A Teachable Moment

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On Saturday, August 8, 2015, I entered the Breeder’s Cup Qualify Round 1 Tournament, trying to earn a seat in the Round 2 qualifier for a Breeder’s Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) seat worth $10,000. (The BCBC takes place during the Breeder’s Cup and is a live money contest.) These qualifying tournaments are great ways to get in cheaply to big entry/big payoff tournaments.

A few races into the tournament – no more than a third of the way through – and after a tough beat with Bar of Gold at 15-1 and another lost photo finish with EB Ryder at 7-2 at Gulfstream, I settled on a long shot in the contest’s sixth race – Del Mar’s second race. Rock N Bunny wasn’t so much a standout as much as the field that she was in was a stand down. None of the field had really established themselves as wanting to win and Bunny had a few races, and now the rail, that made her competitive. Her price of 28-1 was a big overlay so I made her my selection. When she won I knew I had earned my seat to the next round, barring some outrageous results later on.

But hold all tickets! An inquiry was posted about the stretch run and the stewards were taking a long look at what I initially thought was a frivolous claim by the second place finisher’s jockey. Alas, the stewards disqualified Bunny and placed her second, earning only 22 points instead of another 44.

While all this was happening, the Whitney field was loading into the gate and my selection was Liam’s Map at a juicy 5-1. Within three minutes of Bunny’s disqualification, Liam’s Map was run down in the shadow of the wire, costing yours truly another 12 points. At this point I was too mad to be livid. I didn’t scream – I didn’t shout. I sent a tweet about the bad beats and pledged to myself to stick to the cause at hand and qualify despite two bad beats in a row (not including the Bar of Gold at 15-1 beat which was just as bad as Liam’s Map). I blanked at the next at Gulfstream but came back with consecutive winners at Saratoga and Del Mar putting myself back into the top 30 with two races to go and hanging on by a thread to the last few qualifying spots, as they take the top 30 into Round 2. The penultimate race was a non-event and I was in 27th with the final race to go when I made my first error of the day.

I’ve preached and preached and hopefully some of you have learned that if you are in front for a win you cannot, must not, never, ever let the favorite beat you in the final race. You must put the statistics on your side and force your opponents to beat you with a longer priced horse. That is how I play. But that is not how I played on Saturday. Instead of taking Bella Katari – the tepid at the time – 2-1 favorite – I took the 3 Full Tap – the Clement trained horse on the turf. I have a “relationship” with Clement and thought Clement is usually better than Lisa Lewis – no offense Lisa. I was wrong and it cost me my seat in Round 2. Had I played Bella the favorite this column would have ended differently.

So here are my personal takeaways from Saturday’s contest action. First, I’m giving myself a big pat on the back for not totally going on tilt after the two – maybe three – bad beats in a very short time period and for getting my act together enough to pick two more winners in the contest and get in the money with one race to go. Secondly, I’m giving myself a hard whack on the wrist with a wooden ruler for not taking my own written in stone advice that you should always take the favorite when the favorite can beat you in the last race.

Those are my teachable moments from Saturday. Class dismissed!

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