Las Vegas Contest

Sorry for the delay in posting these contest plays, but it's been a busy
week catching up on the work. I had planned to be in Vegas checking the
odds boards and looking for the "big overlays" as they came up but an
illness in the family caused me to leave Vegas the first morning of the
contest. I had, however, handicapped all the cards on the long flight
in the night before and had marked off 15 races where I had a play
(or plays) that looked interesting. I was trying to find plays that
had a decent chance to win at a price (since only winning counts in the
contest), although it is hard for me to change my stripes of looking for
longshots that have a decent chance to hit the board where I can cash an
exacta or tri. I put in my plays in advance, using the ML odds as a
guide for value in spite of how bad they often are, and fortunately
for me several of the horses who won went off at even longer than
their ML. As will be apparent from some of the discussion of the
races, not being there may also have led me to at least one winning
play I would never have made if I had been around to see the track
conditions. While I would like to say that not being in Vegas put
me at a disadvantage, I'm not sure that it would be true as the
contest played out. On the first day I don't see how I could have
gotten better results; on the second day where I had 6 short priced
winners out of 12 plays I might well have not played several of them
at the odds (all less than their ML) they went off at and may have
just found losers instead; and on the 3rd day I played "price" horses
that I liked (several coming in 2nd and 3rd) and which I would almost
surely have played at the odds they went off at and my one winner was
an 8-1 ML that went off at 9-2. My biggest problem each day was
finding 12 horses that I wanted to play to win. I was stuck each
day with several "stretches" and I feel very fortunate to have gotten
the results I did. I've never felt these contests are anything more
than a chance to have a little fun and see Sheet players from around the
country that are usually only telephone voices. 36 forced win bets
is not a sampling that proves anything, although as I've posted before
I'll happily cash the checks (when and if they ever arrive).

On Thursday I had 15 races marked off. A scratched horse eliminated one
and since I was leaving before the first race at OP where I had two
possible plays (Holmdel and Aviesallstar) where I was going to let the
odds board choose for me, I was left with 13 possibilities from which
to choose 12 plays. Here they are in no particular order (on the
sheets that you can access, the number they ran on 3/29 is there and
on a few sheets a subsequent can be seen).

OP r6: I liked Soon Reality ML 12-1 as my best bet of the day. 4yos
going back to 3yo tops is my most preferred "recovery" situation and
this was one whose top was run early 3 and who had a reasonable solid
line at 3. The two small forward moves at 4 set him up perfectly I
thought and a decent post and relatively weak opposition made him
a strong win play.

OP r8: The late news that OP was sloppy almost made me cross this
one out (I was lucky that I had no other plays to replace it with),
as I went with a very speculative Due to Win Again ML 10-1. I like
horses going long for the first time on lasix and his last number
fit well. Since he was coming out of a claimer I felt pretty sure
that I was going to get a decent price and "His Majesty" in the
breeding gave me a little confidence that he was at least bred to
stretch. Strictly an odds play and honestly not one that I would
ever make with real money--I never said a little luck doesn't help.

OP r9: I thought Battle Mountain ML 12-1 was value. The line was
a little flat but I thought with an inside post he had some chance to
win with another 11, and that a 9 would look very good. I didn't
like I Dancer off a weak pair or Remington Rock on short rest off
three efforts or Del Mar D off a weak pair. I was good on the
negative reads (although the mud may have helped) but BM disappointed.

SA r4: Went with Stetson Lady ML 5-1. Just a low number "gorilla"
play plus a strong trainer and nice timing into the race. I thought
his 9 would be gin, 5-1 looked very generous, and I did need 12 plays.

SA r6: Another ML 5-1 that looked interesting to me--Beautiful Balance.
Claimed by a very strong trainer in last with a month+ rest off her
top and first lasix was enough for me. While I wouldn't view the
9+ as a strong condition move, it was at least mildly positive and
with the other positive factors a forward move to a number that
would look unbeatable seemed like better than a 5-1 proposition.

