“You rarely win, but sometimes you do” – Harper Lee: Author of To Kill a Mockingbird
The annual Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest starts on Saturday, January 17. This year the contest has been expanded by two weeks, so it will be 16 weeks of contest action culminating with the Kentucky Derby on May 2. The contest offers $30,000 in total prize money and is free to enter, so why not follow the horses as they try to qualify for the Kentucky Derby and maybe win some prizes along the way?
The contest format is “pick and pray”, meaning all selections are submitted prior to the first contest race. Each week will feature one chosen contest track with a prominent Kentucky Derby prep race, and some weeks will also feature added bonus races. The top 5 finishers each week are awarded weekly prizes, and the top 30 finishers in cumulative points are awarded overall prizes. There are also points doled out along the way as part of the larger Canterbury Park Handicapper of the Year award. This year, the weekly winners will also be entered in a bonus contest on May 9 for a chance to win a share of $800 in additional prize money!
As for contest strategy, I recommend taking a lot of chances. It’s very difficult to beat 400 other people with a series of 3-1 shots. There are several times per day where the favorite will look strong, but I encourage people to resist taking horses that have a 100 point ceiling and instead reach for something else. Even if the favorite wins, the place finisher will often generate more points than the winner. My belief is that the players using a higher risk-reward strategy, stabbing at longer-odds horses throughout the contest card will put themselves in better position to be successful in this format.
Good Luck in Road to Kentucky 2015. This Saturday the contest track is Fair Grounds.
(The author is the defending Canterbury Park Handicapper of the Year and has won the award three of the past four years. He will contribute a weekly recap throughout the Road to Kentucky contest.)