“You can’t take short prices. It’s the road to nowhere.” – Brent Sumja, former trainer and NHC Tour winner, talking about contest strategy on a recent DRF Players Podcast.
It was another marathon week for the Road to Kentucky contest, as Gulfstream Park put on a 14-race card which included the Florida Derby showdown between Mohaymen and Nyquist. There was also the added bonus race of the Spiral Stakes from Turfway Park, all of which I was trying to follow from the ballroom of the Orleans Hotel Casino, host of the 2016 Horse Player World Series.
As strong as the racing was at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, the top finishers in the contest this week will have had to be correct on the winner of the Spiral Stakes, the #5 Oscar Nominated. He was one of four horses entered by trainer Michael Maker, and ended up winning it as the shortest price of the four which was still 23-1. That horse alone was worth 1,564 points due to the double bonus, and with a maximum score on the day of 4,260 the Spiral winner is a must if you are looking at cracking the top five for the week.
The weather didn’t cooperate at Gulfstream Park as rain hit the track early, resulting in a sloppy surface. It didn’t seem to bother Nyquist as he won the Florida Derby pretty easily, disposing of Mohaymen at the top of the stretch and winning over Majesto and Fellowship by open lengths as Mohaymen ran fourth. So Nyquist will head to Kentucky as the undefeated Juvenile Champion, and a lot of sharp players will continue to knock him as being distance challenged and be looking to play against him with both fists, which is the essence and the beauty of this game.
I had a very good week this week in the contest, scoring 2,352 points. I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much as I otherwise might have because I was concentrating on six other tracks in the Horse Player World Series meat grinder. I blanked in the first six contest races, but started picking up points in the second half of the Gulfstream card, and then connected with Oscar Nominated in the Spiral Stakes. (Unfortunately, Turfway Park was not part of the Horseplayer World Series track slate). Rumors from the peanut gallery are that there may be a score out there exceeding 3,000 points this week, which would be quite remarkable. If you had the Spiral winner and also got about 60% of the available points at Gulfstream, I tip my cap to you! I’m hopeful for a top-5 finish, this was certainly my best week so far this year.
As for the Horse Player World Series tournament, it was an absolute blast. Thursday was a very chalky day and I only picked up a couple of second place horses for a score of 284, which was 310th out of 600 players. The second day I was a little better with two 9-1 winners for a score of 588 on the day and 283rd place overall. Saturday I got on a little run with a 9-1 winner at Gulfstream early, and another 9-1 winner at Laurel with my 10th play. At that point I was about 400 points out of the top 60, which was the cutoff for getting paid, with five plays remaining. After a couple misses, I connected with a 14-1 winner at Oaklawn Park in their last race. High fives all around! Check that, there was a long objection into some bumping near the wire and the stewards ultimately disqualified my horse to 5th. Yikes! I know that was a pretty damaging decision to a lot of people in the room, as well as others who may have bet the race. There’s no way to know if that winner would have put me in the money or not since the cut line would have gone up quite a bit, but I figure I would have finished between 50-70th instead of 133rd. Players finishing between 41-60th received $1,200. With two plays left I ran 2nd with a 15-1 shot at Hawthorne and swung and missed with a big longshot at Santa Anita. It was still a great time and I recommend it to anyone thinking about giving it a try. You can buy your way in for $1,500, or you can try to qualify through various contests including those offered at Canterbury Park. The winner of the Horse Player World Series this year was Daniel Kaplan with a score of 3,189.60. He won over 300K for his victory!
This Saturday the Road to Kentucky contest continues at Santa Anita for the featured Santa Anita Derby. There are also bonus races at Aqueduct – Wood Memorial, and Keeneland – Blue Grass Stakes. Hope to see you at Canterbury Park!
(Editor’s note: Per the rules, winners of entries to NHC or Horse Player World Series through Canterbury-sponsored contests are allowed to enter the Road to Kentucky while attending those contests.)