01/28/2013 1:32PM

NHC and Gulfstream Stakes Notes

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In the opinion of many who participated in one form or another, the 14th National Handicapping Championship at Treasure Island in Las Vegas was one of the best ever. Honestly, I can't think of one significant glitch that took place this year in an event that is far from a piece of cake to pull off.

As was the case last year, Treasure Island’s set up for this event in the ballrooms on the second floor was ideal. The super sized monitors all along the ceiling line meant there wasn’t a bad view regardless of where one sat. And I don’t know how T. I. did it, but the projection screens in the main ballroom had excellent resolution and clarity that greatly exceeded what one might have previously experienced from this particular technology.

The self service machines that were an option to live tellers received rave reviews from contestants, many calling them the best they have ever encountered. And the wi fi, a critical consideration since so many tournament contestants are computer players, was strong and steady throughout. But most importantly, with some 500 contestants, plus a number of tournament administrators and officials, things never felt too crowded or congested, not even when buffet lunch was served, because there was room enough for three separate buffet stations.

This was year two of a two year contract for the NHC at Treasure Island, and as of this writing, the 2014 NHC does not have a home. But T. I. did such a good job this year that it has to be considered the favorite to host it again next year. Besides, between the ability to house 500 contestants under one roof, have them just one elevator ride away from the tournament site, and with a Pacific time zone that is ideal for a national contest, the logistics of an event like the NHC is made for a Las Vegas site like T. I. It’s also a special treat (and I’ve heard a definite perk for many contestants) that a trip to the NHC the last two years (and its first number of years) meant a trip to the Las Vegas strip. This is a big deal because there is nothing like the Vegas strip.

Like last year, NHC 14 came down to the last race in the tournament and Jim Benes, thanks to a $3.60 place return on his final play that amounted to $550,000 (the difference between first money of $750,000 and second place), got up to narrowly win. In doing so, Benes poked a hole in the theory that contestants who are chasing, as Benes was from second going into the last race, must opt for price over form. Benes wound up making his last play on the favorite (interestingly, the leader went with a 25-1 shot) because, as he told me soon after his win was made official, he wanted to play his own tournament, and go with the horse he liked the best. He did get a break, though, when a 10-1 shot won that race.

Benes is a man of few words, and it was probably a relief to him that he had to hustle off the stage at Saturday night’s award dinner so he and his group could make the start of the Kevin James show. But a couple of people who claim to be long-time friends told me he is really a great guy.

The thing that never ceases to amaze me at the NHC is the camaraderie between the vast majority of the contestants. Unfortunately, you don’t see nearly as much of this at the race track anymore, and maybe the fact that there is a sharp distinction between being a horseplayer, and being a contest player, has something to do with it. The two really are radically different exercises. In any case, it is striking to observe the genuine friendships between many NHC contestants. It’s not surprising, however. The majority of NHC contestants, year after year, are genuinely nice people.

A couple of quick Gulfstream stakes thoughts:

I suppose it’s possible that Itsmyluckyday, who followed his big win in the Gulfstream Park Derby with an even better win in Saturday’s Holy Bull, is only a Gulfstream Park freak. But he has become a running fool, and I suspect he is much more than just a horse for course. His win over the previously undefeated champion Shanghai Bobby in the Holy Bull was thoroughly decisive by every measure.

As for Shanghai Bobby, I understand why his people would want to go on to the Florida Derby. The Holy Bull was his first start since the Breeders’ Cup and though it was his first loss, he earned a career best Beyer Figure in defeat. Still, if ever a horse looked destined to be a miler, it’s him. Shanghai Bobby strikes me as being like Uncle Mo in that regard.

Kauai Katie, who won the Forward Gal earlier on the Holy Bull card, is a very special sprinter. She might only be 3, but I think she’s in Groupie Doll’s class. And if you know how I feel about Groupie Doll, you’d know I’m paying Kauai Katie a very high compliment.

