01/30/2008 3:03PM

Q&A 1/30/08


I'm not going to pretend to complain about all this recent travelling (I know, spending much of January in Miami, Beverly Hills and Las Vegas is a brutal hardship), but it does get in the way of one's serious horseplaying. Had to pass up today's little $47k carry at Aqueduct due to lack of preparation, so I'll root for a double-carry and get tied back on by tomorrow.

Before getting to your specific questions, let me say a couple of things about all the posts suggesting ways to tinker with the format of the National Handicapping Championship. One thing we've learned through putting this thing on for almost 10 years now is that there's no format that everyone likes or that can be called a definitive test of handicapping ability. The "Handicapper of the Year" award that goes to the NHC winner isn't meant to be a certification that this individual is America's greatest handicapper on a regular basis. The idea of the award was to recognize a horseplayer that night along with horses, owners, trainers, breeders and jockeys, given that we horseplayers are the ones who fund the game. That led to the idea of a year-long circuit of contests culminating in a tournament of champions.

There are dozens of ways the contest could be structured differently and we really do consider changes on an annual basis, but there's also something to be said for keeping it pretty much the way it is to provide some continuity and historical context.

One idea that keeps coming up, and that we'll think about again for next year, is allowing one "double up" bet each day of the NHC. The pros: This allows players to get extra credit/value for their strongest opinion, and adds a strategic element with at least a nod to bankroll management. The cons: This might put an even higher premium on a single wacky longshot's victory, especially if players save their double-up bet for a Hail Mary toss at the longest shot in the last race.


--marshall says: Did these experts lose at a 27% clip? Overall only 62 players of 278 finished ahead of $120. Assuming all contestants bet their full allotment of races, they returned $24,530 from $33,360 wagered. I know the tournament encourages aggressive play and rewards longshot winners, but this is discouraging --- if the experts can't collective win than how am I supposed to beat the take?

I think you answered your own concern with your comment about aggressive play. While something like half of all win-pool handle is on horses who are 5-2 or less, I would guess that under 5 percent of tournament bets are on such horses. For tournament purposes, it simply makes no sense to play 2-1 shots, much less 2-5 shots. I wouldn't be discouraged by the aggregate loss given that people were deliberately betting against perfectly logical horses. I doubt there were many tournament bets placed on the likes of Benny the Bull or Ginger Punch last Saturday.

paul_k says: Why weren't there any media at the event (i.e., ESPN, TVG, or HRTV)? I was disappointed that this years NHC did not get the same publicity it has in the past.

From the clips I've seen, the event got as much print coverage as ever; what was missing was TVG, which is cutting back coverage amid a recent sale and uncertainty about its future, and the ESPN broadcast we tried a couple of years ago -- which may have been the lowest-rated and least watchable hour of programming in ESPN history. I'm not blaming the network -- they spent a pile of money and used the same producers as their wildly successful World Series of Poker telecasts, but no one has figured out how to make a handicapping contest into compelling television. We need a "Eureka!" idea like the lipstick-cam showing poker players' hands.

ejxd2 says: Does the NTRA/DRF share any of the vig (is there any?) it makes off all the qualifying tournaments throughout the year with the tracks? Or is the presumed extra action on contest tracks considered payment enough?

DRF and NTRA get no vig from track contests. (DRF pays to sponsor the NHC in exchange for branding and the rosy glow of supporting something we like and believe in.) A lot of the qualifying contests pay back 100 percent of entry fees as prize money; some that don't use what they retain to defray the costs of putting on the contest and sending the winners to Vegas.

bill_ritchiel says: Please explain. Race #2 at Oaklawn on 01/27/08 is labeled OC $62500/NW1X. All six entrants meet the allowance conditions yet four of the six are tagged with a claiming price. Are they simply offering for sale or is there something advantageous in the condition book that is not in DRF?

They're simply being offered for sale in addition to fitting the N1x condition. The race was open to either N1x-eligible horses or multiple winners whose owners were willing to risk them for $62,500, but these options were not mutually exclusive -- you could be N1x-eligible and still offered for sale.

nochalk4me says says: Was that really Kim Delaney on stage [at the Eclipse Awards]?

It was indeed and there's a neat little explanation for why she was paired as a presenter with Carl Nafzger: Delaney's brother was the cameraman who shot Nafzger's famous narration of the 1990 Derby to Mrs. Frances Genter for ABC, and received an Emmy for it.

Whoa! They just cancelled the remainder of the Aqueduct card due to high winds, 10 minutes before the start of the pick six. Welcome home. The $47k carries again to tomorrow.

