Haskell Invitational Countdown: The Most Profitable – 2014
A little precursor to this one. Right around 2013 I accepted a job straight out of my master’s/doctorate school completion located just a mile from Monmouth Park. To extend matters of track knowledge my now fiancé also grew up in Oceanport, NJ and was still living with her family there, also a mile from the track. I was away from the game in terms of the everyday weekend grind for about 9 years between undergraduate, graduate and doctorate work so my ears had been less full with what was going on in and around the track then per the usual.
Upon landing the job and being at Oceanport much more often to spend time with my fiancé and work, needless to say I was around the track much more then I have ever been up until this time. I would take some lunch breaks if I was loving a horse and head over to play them. I spoke with many of the other Handicappers that made a living off this game. Additionally, I began to land on the leaderboard in tournaments and owners would ask If I was an owner due to those constant high leaderboard placements, and if not was I interested, which gave me the ability to head to the stables. I visited some horses on a regular basis, spoke to some trainers and stable mates and became very good friends with a current jockey and a particular trainer that, that jockey still to this day typically mounts for. All in all, I was more than prepared and prepped for this season than ever before.
Everyone has their home turf. My friend Pick 6 King smokes Gulfstream ever since I began to speak with him on a weekly/bi weekly basis and also dominates the NYRA. It didn’t surprise me to find out in conversation where his location landed while growing up and also currently. My buddies Pat and Steve, also excel at Monmouth and the NYRA, does not surprise me they grew up in NY and upstate Jersey and have now since moved south and reside in Monmouth County, NJ. Call it luck, I call it home turf. Skill plays a part absolutely, but knowledge, who you know and what you know about your home track is also key in my humble opinion.
With all that being said, In 2014 I was quite keen on Bayern. After getting wiped out in the Preakness, he put on a clinic in the Woody Stephens. I was slightly concerned with a possible bounce, but the number was not so outrageous that I was overly concerned. I waited on his workouts like a kid in a candy shop and they did not un-impress. His last workout coming into the race was off the charts, Baffert was smoking hot in the Haskell while losing the previous year, he won the 3 before that with Paynter, Coil and Lookin at Lucky. All this was more than enough for me and without getting into too much detail I saw him once more during the week. There were four things left I wanted to see. Going back to home turf, Monmouth tends to usually get rain on Haskell day, so I wanted to see the footing he would get. Secondly, Monmouth tends to develop a rail speed basis and about 4-5 races in through the day you can see if there is some favor to it or not. Especially when the better jockeys are mounted as they will completely change their trip mid race to ride it. Third, part of that rail speed bias also has a 50% cause due to Monmouth getting a Southwest to Northwest wind from the water less than a mile away and it can really benefit the top end speed and hurt the closers. Lastly, I wanted to get one more paddock look on the day of. Those four factors would play in to at this point not If I was going to bet him, but how much.
Typically, on Haskell day, I do very little betting, while instead make up for the drinking I haven’t done while handicapping the previous 5 months. Additionally, our crowd that started out as a foursome, at this point has turned into 20, it’s like a family and friend reunion, the last thing I want to be doing is sweating, stressing, and not having a good time while losing. I’m not going to get into the entire day because this is Most Profitable Haskell article not day, but I will get into the bet determining race and the Haskell. I find 2-3 spots and try to pound them and call it day. I was very content with how the day was going and was up about $100 betting minimal wagers. I only go to the track with $200 starting bankroll (unless in a tournament) so I was around $300 total bankroll 6 races before the Haskell.
By Race 4 or 5 the front end speed bias was in full affect. If you go back and check out the full chart race results, I don’t even have to look, I will assure you it went something like
So here we are at Race 7, somehow a horse by the name of Natalia Victoria is a heavy favorite at 1/1, maybe even lower. As I mentioned, Pick your spots. At this time, Moochie Man and Antonio had not come onto the scene yet, Lezcano was my favorite jockey in the whole world and had won me a good amount of money already up to this point. However, I was just not seeing him or this horse winning the race, especially not at those odds. A closing horse, up against the wind and the front end rail basis, no way. I thought the only possible shot was if Lezcano tried something new and took this horse out to the lead and tried to use tactical speed to get away. In my mind, Majestic River with Rosie on board should have been the favorite as the lone top end speed horse. At this point and time in the day, the bias benefits are clearly in this horse’s favor. There were a bunch of horses, all that I’ve seen at Monmouth run before that I knew a lot about grouped into 5/1-7/1 range, and a horse that had a very good shot I really liked that I guess I only luckily knew about at 30/1 or so. The remaining 2 horses were a 50/1 shot that clearly was up against it and a horse that was taking a lot of money that I’d seen 4-5 times during the meet and never ever fires early, off my ticket.
Having around $300, I knew I wanted to have at least $200 for Bayern coming up later on in the day, so I went to the computer and put in a $1 trifecta box 3,5,6,9 – $24 and punched it 4x for a total of $96. As expected Majestic River went right out to the top and unfortunately my fear Lezcano took the heavy favorite Natalia Victoria out there also. The two sat side about side the entire backstretch and for the most part Natalia Victoria held quite the advantage. The rest sat in a pretty close and tight pack right behind. Right around the turn Lezcano and Rosie got into both horses and Majestic River was gone, Rosie turned into the rail, road the bias easily clear. Natalia Victoria looked to have nothing but also seemed to pull up a bit. The rest of the pack broke away as the #3 Montana Native and my 30/1 secret #6 Lucky Rag Doll tried to chase down Majestic River. They would not catch her, but BANG. $398 on every $1, we slapped it for $1,592, without the tax man knowing.
I sat for the rest of the card until the Haskell. Bayern walked out of the paddock and into the post parade just like the beast I pegged him to be the entire week, the stage was no bigger than any other race for this horse. Not only did he look great, the horse being obsessed with and most successful out front for Baffert now has the track bias behind him, I mean could this setup get any better for my horse of the day? I wasted no time. I went right to the computer, $100 to win. (Now later in life this would be one of the many times I took a stand vs. Untapable, al. la my biggest score ever, Wedding Toast), I would then put in a $5 Exacta punching it 10x for $50, 2 w/3,4,5,6,8,9 and a $2 Trifecta, punching it 2x for $60 2 w/3,4,5 w/3,4,5,6,8,9. When the dust settled I was All in on Bayern for $210.
For anyone that saw the race I don’t think I need to say much or go into much description. I knew the second Bayern broke to the top and went to the rail, the race was over, and everyone around me did too. Garcia found the bias on the rail and road it until there was fire under his shoes. Fractions of 23:54, 47:66, and 1:11.16 all on the rail only reassured me it was long over. Martin Garcia asked around the turn for more and he got it as Bayern won by about 7 lengths that felt like 30. To be honest, I was more concerned about my Exacta and Trifecta and didn’t even see Bayern finish. #3 Albano also went right for the bias and road the rail dead last to second on the stretch while #8 Wildcat Red held 3rd from start to finish, so we hit all 3.
When the smoke cleared the win paid $11.40 = $570. The Exacta paid $97.00 = $485 and the Trifecta paid $432.90 = $1,731.16. In total $2,786.16 on the 2014 Haskell Invitational, earning the Haskell Invitational Countdown, Most Profitable Haskell.