The winner takes it all – ABBA
The two premier local handicapping contests of the year were held at Canterbury Park on September 12-14. The Ultimate NHC Qualifier was held on Friday night, and the Dog Days of Summer contest was held on Saturday and Sunday. On the line were a total of one Breeders Cup Betting Challenge Seat and three NHC seats, as well as prize money and live bankroll totals. For some of us, this was a culmination of months of playing Super Satellites and Satellite qualifiers, and others chose to simply pay the entry fees and fire away. Either way, the rewards for a high finish were lucrative!
The Ultimate NHC Qualifier on Friday night was played out over 6 Canterbury races. Each contestant had to wager at least half their starting $400 bankroll on every race. I had played in this format one other time and was successful using a conservative strategy of bankroll preservation, hoping that the aggressive players would fire and fall back. Having a game plan is something I have written about numerous times.
Unfortunately, my game plan in this format on this particular night was fool’s gold. The winning scores ended up being much higher than I was expecting, and as I fell further and further behind I had to start taking some wild swings with my dwindling bankroll. Not surprisingly, I tapped out with a whimper in the last race, as I was playing wagers that would make a Powerball enthusiast blush.
Macaroni and cheese, please. Check…
Congratulations to the winner Dan Flanigan ($3,328.50) and runner-up John Fisher ($2,952.60) for earning their way to the NHC on Friday night. They succeeded in a tough format and were deserving winners with incredibly good scores!
The Dog Days of Summer contest immediately followed on Saturday, so there wasn’t anything to do but forget about that personal debacle and move on. The Dog Days format is enticing: start with a $400 dollar bankroll and play any wager offered on live or simulcast racing until Sunday at 5:30PM. A player must wager a minimum of $200 each day.
I had 15 plays in the holster for Saturday, spread out across the simulcast universe with a plan to wager $40 per race including $20 to win on each horse and another $20 in exactas. About halfway through the day, I hadn’t done much and was down about $100 when a horse I played at Los Alamitos rocked the tote board to the tune of $70.60! A $20 win bet and a $10 exacta over the favorite returned over $1,600. That moved my total on Day 1 to nearly $1,900 and was good for second place when the leaderboard was first posted.
I only had the one winner on Saturday and finished the day with $1,700 still in second place.
Sunday came and the leader moved out to $2,800 pretty early. I only had 3 plays on the day which all lost, so it became a strategic endgame for me where I waited until the final hour to assess the leaderboard. By that time, two other players had reached the $2,000 mark and the leader was still well clear. I fired away with some exactas and trifectas in the final hour, but was unable to connect on anything. I put $200 into the final race at Belmont but missed my big exacta when I lost second by a nose at the wire. To be clear, it probably didn’t affect my final position, which was fourth at $1,465. Considering I really only had the one winner in two days, I was happy with it.
I talked to the winner, Steve Wells, after the event to find out how he got to $2,800. He is a win bettor, and he had a few winners on Saturday, including $200 to win on Sistas Stroll at Arlington Park, which paid $17.20. He also had a big win bet on Sheikhzayedroad (GB) which paid $8.30 and he survived an inquiry on that one. Overall, it sounded like he didn’t bet many races, but he sent it in for size when the odds matched his opinions and warranted a play. Congratulations to Mr. Wells for winning an NHC Seat as well as the Breeders Cup Betting Challenge seat! DRF’s Peter Fornatale also details Wells’ trip to Canterbury in his blog.
The second place finisher was Kelly Frost, who got there by hitting the late Pick 4 at Belmont for $2,239 on Sunday. He wasn’t on the leaderboard and then suddenly he was. Well done!
Also finishing in the top 5 was Jay Lietzau who had several close calls throughout the event, including a $100 win bet on an 11-1 shot at Kentucky Downs on Saturday that lost by a nose after being well clear in mid-stretch. A win there could really have propelled Jay to the top of the leaderboard as he could have bet more aggressively in the latter races, where he had three consecutive winners. On Sunday, Jay also wagered on Sheikhzayedroad (GB) and survived the inquiry. But he moved up and down the first page of the leaderboard, ultimately coming up short with his final few plays. The leaderboard is a precarious thing, as players at all stages are seeing their path to victory open and close at the bob of a head.
Thanks to Canterbury Park for hosting the event and I encourage everyone to give it a try next year. Continued success at the windows.