Thanksgiving is a day of feasting on food with family and friends but it's also the start of a fantastic extended weekend of horse racing. Aqueduct has the Cigar Mile, Demoiselle, Fall Highweight and Remsen. Churchill Downs has the Clark, Falls City, Golden Rod and Kentucky Jockey Club. Hollywood Park has the turf festival, which includes the Generous, Matriarch, Miesque and Hollywood Derby.
With all those big races and the supporting races around them betting opportunities abound and so do handicapping contest opportunities. In particular Derby Wars planned to offer four big money contests, with one on Friday, two on Saturday and one on Sunday.
I planned to enter all four as I had earned entry into two of the four and had a $77 token, which could be used for one of the other two. If all went well I would enter the fourth.
After staying up way too late handicapping on Thursday night I felt pretty good about my selections for Friday's contests. In the first race I went with the favorite in an off the turf race at Aqueduct. He won and paid only $3.70 but hey it was a winner. After my selections in the remaining races ran up the track I was a bit dismayed at how bad my handicapping was.
From past experience I know that whenever I have a really bad day and get the urge to take a break I should ignore my gut feeling and take a shot the next day because somehow I usually do a 180 and have a great day.
The two big games on Saturday were the $5K High Stakes game and the $5K Saturday Game. To buy into the former would cost $475, a sum that is a little above my comfort zone, but that was not necessary as I had won a qualifier earlier in the week that paid my way in. To buy into the latter would cost $77, which is in my comfort zone, but I just happened to have a $77 token that I was holding onto for just this kind of opportunity.
Both contests consisted of races from Aqueduct, Churchill Downs and Hollywood Park but the lineups were slightly different.
I got off to a slow start in both contests and instantly I started thinking that it was a mistake to play after the terrible day I had the day before. Sitting in a tie for last place in both contests my selection for race 8 at Churchill, a maiden special weight, opened up at half his morning line. That got me a little excited because someone else liked him and in 12 horse field taking that much money meant he was live.
The horse was Bourbonize, a first time starter sent out by Kellen Gorder. Gorder has above average success with first time starters and Bourbonize is out of an above average debut sire, Tiz Wonderful. Of the horses that had started none looked like a world beater so the
selection of a firster with both a good debut trainer and sire was a no brainer. Bourbonize won comfortably and had drifted up to 17/1. His win netted me $44.40 and vaulted me to the lead in both contests.
After a couple of minor cashes I remained at the top in both contests. Then came the Miesque at Hollywood Park. In a six horse field, especially a stakes race, rarely does a golden opportunity present itself. In this case it did because I was against the odds on favorite Clenor.
Clenor had won her first three races since coming over from Europe. In her fourth US start she was trounced in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Her three wins earned sub par speed figures and her closing fractions were not spectacular.
The horse I was interested in didn't figure to offer a ton of value but she had the most upside in the field of six. Full Ransom had only a maiden win to her name but in that race she set the pace, came home quick and earned a respectable speed figure. If she could take a step forward she could easily win. The only question was could she rate and finish as the race was loaded with speed.
Full Ransom entered the gate at 12/1, which was a major overlay in my opinion. She dropped back early and appeared beaten when the field entered the stretch. The front runners started to slow down as the field neared the wire and Full Ransom kicked it in late to get up by a head at the wire. She netted me $37.60 and pushed me to what looked like an insurmountable lead in both contests.
In the $5K High Stakes game I coasted to victory by $38.50 but in the other $5K game I held on by a nose ($0.20 to be exact). The High Stakes game win was worth $4,000 and the other $5K game win was worth $2,000.
Thus is the beauty of Derby Wars. I parlayed $47 (the cost to enter the High Stakes qualifier) into $4,000 and $29 (the cost to enter the 3 player game that won me the $77 token) into $2,000. Where else can you turn $76 into $6,000? Sure you could hit a monster Pick 4 or Pick 5 or Superfecta but in all those cases you must be right in every race or position. In a handicapping contest you only need to be right a couple of times, in my case twice, to take down the first place prize.
After a disappointing Friday and a great Saturday I took a shot on Sunday in the $10K game but came up empty finishing in 42nd place. My entry into that contest was also paid for via a qualifier ($47 for the $235 token).
The takeaways from my weekend are you have to keep plugging away because one good day will make up for dozens of bad days. You have to take advantage of the opportunities to earn an entry into the big games on Derby Wars by playing in qualifiers for a fraction of the cost of entering the big games. You have to look for the long shots that will be the difference in winning and losing but you also have to know when to go with logical horses. Finally you have to take the highs with the lows because no one can win every time.
Every weekend Derby Wars offers two or three big games and every day leading up to those games they offer the chance to get in for a fraction of the cost. Take advantage of those opportunities and you too can take home a four figure prize.