Taking a shot at the NHC

I have played in maybe a half dozen handicapping contests in my life, but this weekend I am going to take a shot in the Keeneland NHC qualifier.

Entry fee is $150, plus $50 to join the NHC tour (which makes me eligible for the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Contest in Las Vegas if I can finish in the top three.) I am going to split an entry with the Blood-Horse's Frank Angst, a longtime friend and handicapper.

Besides Vegas fever, the tipping point for me to enter this contest is the format. Contestants get to make 15 $2 win/place plays of their choice on the Saturday cards from Gulfstream, Tampa, Aqueduct, Fair Grounds (races 1-9), and Turfway.

I prefer this format to one that uses mandatory races for two reasons: 1)It makes/allows horseplayers to pick their spots. 2)If you funnel 300 picks into a mandatory race, every inconceivable longshot will be covered, and it turns into a luck fest if the big prices come in.

I have heard some tournament players say they don't play anything under 5-1, which is an interesting concept that partly goes against my value oriented approach. A 3-1 shot can be huge value, and it's the bottom line at the end of the day that matters. I look forward to seeing what tournament play can teach me about my cash wagering.

15 bullets to fire. All bets are $2 W/P:

GP Race 1: 10 Channell the Green 11-1

Result: Off the board. Prado takes back, no chance. Speed and chalk dominates as a pair of 5-2 shots run 1-2. Divine Luck wins for Shug with first-time blinkers.

GP Race 2: 5 Bold Dance 8-1

Result: Winner (Was a Lockmsith Smart Plays key horse). $26.20. We're on the board.

AQ Race 4: 6 Switchboard 17-1

Result: Stumbled start, off...

GP Race 4: 9 Cover Price 7-2

Result: Off

FG Race 2: 4 Kennessy 15-1

Result: Off

GP Race 5: 9 Awesome Mich 11-1

Result: Off

Tampa Race 6: 1 Ingrid Louisiana 7-1

Result: Off

Gulfstream Race 6: Off the Jak 7-1

Result: 2nd $7.60. Hopefully tht ends our cold streak.

Tampa RAce 7: Over the Counter 11-1

Result: Off. It's bomber time. 6 plays left.

Gulfstream 7: 11 Easy Ending 9-1

Result: Off

Fairg Grounds Race 5: Quite Explosive 7-1

Result: 3rd

Tampa Bay Race 8: Miss Scout 15-1

Result: Off

Gulfstream Race 8: Falbala 14-1

Result: Off

Just taking wild price shots here at the end. We are pretty much done...

Finishing at FG R7 with 1 Bacardi Cat Run at 17-1.


Leave a Comment:


Good luck Pete!  We will be pulling for you.

Maybe some of the pros on this blog can offer some spot plays for you tomorrow.

Although not likely a good race to use in the contest, I just watched THS and I will be looking to beat King David in the CC Emerald.  The G1 Jamaica that King David won was against 3-year-olds and I think he was helped by a slow pace in that race and by a fast pace in his last race.

I will likely play Nikki's Sandcastle on top.  Mikki's Sandcastle has been competitive against solid older horses and gets back on turf, which is likely his preferred surface.  Also, Nikki's Sandcastle seems to like GP and has two recorded works there, so he has had plenty of time to acclimate to the weather.

30 Nov 2012 1:23 PM
Mary Zinke

Good luck, Pete.

30 Nov 2012 1:28 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Good luck Pete. No fear. Yes, 3-1 can pay great and there were times I would have won tournies playing a few of the lower odds over the higher odds. Sometimes a longshot paying 2nd will pay better than a low priced winner so I'm not fond of less than 2-1 but it often boils down to just picking winners. However don't shy away from big odds if they have a really good shot. You're good, you can do it. Play with your heart and instincts and pick winners unless you really like a longshot and the favorite is even odds or less. You have talent.

30 Nov 2012 2:12 PM

Good luck Pete.  Don't worry, I won't offer you any advice.  I would like to see you win.

