02/27/2012 9:39AM

Horse Player World Series: Kenny Peck's handicapper diary - Final recap


FAIR LAWN, NJ -- In the end, nothing I did would have mattered when it came to winning the 2012 Horse Players World Series. There wasn't anything ANYONE could have done to prevent Robert Gregory, the leader after two days, from winning the tournament, even if we had somehow kept him out of the room on Saturday.

Because after Friday's races, he didn't even need to make another play.

Gregory was so good he posted high scores for each day on both Thursday and Friday, which is believed to be a first. He was so good that his score after Friday's last race, 3,348, was enough for him to beat the rest of us even giving us an extra day of playing, but he added another 578 points for good measure, in the end a solid 671 points better than runner-up Bob Montgomery in 2nd place. Bob Rubin, who was among the leaders seemingly everytime an update was posted, rounded out the "All-Bob" trifecta, with 3,206.

Below are the top five finishers, with their final scores and contest earnings for their overall finishes (not including day prizes):

1. Robert Gregory - 3,926 points ($306,450) 2. Bob Montgomery - 3,255 points ($68,100) 3. Bob Rubin - 3,206 points ($47,670) 4. James Lei - 3,151 points ($34,050) 5. Ed Chambers - 3,127 points ($20,430)

I was never really in sniffing distance, certainly not after the El Commodore photo that went the wrong way in Tampa's 9th race on Saturday. That would have put another 500 or so points on the board for me, and gotten me to around 2,000 points with ten "bullets" left, but after that disheartening loss I went away from my planned plays and started reaching for longshots, which is not my game at all. So therein lies this year's lesson, which for me is to learn when to admit the top prize is out of reach, and just play for a realistic score and a cash prize.

This morning, we left on an early flight from Vegas -- so glad we ditched the red-eye plan this year, it would have been especially draining -- jammed onto a plane that was so packed that they forced some people to check their carry-on bags. The struggles of the airline industry has resulted in some unreasonable concessions from passengers, namely cramped quarters in those tight seats, and $7.49 for a snack box consisting of a miniscule bag of pretzels, hard salami Goldfish crackers, among other delectables. Pushed up against the window, dipping pretzels into a spreadable cheese container, I felt like I had driven my car into a snow bank, trapped and forced to eat what I could find from under the seat, awaiting rescue.

While indulging in this feast, I was thinking about the El Commodore race and remembered something funny that happened about 15 years ago. I was playing horses one afternoon in a New York City OTB and lost a brutal photo in the first leg of a Pick Three. It was a photo that I knew would almost certainly cost me dearly, with a deep spread in leg two and an "All" in the final leg, and it ultimately did, paying around $2,200. That night, I had a second date with a girl back in Jersey, and when I showed up she could tell I was not the same guy who showed up for the first date. After some reluctant conversation from me she asked if something was wrong.

"I lost a photo today that probably cost me a couple of thousand dollars," I said, glad to just put it out there.

"Oh NO!," she said. "Maybe there's something we can do! Let's go back to the city. We'll re-trace your steps. We can find it!"

If only.

[MORE: Horse Player World Series: Kenny Peck's handicapper diary - Day Three]

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

[MORE: Horse Player World Series: Kenny Peck's handicapper diary - Day One]

[MORE: Horse Player World Series: Kenny Peck's handicapper diary]