Sunday, September 2, 2012

Showdown at the Spa: Day 40

We have given our two TDN crack handicappers, Brian DiDonato and Steve Sherack, a mythical $1000 bankroll and told them they can bet no more than 5% of that on any given day at Saratoga on a straight win bet. The winner, at the end of the meet, gets $100 in a TVG betting account, along with bragging rights until next July.

DiDonato: Sunday - Another lead change! How exciting has this been? Well-backed Cue the Moon overcame tons of adversity to score first out at a well-bet 4-1. Anybody want to give me odds on her for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies? She might be the real deal going longer. So it all comes down to this... Steve and I have been discussing our picks and bet sizes beforehand every day mostly so there’s no overlap, but for today, we’re doing it blind to keep things fair. It would be a lot easier for me to know what I should do to try to protect my small lead if I knew who he was picking, but that’s no fun. Hopefully I don’t do something stupid. Good luck, Steve. Either way, this has been really fun and I’m proud of how well we’ve both done.

Monday - Race 1 - Msw, 2yo, 1 1/16mT - #5 Draw Two (7-2)
   Draw Two was supposed to be the horse I took my big stand with when he was entered in a similar spot Aug. 11, but Steve and I were at the track that weekend, so rain inevitably forced things off the grass. I’ve been waiting to bet him back ever since, and this would be a fitting spot to do it. Here’s my analysis from last time--nothing has changed on that front obviously. What’s probably more important today is the logic behind the size of my bet and expected price of my pick--there’s some interesting game theory at work here. First off, obviously the correct amount to bet is the most possible without losing the lead if Steve scratches through all his picks somehow. He’s never going to bet a small enough amount or pick a short enough price that I’d be able to protect my lead by just betting $2 if he hits. My first inclination was that I needed to pick a bomb to protect against the possibility of Steve going for a big price, but he usually goes for horses in the 2-1 to 5-1 range, so I don’t really see him going for a double-digit runner this time--especially when it’s a must-win situation. I think Draw Two will go off at about 3-1 (I think he’s more like 2-1 or even 3-2 to win), so if he wins the first I’ll go up about $165. If Steve makes a max bet, he’ll need to hit a little higher than a 2.6-1 shot to take the lead. That’s at the lower end of his range, but I’d rather protect against the more likely winners. Play: $42 Win. Alternate 1: Race 8 - $42 Win on #4 Imperial Pippin (Turf Only). Alternate 2: Race 9 - $42 Win on #5 Majestic Hussar. Bankroll: $1,298.90 - Record: 36-5-4-6.      

Sherack: Sunday - Twigazuri Strait finally got a hot pace to run into, but still never fired at an underlayed 5-1 and finished sixth. Wish I had stayed loyal to a pair of my previous winners in this contest--Unbridled Command ($22.60) and So Many Ways ($9.80)--who both followed up in style with a graded stakes rolling double ($133). DiDonato’s pick somehow overcame a nightmare trip to get him back into the lead heading into the final day. It’s normal for a 33-year-old to be experiencing chest pains, right?

Monday - Race 6 - Msw, 2yo, 5 1/2f - #1 Stage Street (5-2)
   Of all the tough beats that I’ve experienced this summer, Stage Street getting reeled in to finish second is one of a handful that has really stuck with me, even if he was only even-money. The Mike McCarty colorbearer took a hard bump at the start after exiting from the one hole that day, and Leparoux did a remarkable job just to stay aboard. Stage Street recovered nicely to chase a hot pace in third over a sloppy track, looked like he was home free after shooting through a huge opening along the inside at the top of the stretch, but just couldn’t fend off the Pletcher/Starlight firster Park City and came up a length short. Stage Street has been unfortunately drawn on the rail again, but has a huge experience edge on his rivals here, composed of all first-time starters (not including the AEs). With a clean break this time, Stage Street will be long gone. Play: $62 Win (All In). Alternate 1: Race 1 - $62 Win (Turf Only) on #1 Noble Tune. Alternate 2: Race 2 - $62 Win (Turf Only) on #5 Carson Hall. Bankroll: $1,256.30 - Record: 39-9-4-4.

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