30 Nov 2012 5:07 PM

Totally agree about this being a better format.  I entered a Twinspires contest got 7 of 12 races right but didn't finish in the top 10.  I checked the winners picks and most in the top 10 got 2 races right and had picked nothing but 10-1 shots or higher in every race (guess work).  

30 Nov 2012 8:59 PM

fri night turfway.....race 11...only 3 horses look to be contenders....#4 tough nuggies looks like the fav.....look for him to run worse than last race....down to 7 stormylittlerosy or 8 centuous....i'll go with #7 stormylittlerosy to wake up.....

30 Nov 2012 9:37 PM
Plod Boy Phil

The Plod Boys at Racing Flow believe that the 8th at Gulfstream offers a live 20-1 shot in the 11 Ainsley.  This 3 yr old filly first impressed us with her Alw1x win last April and followed that race up with three solid efforts in restricted turf stakes.  Her latest for new trainer Vitali was on the wrong side of an Extreme Race for Speed won by a w-w winner.  Tomorrow's early pace scenario may prove beneficial for her strong closing kick.  

30 Nov 2012 10:05 PM

Good luck Pete

Plod Boy Phil : What's racing flow ?  Will keep in mind your pick.  Thanks!

01 Dec 2012 1:50 AM
Plod Boy Phil

JayJay - At Racing Flow, we provide Flow and Bias figures. 'Flow' is a unique look at how relative race split times interact to impact results. We use these Flow figures to quantify Bias. Since this is Pete's Blog,  not a billboard,  check us out on the web.  Thanks in advance Pete if you choose to post this.

01 Dec 2012 8:10 AM

Further to my previous post, it looks like I'm going to lose going against King David with Nikki's Sandcastle in the CC Emerald... I just read an article by Mike Watchmaker basically giving the same ananysis I did. It never seems to work out for me when my selection is also the selection of a so called professional handicapper.

01 Dec 2012 10:11 AM

If I was placing W/P bets at Gulstream.

1) 2

2) 12

3) 8

4) 5

5) 7

6) 13

7) 13

8) 7

9) 5

10) 9

01 Dec 2012 11:13 AM
Pete Denk

Thanks for the well wishes everyone. Getting set up at Keeneland now...

01 Dec 2012 11:45 AM
Pete Denk

One thing to note at GP card is the temp rail on the turf course.

48': Races 1,3,9

108': Race 2,8

01 Dec 2012 12:00 PM

Plod Boys Phil : Will do, I've argued in the past that looking at previous race times doesn't make sense to me because the conditions during that race is almost guaranteed to be different than the upcoming race as far as the opponents, track surface, weather etc.  I'll check out your site.  Thanks!

THE KEYMASTER : Agree with your comment/opinion  about Watchmaker.

01 Dec 2012 12:08 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Keymaster - Nikki figures to be a shorter price than King David. Many will be swayed by his last two races final time driven speed figures and the cushy rail draw. Each of the two races were given 'neutral' (fair to all) ratings from our perspective.  We also rate King David's last as fair for all,  while his G1 win was slightly against the grain. That said, the 9 Cantonic rates the races only 'upgrade' for us, giving him a better than odds chance of winning.  Good luck Pete and to all others in the contest.

01 Dec 2012 12:20 PM
Plod Boy Phil

JayJay - I emphasis the term 'relative' speed,  not absolute speed.  We determine whether the Flow and Bias of any given race have aided, hindered, or been fair to each of the horses involved in that race. We do this based our figures and each individual running line. We never claim to be able to predict the future (nor should anyone), but rather, we provide outstanding analysis of the past by determining which recent effort or efforts are better to us than they appear on paper to the betting public. Betting legit overlays relative to ones methodologies (assuming it's validity) over an extended period of time is the key to long term sustainability.

