Stress: a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
The Road to Kentucky Week 6 contest track last Saturday was Fair Grounds and the featured race was the Risen Star Stakes. Fair Grounds proved to be a chaotic mess worthy of a mad genius, and if you thought outside the box and were correct with a longshot or two, you had the opportunity to leapfrog up the leaderboard. The maximum available points were 4,531 and that total included 3 runners that were worth over 900 points. In my book, that puts the winning score somewhere in the 2,300 – 2,600 point range although there fantasmical reports in the race book Sunday of scores in the three thousand to four thousand point range. We will find out when scores are posted mid week.
It was crazy enough when first time starter Lough Ness won Race 4 at 29-1 for a 958 point bonanza. But that was outdone a few races later by a 1,136 point horse named Venus Valentine, who rallied up the rail to win Race 9 at 74-1! Then, a third lightning bolt struck as Forevamo finished second in the Risen Star Stakes at 40-1, generating 920 points with the double point bonus. The Risen Star Stakes winner Gun Runner was impressive for Steve Asmussen as he scored the victory at 5-1, but for our contest purposes it was Forevamo that generated the big numbers.
Things were going quite well for me early, as I caught the 29-1 winner in Race 4 and also had the top point horses in the opening two races. I was cruising with 1,346 points through four races. Unfortunately, I hit the wall just as things heated up for other players the rest of the way, and my 1,500+ score will not be good enough for a top five finish this week. I’m not sure if anyone had quite enough mad genius in them to find two of those three longshots, but if so they should really feel confident about taking home the weekly top prize!
It was a busy Saturday, and in addition to the Road to Kentucky contest that gets reported every week, there was a Horse Player World Series (HPWS) qualifier that Canterbury Park had been pre-qualifying players for through the $10 super satellites over the previous seven weeks. The top two finishers would win a trip to Las Vegas to play in the HPWS at The Orleans Hotel an Casino and the third place finisher would win a $2,000 cash prize. This qualifier had my attention split between the Fair Grounds action and other simulcast action across the country. The format was ten $2 win-place wagers capped at $60-$40. A good target score in this format is $100 (although this time the scores were better due to there being three big longshots), and if you have read or listened to my thoughts on competing in this format, you may recall that I am an advocate of playing very high priced horses 20-1 and up until I hit one. Many times it never happens, but I believe that’s my best chance to get my score to the triple digits. To minimize stress levels, I also suggest that if you are playing multiple entries you make a list of potential plays and simply track the odds and make play/pass decisions once the races start. It can be difficult to manage multiple sheets if you are still trying to handicap during the day.
Besides all the fireworks going on at Fair Grounds on Saturday, there was also a big longshot winner at Mahoning Valley in Race 4 named Containment, a 46-1 first time starter I used in the HPWS qualifier, worth $87 in the contest with the caps. At that point I waited until the leaderboard was posted at 3:00 p.m. to see my position, and with nine plays left played mostly heavy favorites after that. There were five of us near the lead that had either played the Mahoning Valley horse or the 29-1 Fair Grounds horse when the leaderboard came up.
There were some crazy things that happened near the end of the contest, but this blog post is already too long to document everything. It came down to me needing a 3/5 favorite at Penn National on my last play to try to move from third into second, and he got a perfect trip and won. With all the good things that happened for me earlier in the day, it was still a coin flip at the end as to whether or not I would make it, but this time it went my way.
The HPWS contest winner, Todd Loose, hit the Fair Grounds bomb as well as an 11-1 at Tampa Bay Downs to get to the winning score of $130. Heather Frisbie was third.
This Saturday we are back to Gulfstream Park for the Fountain of Youth, featuring the top Derby contender Mohaymen. Hope to see you at Canterbury Park.