06/05/2014 2:48PM

Ask Pete Fornatale: How do I approach contests on big days?

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Dear Pete:
I am looking for some advice about playing in contests on big days like Saturday at Belmont. Do you think it’s a good day or bad day to give tournaments a try? Any advice on how to approach a card like Belmont on Saturday as a contest player?

- Undecided

Dear Undecided:

Like so many questions in the realm of handicapping, betting, and contests specifically, the answer is “it depends.”

If I’m being perfectly honest, a day like Saturday would not be my first choice to play in a contest if I’d never played in one before. There is a ton going on anyway, and if I were a new player, I might want to focus on trying to get to Belmont Park in person to possibly witness the first Triple Crown in nearly four decades.

Having said that, for a more experienced contest player, and one who doesn’t have the opportunity to go see history in person, Saturday is an excellent day to get involved. As regular readers know, I am a big fan of the BCQualify.com two-round format, and there is a Round 1 contest Saturday. Unfortunately, because of the spacing of the races, only four of the races on the fantastic Belmont card can be used. Still, it would be easy enough to play in the BCQ event and also have whatever action one wanted on the rest of the Belmont card.

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Another option on big days, in general, is to seek out contest formats in which your picks have to be in ahead of time. That way you can do your contest work and segue to your normal play without having to multi-task. Assuming one doesn’t have a particularly strong parimutuel opinion, tournaments can be a great way to stay out of trouble on big days.

As for the second part of your question, playing in contests on big days gives you a great opportunity to find good-looking past performances on mid-priced or even longshot horses. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play any favorites – as always, I advise that you play who you like (within reason) in any given race – but like anybody else, I love the opportunity to play an obvious contender at an overlaid price. On a big day like Saturday, we should be able to find a few of those (Tonalist and Wicked Strong leap to mind).

Go for the gold,
Pete