01 Dec 2012 12:33 PM

Plod Boy Phil : That makes more sense now.  When I use to read the form, the first two things I look for was what was the odds of the horse in his previous races, and what the comment was on that race but I found that watching the replay of the previous race gives me more insight as to how the horse performed.  I don't trust whoever puts the comments in there as it's a 5 word comment at most and doesn't necessarily cover what actually happened.  

Appreciate the explanation, will defiinitely look at your Ainsley pick in the 8th race today.  I know you pick a nice one during the BC weekend(from 20-1 morning and going off at 5-1, bet you made a boat load on that one hehe.)  Thanks again!

Good luck to all betting real money on the races today!

01 Dec 2012 1:28 PM

#5 Attractive Ride looks like an attractive wager at 7/2 to go gate to wire in the 2nd at FG.

01 Dec 2012 2:14 PM
Pete Denk

Loved Purple Egg in the Inaugural Stakes at Tampa, although did not play him in the contest at 2-1. Hope that wasn't a mistake.

01 Dec 2012 2:14 PM

It doesn't hurt me, because I had the eventual winner, but the jockey on Pot of Gold in the 4th at Gulfstream stood up and pulled back on the irons before the wire and got his horse beat by 1/2 length.  Anyone who had the 13-1 shot should be ticked.  

01 Dec 2012 2:19 PM

I don't know why Galcalves, who is normally a good jockey, didn't go to the lead with Attracdtive Ride.  Rather sat 2nd behind very slow pace where 32-1 wired the field.  Should have easily wired the field had the pinhead gone to the lead.

01 Dec 2012 2:21 PM

Interesting pedigree plays in the 6th at Tam with #6 Tippy Tapit, who is half to G1 winner Lion Tamer currently 16-1.  Also  #5  Gigahertz out of very good turf mare Megahertz is 3-1 co-favorite

01 Dec 2012 2:59 PM

Tippy Tapit stalked early pace and tired to run last. Gigahertz showed some late interest to run 3rd.

01 Dec 2012 3:10 PM
Plod Boy Phil

GP 8th:  another 1/16th would have been nice for the 11 Ainsely as she finished huge with a touch of trouble at the 1/8 pole,  uselessly galloping out past them all shortly after the wire. Imagine a large number of subscribers were sitting on some combination of 7-11.  Next...

01 Dec 2012 4:30 PM

Nikki's Sandcastle scores.  King David, who indeed went off as the favorite, runs 4th.  Had the exacta, tri, and super keying Nikki on top of the other 3 obvious horses.  Used all in 4th in the super.  Was hoping King David would finish off the board.

01 Dec 2012 4:55 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Congrats to all Sandcastle fans.

01 Dec 2012 5:00 PM
Pete Denk

I had a pretty good day with real betting, but we bombed in the contest.

It was fun to take a shot.

01 Dec 2012 5:37 PM

Would have made $57.80 in a contest at Gulfstream; probably mid pack.  

Hit one Pick 3 with real betting and made $120.  Whats great is it was all 1st or 2d choices and still paid well.  Benefit of large fields.    

01 Dec 2012 6:01 PM

race 6 hol.....100w200p #10 DAVES PEACEMAKER

01 Dec 2012 6:04 PM

having a good day too pete....had 9th race...   back at my comp for 10th at hol...#16 suances song looks good 200wp

01 Dec 2012 7:55 PM

by the way...impressed by fly lexi fly today at hol......look for improvement........and yes the 1/5 reneesgotzip won by a head....113 and change.....im right, she went/ is going off form.....unimpressive...

01 Dec 2012 7:58 PM

dont start loving the unsound jaycito because he fired......just saying....he will do it to you again.....

01 Dec 2012 8:01 PM
Plod Boy Phil

KY Vet - whether you are betting 2WP or 200WP,  doing so w/out sound information is never a profitable formula.  Suances Song closed last out with the aid of an Important Closer Bias and a modestly Closer friendly race Flow,  making him an easy bet against,  especially at short odds.  With that said,  you can bet against the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th place finishers as well when next seen.  Give 4th place finisher Bull Time one more try at the level.  

