Today, I played Jim Vs. for the third time.
It is a handicapping contest every week at Hawthorne in which a different person every week takes on Jim Miller, Hawthorne’s on-track analyst. Jim had gotten me both times I had played before. I was well-beaten when I did it in March of last year. Things were slightly closer when I returned in November, but August Day’s win in the 4th made the difference and put Jim ahead.
The scoring metric for Jim Vs. is simple: $2 across the board on our top picks in each race. This time, I looked to be in a pretty good spot going into the finale. Through the first eight races all eight of my top picks had hit the board. I had four winners (Gothic Princess, Ideal Alluvial, Queen Otaheite, Rushin’ Rubietta), three seconds (Lethal, Phaniebdancing, Dani Nikki), and a third (Broome Street). I even had a decent price among them, with Queen Otaheite paying $15.00 to win in the 5th. Jim had three winners going into the last: Ideal Alluvial, Rushin’ Rubietta, and Grayrock. He also had Sheza Ruler who had hit third in the second.
Entering the final race, I had $77.60 compared to Jim’s $35.00. In the paddock before the final race, Jim commented to me that he needed to win this last race if he was going to beat me in the contest.
The finale was the only race with a field bigger than seven. Twelve answered the call to post; we were both determined to beat The Green Cougar. I figured there would be some pace, and knew Cherokee Mate had put up some good previous efforts first off the lay. I landed with him. Jim read the race as having a bit less pace than I did, and landed on Sweeping Change. It was rider Chris Emigh’s first mount back from the winter, and he had some back form out at Gulfstream Park West that would make him competitive here. We both had Last Tears and The Green Cougar in our 2-3 slots, but since Jim Vs. only takes top selections into account, it would be the battle of the long shots. Cherokee Mate went off at 23/1; the public sent Sweeping Change away at 27/1.
Last Tears got out to the early lead, with fellow speedster B S Wildcat sending outside of him. B S Wildcat started to fade early, but rail-drawn Bushido quickly made it up from the second flight to join Last Tears. Keep On Shining advanced from the next flight. My selection, Cherokee Mate, was near the back as expected. Sweeping Change, Jim’s choice, was midpack along the rail. He was slowly but steadily advancing.
Turning for home, Cherokee Mate stalled out. Sweeping Change, on the other hand, kept going along the rail. Sweeping Change gained steam down the stretch. Bushido tried to dig in against the menace on his inside; he did not have enough. Sweeping Change swept by, and easily bested a late run from Keep On Shining on the outside. Bushido held third.
Cherokee Mate finished a non-threatening eighth; it was the only race of the day in which my top selection did not hit the board. Sweeping Change paid $57.40 to win, and a total of $86.40 across the board. I was ahead for the rest of the day, but Jim’s Donnaguska-esque run in the finale got him up just in time. Sweeping Change gave Jim $121.40 over my $77.60, and makes him three-for-three against me in Jim Vs.
Though I lost the contest, today hardly feels like a loss of any sort. I had a lot of fun doing the contest and the analysis segments. Talking horses on the air is thrilling, and a lot of my handicapping through the day was on-point. I do so much discussing handicapping logic in writing that doing so in a spoken manner never stops being exciting.
I even left with some money in my pocket. As the sponsor of the contest, Xpressbet puts up $50 for both Jim and his adversary to bet on a race of their choice. The contestant keeps what they win; anything Jim wins goes to Galloping Out.
I chose to bet the 6th, a classy sprint allowance for fillies and mares. I thought Exquisite Lady may be vulnerable, and thought the rail would remain a good place to be. As such, I built my bets around Phaniebdancing: $10 to win and $20 to place on her, as well as a $5 exacta with Phaniebdancing and Exquisite Lady over those two and Gambler Five. Exquisite Lady danced on the front end, winning in yet another runaway, but Phaniebdancing got home second. I had to sweat a trainer’s claim of foul by third-place Dolly Peach against Phaniebdancing, since all of my tickets would have been toast had they switched places, but the claim was dismissed.
All in all, it was a memorable day at the races. Thank you, Hawthorne, for having me back on Jim Vs. again this meet…and congratulations, Jim, on winning with a brilliant long shot selection!