HIA r4: My usual refusal to play HIA (with the currently only slightly less
obscene takeout) fortunately didn't affect playing HIA in the
contest since I wasn't contributing to the pools. I liked
Rich Secret 6-1 ML off an "0-2-X" with the "0" a positive condition
move. Looked like a very strong play, ran like a dog.

HIA r5: Sea Soul ML 12-1 was my biggest hit in the contest. At 30-1
I would guess that most Sheet users did pretty well in this race.
2nd fastest horse in race off recent form had a strong forward
moving line with a little extra rest off a small bounce in his last.
Moving up in claiming price to both guarentee good odds and give some
indication that the extra time since his last didn't indicate that
something had gone wrong were 2 big pluses.

HIA r6: Sky Wing ML 4-1 wasn't that much value, but at light weight
his 13 top looked both unbeatable and reasonably likely. Right on
the first count and wrong on the second, but definitely a play that
I would make at 4-1 anytime.

HIA r7: Had a yen for Images in Jade, but I was a little worried
about the amount of development from the 2yo top and the 7-2 ML
wasn't all that attractive so I passed, which fortunately left me
with no choice but to play my remaining options.

PIM r5: Speculative play on Valley Affair ML 6-1--very competitive
number at two and getting first lasix off the layoff. Hoped for a
forward move, but could have won with the repeat except for getting
"Capuanoed" and not for the first time!

Pim r9: Another very speculative play that I doubt I would have
made if I'd known the track conditions. I had Fools Harbor ML 8-1 marked off
to check the breeding for stretching out, but I was scared of missing
my plane so I just put it in as I had no ready options anyway.
An interesting sidelight occurred here as I was sitting with fellow
Sheet user and good friend Harry Manion who graciously offerred to
interrupt his concentration and put in my plays for the last two days
of the contest. I'd given him a list of my plays for the day and when
he got to this play he figured I must know something about the breeding
to make this somewhat quixotic play so he played this horse with real
money--such is the stuff that legends are made of.

Aqu r3: Balladeer ML 4-1 at least had a playable line although the
timing wasn't great (and the connections seemingly had a death wish
running him back again one week later). The competition looked weak
to me and I thought I had a chance to back in with a 21 if Preoccupied
ran poorly. Ball ran mediocrely, but if he gets 3-4 weeks to his
next out I'm probably going to go for him again.

Aqu r9: Cryptoe Tap ML 10-1 looked like a big overlay here. His next
to last was as good or better than anyone else going in and 5 weeks
rest from that effort with a mud excuse "X" in between looked good to
me. There wasn't any positive condition but the overall line seemed
pretty solid. At the odds I still think he was definitely worth a

As a whole I don't think there was anything so dramatic about these
plays. There was surely a decent amount of luck to get the results
that came, but I think also that the plays made the luck possible.
I've always thought that going for the odds plays right from the
start is the way to approach a contest--that way you get 3 days
of chances to score big. In truth, my plays on the third day
of the contest where I had only one $11 winner were probably not
much better or worse than my first days plays as on both days
I had 7 out of 12 in the money. While I missed the fun and
excitement of being there, I rather liked avoiding the tension
that comes with suffering through watching the races--getting
the results all at once at the end of the day is easier on
my stomach for sure. I must admit, though, that I'm already
thinking about the big Orleans contest in August--one good
showing certainly has led to a little too much hubris perhaps.

Len Friedman

The sheets for the all the horses in this race can be downloaded by clicking on the individual tracks listed below.
You will need Acrobat reader to view these files.
If you do not have the reader, click here to get it.

Oaklawn Park: March 29, 2001 - races 6, 8, 9

Santa Anita: March 29, 2001 - races 4, 6

Hialeah: March 29, 2001 - races 4, 5, 6, 7

Pimlico: March 29, 2001 - races 5, 9

Aqueduct: March 29, 2001 - races 3, 9