01 Dec 2012 9:37 PM

KY Vet : Renees went toe to toe with the 7 horse, 7 put her away (or so it seemed) and she came back and won by a head.  She showed her class.  What made you say she's off form ?

Also, why do you say Jaycito is unsound ?  Sounds to make Jaycito "woke up", to use the term you always use when you're guessing about your bets.  He woke up and you didn't have him, that's too bad.

It's very easy to claim you know stuff but you need to provide some kind of explanation why you say the things you say.  Just making blanket or general statements doesn't make you a pro.  You're worse than the old clown from the old blog.

Plod Boy Phil : I gave Ainsley a shot (bet 5 Place and Show) at odds of 60-1, I though Ainsley was going to make it but too far back.

02 Dec 2012 2:16 AM
Pedigree Ann

Jay Jay - guys at TVG were saying how the rain in SoCal had made the Cushion track deeper and more tiring. So instead of going out in front and staying there, as has been common earlier in the meet, front-end runners were tiring, setting it up for runners from off the pace, like Jaycito. Perhaps not a case of him 'waking up' but finally getting a fair shake from the track.

02 Dec 2012 8:33 AM

Gulfstream plays for Sunday

Race 4) Pick 3 1,4/2,3,6,9/2,6

Race 7) Pick 3 2,6,9/2,5,7,8/6,10

Not playing the .10 pick 6, but sequence doesn't look that tough.  Wish all tracks would go to that format; $2 minimum is too expensive to play most Pick 6s.  

02 Dec 2012 10:55 AM
Plod Boy Phil

Re: Hollywood surface

- through last Sunday,  the Hollywood track has had two modestly speed friendly tracks (11/8, 11/9) and one Severe Speed Bias (11/23).  There has been one Important Closer Bias (11/18),  which is of note since there is a runner deserving upgrade status from that day in today's P6 sequence.  There is much more to establishing Bias than whether or not the winner went w-w or closed to win from behind.  The placement of the 2nd and 3rd place finishers needs to be considered,  as well as (most important) how the relative split times impacted the days results. Guessing at Bias without knowing the impact of the Race Flow by using subjective interpretations is faulty at best. I'll provide our Bias fig for Saturday at Hollywood on Tuesday when we send out figures.

- JayJay: good bet, wrong result. I would have invested much less had she been under my personal target.  I actually reduced my bet size on Gabriel Charles (BC Friday) because of the lower than desired odds.  That said,  he still carried the day.

- Today's top play at Gulfstream is the 7 Malibu Wave (12-1) in Race 6.  Details can be found on the site.

02 Dec 2012 12:06 PM

Pedigree Ann : Yeah maybe, more stalkers ran well yesterday.  Even Renees, who normally gets the lead had to settle for 2nd and won by class.  GoD won on the lead but he wasn't going blazingly fast either, he should've won easily if Bejarano had put away the iPad at the top of the stretch and reminded GoD to keep running, instead he had to work on him when his neighbor Mike came knocking.

GP .10 P6 - might as well take a stab at it :)

7, 5  

2, 5


1, 2, 6

7, 8

2, 3, 6, 7

02 Dec 2012 2:02 PM

And that is why I don't bet Pick 6s.  Too much investment and I would have been out in the first race.  

02 Dec 2012 2:37 PM

This is awesome, I'm 2 for 2!!  Glad it's only dime lol.

02 Dec 2012 2:44 PM

Horrible day; haven't cashed a single ticket.  Watching the replay of the 7th at Gulfstream, still amazed at how the 7 closed.  Mid way thru the stretch thought my 6 was home free.  

02 Dec 2012 4:13 PM
Plod Boy Phil

GP players -

Our GP upgrades in the P6 sequence today looked like this:

4) 7

5) 3

6) 7

7) 6

8) 3,9

9) none

Take a good look at the 10 Money Makin Sam in the 7th at Hollywood.  Upgrade the return race off an extended layoff when pressing the pace against the grain of an important Closer Bias.

