02/25/2012 11:10AM

Horse Player World Series: Kenny Peck's handicapper diary - Day Two

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LAS VEGAS, NV -- These nighttime Fair Grounds cards sound like a good idea on the surface. There's not a whole lot of quality racing going on most Friday nights, and in that regard it does fill a need. But when the 6:00 EST post means having to spend 10 hours sitting with strangers at a round table in a ballroom, as it does for those of us in this contest, it kind of loses its allure a little.

Today's marathon started at 12:20 EST, with the first from Aqueduct, and here we are over nine hours later with two races yet to be run at the Fair Grounds. That's a lot of time to fill, and though there's a lot of racing action to keep you occupied you can only stare at the little numbers for so long. I came into Day Two just outside the top 10% of the standings, around 70th place or so (there are 681 entries), but things started out slow for me. A couple of early plays ran 2nd, and it wasn't until first-time starter Hooray for Yalei ($18.40) won the 6th at Hawthorne that I had my first winner. That proved to also be my LAST winner, with my next eight plays finishing off the board, and if my math is to be trusted I'm at around $1,202. To put it into perspective, the last update we received revealed that the leader at that point had $2726, at around 7:30 EST.

Is it an uphill battle? Sure it is. But coming into the contest my plan was to come up with $600 on Day One, and another $1200 on Day Two, going into Saturday with $1800. I'm not THAT far off that, a "cap" (20-1) horse away. My original strategy called for an $1800 score on the final day, and if I were to get that tomorrow I'd still at least be in the hunt for a nice check. Of course, everyone else isn't going to be standing around drinking while I shoot for the moon, and the winner's total for this contest promises to be on the high end of the range in relation to the last few. I do legitimately like several long-priced horses tomorrow, and if I can get two of them home I'm in the game. Of course, that's what a lot of guys are saying tonight -- it's a matter of who can put those winners together. But after two days of relatively short prices (I don't think we've had more than a couple of winners who paid more than the 20-1 cap over the first few days) I'm looking for some chaos tomorrow.

As for tonight, I plan to spend what's left of it coming up with those longshot plays. My preliminary work has already yielded several definite plays, as my "Horses to Watch" list has 13 horses who are running tomorrow, and a couple of them are must-uses, thanks to big prices on the morning lines. Before that, though, I need something to eat. The buffet today was sausage and peppers, pasta, and salad, but I concentrated more on acquiring drink tickets throughout the afternoon, cashing in many more of those than pari-mutuel tickets. At one point, the Orleans provided unlimited drinks at the World Series, but the law changed, and a drink ticket is now needed to secure an adult beverage. Each player gets three in his packet for each day, but an announcement was made this afternoon that more were available, if needed -- and they were, especially as the losses mounted.

On the plus side: the staff here announced that those players staying at the Orleans hotel need only show their player packets to get on an "express" line to the elevators and maneuver around the cheerleaders, who have seemingly multiplied, clogging up the lobby and making it tough to get to the rooms. And, when we called home, we found out that Cooper/Batman and Ella/Robin did indeed slay Catwoman on the Wii, ensuring that the weekend cannot possibly be a total loss, even if their father tries to avoid a tragic ending, with the hourglass quickly losing sand.