03/07/2018 12:56PM

Fornatale: Early cap horses give you options


For many contest players, an important part of their success is mastering how to play multiple entries online. While plenty has been written, in “The Winning Contest Player” and elsewhere, about how to manage two entries, there is less out there about how to play three separate cards, which is the maximum amount allowed on DRF Tournaments.

This past weekend, Anthony “Doczilla” Trezza put on a clinic in how to manage three cards. Trezza comes from the world of fantasy sports and it’s no surprise that his approach is laden with game theory – a way to try to extract maximum value from the contest by finding horses others are less likely to play, thus making them more valuable. Points you can get in a contest that others don’t or won’t have makes them much more valuable.

“For some, playing three entries can feel distracting,” Trezza said, “but for me that’s been my game from day one in contests. [Sunday] was easy. Once I hit the first capper, I switched my number three ticket into my main ticket. I kept cashing on my number one picks.”

What might be called the Doczilla theory of how to play three entries boils down to looking for a price early in the contest wherever possible, typically different horses – often longshots – across two or even three entries. These are often price horses that others will be a lot less likely to play. Late in a contest, many will have these horses simply because of their price on the board, but early on you have to actually like a longshot to play it. When Trezza hit with a cap horse, Smarter, in the second contest race, he and his co-qualifier Michael Ray were the only two to have it.

Once you catch a price, use that entry to play logical winners to pad your score. At that point, the other two entries go into the mode of supporting your main ticket by playing longer prices that might get other players up in range of your best ticket. If one of them hits, worst-case scenario you’ll have two entries that are drawing live. Best-case scenario, your number one entry cruises to victory – like Trezza did last weekend in the UBC qualifier.

Once the contest reaches the endgame – the last three races or so – if things have gone well you can root for chalk without playing it because your main card has enough of a lead. Then you can play longer shots once again on all three entries. In an ideal world, you end up in a spot where you can win with at least half the field in the last contest race, a combination of having the protection of the chalk and having three different horses on your different tickets.

Here’s a made-up example. The main ticket hit a capper early and topped up with a couple of logical winners. It stands at $86 going to the last. Your two other cards each caught a small winner early and some place money while reaching for prices in the middle of the contest. One has $56 and the other $25. The nearest pursuer of your best ticket is $10 behind.

In that situation, if any horse 2-1 or under wins, you’re going to win anyway. On your best ticket, you play the horse you like that’s 5-2 or higher for a block. With your card that has $56, you need at least $30 to get to the top so play the 10-1 shot or longer you like best. With the card with $25, you’ll need a capper. Ideal world you end up winning with the favorite, the most logical alternative, the best 10-1, and the best capper. Those are pretty darn good odds.

There is another way to play three entries that cleaves more closely to typical two-entry strategy and it also has plenty in common with the way many folks approach multi-race wagers. Jonathon Kinchen is an exemplar of this way of looking at things.

He wants to play the same horse on all three entries in as many places as possible. He is far more likely to choose to play three on a day when he has many horses he is confident playing everywhere, at least for starters.

In races where he doesn’t have a strong opinion but thinks a price is likely, he will spread on all three. In other spots where his opinion is between those two poles, he’ll play two cards on one horse and reach for something else on the third.

As the contest goes on, he will make adjustments based on his scores, where he sits on the leaderboard, and the prices of the horses on the board.

“My goal with three entries in a live contest is to have two entries close to one another and in position to catch the leader at the end with two different horses,” said the former NHC Tour champ. “In the best-case scenario, I am one-two going into the last and I can block with two horses. It doesn’t happen often, but it is awesome when it does.”