02 Dec 2012 5:19 PM

sun race 7 hol #10..MONEY MAKIN SAM!!!!! 300w200p 5 to 1!!!!!

02 Dec 2012 6:35 PM

jay jay......renee ran way worse than cup day.....pretty obvious....she was 1/2 won by head...slow race. slow brisnet beyer rating...pretty obvious.....and jacito, if you cant tell, is a very dissapointing horse....people liked him for the best in his division....why? he lugs, drifts, bolts.....all bad signs....he is not sound......duh! look at his record.....this good race will just mean he is closer to leaving the racing game sooner.....its really like chatting with someone who doesnt even look at a form.......you just guess.......keep up the critic.....

02 Dec 2012 6:47 PM

heres another one for ya.....some unsound horses can run good for a while......COMMA TO THE TOP has problems too......

02 Dec 2012 6:50 PM

yes , look for off form both commatothetop and capital acct.....FAST BULLET 200wp

02 Dec 2012 6:53 PM

correction...smash in the 8th hol....upset race! fast bullet scr.

02 Dec 2012 6:57 PM

TIME FOR BEST BET OF DAY.....9th race...#13 bwanadada has 2 outs....aug29 3rd against way better....but look, 2 months off for a reason...bad bet getting 4th ...brisnet 83 and 84 will win...but dropping to m20000.   problems! ill take the 1 best bet CAJUN MARKET...ran77 and 76 brisnet, but is improving.....today he fires!!!!500w300p coming up to race perfect

02 Dec 2012 7:32 PM

KY VET : For someone who reads the form, your ability to pick winners is nothing to brag about, you're not even close to 10% hit rate.  And all you play are the favorites.  All you've said about these horses are they are not sound because they drift, lug, whatever.  Easy to say "they're hurt, off form", but the truth is, you're just guessing.

A pro doesn't play every track and bet every race, they pick and choose a race and makes money off of it.  You bet EVERY race ALL week.


FAST BULLET - Scratched - maybe he's off form


Last 3 bets, you're down $1200.... Pro

02 Dec 2012 8:02 PM

Peter....Forget odds. Just pick winners. Lookng for odds is crazy. you went 1 for 15 with a 2nd. If you took your 15 best bets, regardless of odds, you should have had 6 winners and 3 more 2nds.

03 Dec 2012 5:10 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Hollywood Park Notes for the week of November 29

- Racing Flow recorded an Important Speed Bias on Thursday, 11/29.

- The remainder of the week was as fair a track as there can be. It is our opinion that there is no statistical correlation between a slower than normal track and a closer bias, just as there is no statistical correlation between a faster than normal track and a speed bias.

- Hollywood's 7th race on Sunday,  a race in which we upgraded the 10 Money Makin' Sam, had a Race Flow that was only slightly favorable to closers. Considering his 'vs Bias' upgrade comng in (as stated on this Blog beforehand) we'll carry the grade and give 'MMS' another try when next seen.  

03 Dec 2012 6:34 PM

Plod Boy...... Your theory is sound, but your reasoning is faulty. JUST BECAUSE the 1-2-3 horses go w-w in every race has ZERO reasoning as to the track being speed favoring. You have to take into account the projected OACE of each race. What if all those horse figured to have a pace that suited them going w-w??? PACE is much more important that the "grain of the track" Incorporate pace into your reasoning and you might just have something to write home about. plodderman@gmail.com to discuss.

04 Dec 2012 4:55 PM
Plod Boy Phil

P Man -

1) Let me get this straight. The projected pace (aka 'make believe') is more important than the actual pace of a race.  Interesing.

2) If you read anything posted above, our Bias figures are driven by the actual pace scenario. 'Flow' (hence the name Racing Flow) is our measurement of the relationship between the actual fractional times of a race and how they work together (for lack of a better term) to produce a scenario that either favors Speed (a Zip), Closers (a Plod), or is Neutral.

