan A (which was never going to happen once I developed the opinion that City of Light would be a short price) I would have ended Friday with more than the $7,500 starting bankroll.

To start Saturday, I played a cold double ending with Audible in Race 1, but missed when my horse ran 3rd.  And then, I decided to abandon Audible to start the race 2 double, and we know how that worked out.

The Saturday BC races started badly as Golden Mischief didn’t run her race and I didn’t have Shamrock Rose anywhere on my tickets.

I played around with the three Jason Servis horses in the Turf Sprint.  That didn’t work.

Then came the Dirt Mile.  City of Light was in fact NOT favored.  By that point my head was all over the place and I didn’t bet him to win.  But I DID hit the exacta for $200, giving me a score of about $6,400.  I also used City of Light to start a cold $400 double to Magic Wand in the Filly and Mare Turf…

…but since I didn’t like Sistercharlie, that double was no good.

Next came the Sprint.  And it was without a doubt the dumbest mistake I have ever made in my gambling life.  And not even with the benefit of hindsight.  Simply because it made no sense then or now.  It only made sense for about 90 seconds as I was walking to the betting machine, placing my bets, and then sitting back down.

With less than two minutes to post, I was planning to bet $1,000 on the race.  An $800 exacta of Roy H over Whitmore, and a $200 exacta of Roy H over Warrior’s Club.   But I had this nagging feeling that either Whitmore or Warrior’s Ckub was going to come flying into an insane pace and steal the whole thing.  And if that happened…if one of my two longshots won and I had nothing on it, then what? Would I just walk back to my car and drive to the hotel?  Would I be able to continue on knowing I had a good opinion and missed?  So I stupidly decided to bet a $20 trifecta part-wheel that hit, and lost money.  The bet:

1st: Roy H, Whitmore, Warrior’s Club

2nd: Add Imperial Hint

3rd: ALL

So, so, so dumb.  There is no excuse for it.  I have nothing else today about that race.

Then came my $1,000 win bet on Catapult in the Mile.  So if we play my favorite game, known as “Double If”….IF I had bet the Sprint like I planned, I would have been at $22,000 going into the Mile.  And IF Catapult had won, I would have been at about $30,000 going into the Distaff.

I likely would have lost about $3,000 on the Distaff on La Force, and then another $5,000 on the Turf given my strong opinion on Magical who ran a fantastic 2nd.  I need to learn to back-up my strong plays, I know.  Because I didn’t play the exacta with Enable. Nor did I play the Mile exacta under the favored winner.  But anyway, playing Double If….

That would have taken me into the Classic with at least $22,000.  And from there, I have no doubt I would have bet $10,000 to win on Mind Your Biscuits, and another $2,000 in exactas that would have missed.  If I had stuck with Plan A, it would have likely been the same result.

So, if I hadn’t outthought myself twice, I probably would have gone home with $10,000 instead of $0.  But that would not have won me a prize anyway.  The most likely “Almost” scenario?  Stick to Plan A.  Bet $7,000 on City of Light.  Climb to $25,000.  Bet $3,000 on Catapult.  He wins. I climb to $55,000.  And I sit tight from there and make one or two plays to end at about $50,000 and finish in 6th place.  So there is the old “Double If”.  IF I stick to Plan A, and IF Catapult wins.  Neither happened.  So I left with $0.

One day I’m going to win one of these big tourneys.


  1. Can Do on November 8, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    Justin – Thanks for the recap but especially for your candor and self-examination. If it helps at all, I had the same fear about Warriors Club and allowed bets on him begin my circling of the bowl which ended with Catholic Boy’s non-effort.

  2. Rich on November 9, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    You will win one of these tournaments. This reminds me of the old saying about how everyone has a plan to beat Mike Tyson until they get punched in the face. It’s the same with live action play. How do you pass on a solid, real opinion on a live BC longshot? Pretty hard to do. One of the challenges is to really think through, ahead of time, what the obstacles are going to be in a live tournament with so many choices. Anticipation.

    What’s impressive is that with your many mistakes, you still put yourself in position to get back into the tournament in a big way.

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