Bernie Caplan More than 1 year ago
MIKE, Great job on Saturday
Ron----------------------------------- Smith More than 1 year ago
Is there some place online that shows what everyone one in this NHC final. Ive yet to find it,if anyone knows where please share. I now the winner and 2nd but how about the rest. Thanks Frapper J
Paul More than 1 year ago
I have found fuwww.ntra.com/en/nhc/nhc-news/2013/1/26/nhc-day-two-current-lead...ll results at the following:
gsolis5 More than 1 year ago
if drf made the odds for the tournament that would not be true odds. The players (Handicappers) or your $2.00 betters make the odds ,if it was not for those tuff old horses who get up win one because they can and that jockey who just thinks if i have a mount i have a chance beats the better horse thats racing. i konw it sucks when your horse that should pay more for being the horse you like but MR , MRS or MISS $2.00 hammers the win button thats racing. LONG LIVE THE LONGSHOT.
Greg Rouch More than 1 year ago
I think Uncle Mo had the potential to be a top nine-furlong horse, unlike Sh. Bobby. He got sick, then when he came back, they knocked the air out of him with that fierce battle in the King's Bishop. As a result, he never had the opportunity to make a step-by-step progression back to top form. I knew at the time that plunging him into a Gr I, seven-furlong race off a rehab was a bad, bad idea. We will never know what he could have done if they had eased him back into racing. Obviously, Sh. Bobby could get lucky and get an easy lead on a speed-favoring track and win a nine-furlong stake or allowance, but that wouldn't count as proving he's a top nine-f horse.
Greg Rouch More than 1 year ago
You have the right take on Shanghai Bobby .......... I have been thinking that they should point him to the Met Mile, instead of the Triple Crown races. Even though he is a 3 yr-old, he would have an excellent chance at that one-turn mile. He will improve off his 2012 debut. I question, by the way, whether It'smyluckyday would beat him again at the mile distance, now that SB has had a tightener, even tho I picked It'smyluckyday for the Holy Bull because he was race-fit. I'd still pick It'smyluckyday over SB in the Florida Derby, because of the increased distance. It'smyluckyday should skip the KY Derby, tho, and pounce in the Preakness.
Stewart W More than 1 year ago
Aside from the post-position edge at 1 1/16 miles, Shanghai Bobby's first race as a three year old was far more impressive than any of Uncle Mo's comeback races as a 3 year old. Shanghai Bobby had to run fast while pressured and still beat the third place horse by a dozen lengths, while Itsmyluckyday ran a great race to beat him. Uncle Mo's Timely Writer was a phony pace race from the get-go, waltzing through Fairmount Park-like fractions versus horses who had just broke their maidens.
Mary Raymond More than 1 year ago
I totally agree. The race was written specially for him for fear that Gulfstream would loose him to the Tampa Bay derby.........Bert D
michael More than 1 year ago
While it's nice to hear that the few handicappers who qualified had a good time, the audience for this is very limited. Why write an article directed at 200 people??
Benjamin Ricciardi More than 1 year ago
why complain about it?
Jeffrey Sparks More than 1 year ago
because michael, we are special and so (maybe) is someone you know.
David Wallace More than 1 year ago
The whole betting structure is a joke. Why doesn't DRF determine the "tournament" odds of the mandatory races. Since everyone is bombing away, a $50 win horse would probably only pay $12 if only the$2 win bets made up the pool. These tournament payoffs need to be based on a tournament pool. Then we would see who could handicap. winners
Ron Bowden More than 1 year ago
I have played in this tournament 3 years and each time I have watched player enthusiamsm drop like pigs out of the sky when the first longshots are hit. What I don't quite understand is why the DRF who does an outstanding job of providing detailed info for the handicaper embraces a tournament that is designed to basically toss all that out the window...which almost every player appeared to do after longshots start appearing. If you are going to play odds, trainers and jockeys who needs the DRF..the program works just fine? I say give everyone $5k or $10K on their wager card and then see just how much those longshot swingers want to risk. As they say....put your money where your mouth is.....? BTW....I got third place in the qualifying tourney by hitting one crazy longshot that I played only becuase they added blinkers and the horse looked good on the track....that is NOT handicapping and I didn't need the DRF for that stab!
Lounge Lizard More than 1 year ago
I've played the past two years now and a few qualifiers to get there, and to piss and moan about longshots and structure just goes to show that you really have no clue as to the bottom line of how this works. If you use 8pts for par which is standard for tournament play, that just doubles your bankroll. This year 128 to start, prior year 120. Only two players this year doubled their bankroll. Last years top two were just under the 240 par figure. The dead money launches at bombs throughout the tourney and may be lucky if they hit 2 caps. The players that grind out winners between 4-1 and 8-1 will usually be in the hunt for the title. There is nothing wrong with the structure, although I would like to see the best bet be a $4 win bet $2 place bet just to make that bet a bit more strategic. Most best bets were definitely cast to the wind on 20-1 or higher.
mrbelmont More than 1 year ago
the TI hotel is a step up from a cave in Afghanastan. Horse players are compt below my home track 's low %. Food is horrible , there were at least 8 guys from toronto , and none of us ate in this hotel besides the free NHC spreads. the TI guys have no clue , closing the betting after the last at Santa Anita with 500 hosreplayers`in the room LOL. if the guy that ran the horse book ran the phone company, we would be using smoke signals in a week
gallopingtom More than 1 year ago
Who would want to go to the FOY after seeing the start of the Holy Bull. Horses would have a better chance if they started 1 1/6 races on A1A. Too gimmicky! Shanghai Bobby had a huge advantage with his post in the Holy Bull. Itsmyluckyday did not. I also wouldn't concern myself with pedigree. Find me a contender right now with a 1 1/4 pedigree?