Using these Flow figures,  we measure the difference between the expected amount of closing (based on our track and distance specific models) and the actual amount of closing (thus the weighted importance of the 1-2-3 finishers) to determine the Bias figure for the day.  To simplify, if more closing occured than expected,  a Closer Bias existed (the magnitude of which is driven by the size of the delta). If less closing occured than expected, a Speed Bias is recorded (the magnitude....)

2) You can read more on our web site, including DRF feature articles on Racing Flow (us) in 2009 by long time user and supporter Dave Litfin.   Additionally, the most recent of three feature articles on Racing Flow in Horseplayer Magazine is available.

- Regards.

04 Dec 2012 8:27 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Correction to above:

Zip - favors Closers. Based on Tom Durkins race calls....'they zipped the opening quarter'

Plod- favors Speed.  Based loosely on Tom Durkins race calls....  'a pedestrian half mile'


04 Dec 2012 8:46 PM

Plod Boy Phil : I'm intrigued as to how you apply this as a handicapping tool.  It seems to me that you'll have to determine what the track condition is ahead of time to determine how to play a horse (based on your analysis of the horse' last race) ?  For example, if it rains the night before, track could end up sloppy or muddy or wet fast.  Is your model based on fast track ?  Also, does this apply to turf races?

04 Dec 2012 11:40 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Pete -

If I may, one final comment regarding Bias and I'll lay it to rest and await your next topic.

The concept of using 'projected pace' goes hand in hand with the belief that one can use visual observations to establish accurate Bias data.  

The viusal observation approach is undeniably swayed by subjectivity developed during the handicapping process.  If a day's results do not go as expected, the handicapper must then attribute it to a Bias (or a series of bad rides...lol). Such a methodogy may be possible for a very, very small minority.  That number is even smaller than the number of handicappers actually have a life time positive ROI. The approach would be slightly more sucessful if races were watched without ever looking at PPs or the odds board.

The same can be said of 'projected pace',  which uses previous race splits to predict today's pace. With countless variables impacting any race,  using such to determine a Bias makes no sense.  Many believe in the reasonable notion that merely opening the gate at a different time could change any result.  

We use statistically sound methods,  none of which rely the notion that the future is predictable.

04 Dec 2012 11:53 PM
Plod Boy Phil

JayJay -

Since I do not want to make Pete's Blog a billboard for Racing Flow anymore than he's already allowed,  I urge you to check us out at www.racingflow.com.  My e-mail can be found at the top of the 'Upgrades and Anlysis' page.  The articles referenced above may be found on the 'About Racing Flow' page.

Send me an e-mail and I'll be happy to provide you more info and answers,  as well as some free data and the weekend Grades.


05 Dec 2012 12:16 AM
Plod Boy Phil

JayJay -

Our best model are in turf routes, then dirt routes.

When I first heard about Pete and Kerry Thomas while listening to Trackfacts LIVE (Albany, NY), a show we have been regular contributors on since 2009, I was intrigued by Pete's comment that they too are best best in turf routes.  

05 Dec 2012 12:23 AM
By a long nose

Pete: That was an embarrassing job of handicapping on your part. Are you sure you're in the right profession?

06 Dec 2012 11:15 PM

Pete: That was an embarrassing job of handicapping on your part. Are you sure you're in the right profession?

By a long nose 06 Dec 2012 11:15 PM.

Maybe Pete would be asking you this same question after seeing this previous pick. Travers Weekend. Liaison. Easy play in a bad field.

By a long nose 24 Aug 2012 7:46 PM.

The Travers had an 11 horse field, and Liaison finished in 9th place!!!

07 Dec 2012 1:22 AM

LOL tcc, I find it hilarious these types that posts such comments and they forget that they actually posted much worse handicapping.  KY Vet is a great example.

07 Dec 2012 1:38 PM
Mary Zinke

The one guy's username is likely in reference to 11/6/10. Who holds such deep-seated feelings and thinks of some people as playthings? Rather narrows the field.  Most people would just try saying,"hello".

07 Dec 2012 6:30 PM

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