Making the “Cover of the Rolling Stone” was the title of a hit song by Dr. Hook in 1972. If you made it into Rolling Stone magazine, you’ve made it.
Well, the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship did make the Rolling Stone this week in what I would call a Hunter S. Thompson style feature. The title of the piece is “Inside Horse Racing’s Hunger Games.”
It is a good description: Hunger Games. In reality, no one gets killed at the NHC, but playing in it can be like dying a thousand deaths. Each winner you pick shoots a mythical poison dart into your foes. Hit them with enough darts and they will fall by the wayside one by one.
I think the attraction was simple, too. More than $2.9 million in prize money with an $800,000 first prize. It involved gambling. It had an oddball cast of 654 characters from all walks of life. The magazine called the intensity of the event like being on the “stock exchange (floor) during a market crash.”
It was a real rush to be there at TI.
Now, I will not make a false claim that all 654 contestants are winning horseplayers. Winning money through betting is a different skill set than picking winners. But these players are among the best at picking winners. And price horses, too.
One does not win the NHC by picking $6 and $8 horses. But one does not necessarily need to pick $40 and $50 horses, either. The midpriced horse in the $10 to $25 range can win you a lot of money out of pocket and in tournament play.
The NHC has spawned a lot of feeder companies that offer a way to win seats to the event via qualifiers. The cost to play ranges from thousands of dollars to literally free.
And it has attracted competition. The Daily Racing Form has been teasing the public with drf.com/tour ads. The final plans are incomplete, but it seems like a potentially parallel horseplayer tour.
I would consider this a plus for horseplayers. This isn’t like the days of the old AFL versus the NFL in which you had to choose one league over the other. Contest players follow the money. So my suggestion is if you see a fork in the tournament road, just take it.
KENTUCKY DERBY PREPS
Three Kentucky Derby point races are scheduled for this weekend. The El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate and the Hyacinth at Tokyo Racecourse are Saturday, and the Southwest at Oaklawn Park is Monday.
At Golden Gate, Sheer Flattery (7-5) and Ann Arbor Eddie (2-1) are the most logical horses shipping north from Santa Anita Park. There is little to separate them, and both are trying the synthetic Tapeta surface for the first time. The home-court edge goes to More Power to Him (6-1), who has excelled over the fake dirt.
The Southwest will feature the top finishers from the Smarty Jones in Uncontested, Petrov and Warrior’s Club. Ten horses are probable for the Southwest, which will be drawn Friday. Of the shippers, the main horse to fear is One Liner, who is 2-0 for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. You can buy his Santa Anita Park picks at racedaylasvegas.com. You can email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @richeng4propick.