Floppydog More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the forum. Wet Dog
Tim More than 1 year ago
Disappointing Donn Handicap....Typical. The star horse Curlin drops out leaving us with a field that more resembles grade 3 horses than grade 1's. I was looking forward to this race but not anymore. Looks like a boat race to me with Daaher leading wire to wire, Brass Hat coming on for 2nd giving futile chase. No thanks. Another disappointing weekend at Gulfstream Park. Blah. I wonder if Sir Tyler T is running at Aqueduct this weekend. That would be a consolation. Hard knocker, game old campaigner.
bill_NJ More than 1 year ago
Does anyone have any insight as to the future of TVG? They have lost so much coverage to HRTV it has become unwatchable. Could there be a merger between the two? Cablevision my provider does not offer HRTV at this time.
Wayne80 More than 1 year ago
It's really quite simple, give every player a bankroll (voucher) and a machine and let them bet whichever races they want for the entire card at the participating tracks. They can make one bet or 30 bets. No mandatory races,WPS.DD and EX wagering only, with reasonable caps on all payoffs to avoid stabs. Most money at the end of the day wins, with an electronic board constantly updating totals. In other words, just like spending a day at your favorite similcast. But it will never make compelling TV, although I do have an idea that would but not sharing it publicly.
Stephen Taylor More than 1 year ago
Steve- 3 ideas: First, why have mandatory races at all? (I understand that a track which is holding a qualifier is going to have mandatory races on their own product so that contestants will handicap their card and hopefully make some "real money bets" but the Red Rock could care less which track players bet on.) 2nd-(I see that someone else made this suggestion) Don't post standings-When we wager "real money" we don't worry about someone else made, we try to make as much as we can-I think one of the goals of any handicapping contest is (Or should be)simulating "real money wagering" as closely as possible. 3rd- Assuming a player is making 15 plays per day, don't make each play of equal value- A player would pick 3 horse $2 wp, 3 at $4 wp, and so on up to 3 at $10wp (or for that matter, wps-give the player a little bit for the "bomber" that gets up for 3rd) However I do think that for a "true champion" to emerge, Caps need to be in place, but the various bet sizes, in my opinion, would reward players depending on the strength of their opinion regarding a particular horse which, again, more closely resembles real money wagering.
david More than 1 year ago
could horse racing be a bigger disaster. now nassau otb stopped taking california. tvg and magna prevent wide distribution of a quality signal. nyra enforces composite withholding.frank's energy drink is a bigger deal at gulfstream then dahaar.odds continue to change during the running of races. two examples of betting after the start of a race in the last month. as a big player who WINS at the track, i'm pretty close to retiring expect for a 6 week trip to saratoga. i don't know how someone who losses continues.the end is coming
Floppydog More than 1 year ago
How would Curlin or Invasor or Bernardini fared against Orientate or Midnite Lute? Maybe great, maybe not. In any case, my point, for Horse of the Year, for the biggest Eclipse, none of those determining events would've been held at six furlongs (2/15). Ron Rippey probably would've won anyway. He's the real deal. Now let him re-conquer the glory stretching back out to where the He-Men play. I bet he'd do it again. He's got all that bottom.
Bill More than 1 year ago
Has anyone ever considered going LIVE nationally with at least one of the tournament days, and offering home/internet participation and competition in some manner? The competition could be individually vs. the tournament players and other at-home players or perhaps there could be a fantasy element to it based on tournament players' successes over the years. It's not a guarantee of a huge audience, but at least it would add drama and therefore interest for the many of us who don't make it to the Vegas dance.
Floppydog More than 1 year ago
Tone Adjustment: I think the well-monied expansion of handicapping contests is one of the only true strides racing has made in the last decade. I'm ALL for these contests. What a great thing. A few of these dudes, from what I've seen, are probably as good or better than 80 percent of the best Public Handicappers in history. And they work just as hard---but, again, that small sample gives luck all the help it doesn't need. I just feel very bad for the best Publics who work so hard and deserve better. I'm telling you, some are just beaten down. There's very little love. God forbid the most exciting new thing in the game, a Handicapping Eclipse, go to the man or woman who does it at least 245/9. God forbid the Publics do nothing to change their routine, and the Eclipse rules just follow the work schedule of the Publics. This would encourage the Publics to work even harder, and their results would be matched daily against the buy-in outsiders. So, instead of silly consensus boxes, in every daily across the country you'd see how the outsiders are faring against the incumbents. And the people betting everyday, people everywhere, could watch and prosper from the best of both worlds. Nobody but a few Public Handicappers probably agree with me, nobody cares, nobody's ever cared, but it deeply saddens me. Public Handicappers in the earnest tenacious tradition of Russ Harris deserve much higher respect. The Outsiders should have to step to the Publics. Changing the rules to my view might be enough to get an old dog back in the game, see how well he could really perform, against this new crop of hyperinformed ubercappers. Dog would probably fall, fall hard, but the effort would be unprecedented. Long Live the Public Handicapper
Ken Wiener More than 1 year ago
In the past I have enjoyed reading the brief bios of the NHC finalists as it's interesting to see their varied backrounds. This year I could not find any bios posted. Can you start doing them again in future? Thanks and regards. Ken Wiener Toronto