For better or worse, I’m playing Huddie this year.
I heard about it last year, but it sounded like too much. A contest that forced me to look at every race every weekend on a circuit that was not my home track, to evaluate and pick my spots, to go up against writers and handicappers and contest players who knew far more about racing than I did? The entry fee sounded like a lot of money to spend in order to set myself up for failure.
That’s not to say I spurned the Spa. I followed the meet more closely than I followed any meet outside the Chicago area. I listened to the races while I worked. I did handicap every Friday card and send my picks to Emily; I posted the spot plays I liked most here at Blinkers Off.
I appreciated the lower-pressure Saratoga last year, especially since I was just getting my feet wet. A year later, with a bit more experience under my belt, I am going to try deeper waters.
After all, I was handicapping Saratoga, full-card, once a week. Deciding what to write about meant I was picking spots. Huddie will basically be that, but three days a week instead of one, and actual money on the line. It still sounds like a lot, but not quite the insurmountable challenge it seemed last year.
I am still nervous about some of the same things. Chicago remains my highest-priority circuit, and I still feel a little weird when I’m handicapping races that aren’t full of horses and connections who I see in person week in and week out. Time also remains at a premium. Arlington remains in full swing throughout the Saratoga meet, and the Million falls in mid-August. I have a year more experience than I did last year, which should help, but it will still be a significant increase to this glacially slow handicapper’s race load.
Still, the benefits should outweigh the costs. Win or lose, it will keep me better in touch with the racing at Saratoga, and give me some context for the conversations surrounding the meet. It will get me to spend more time thinking about contest strategy, specifically how to approach contests without mandatory races. It will provide more spot plays to discuss here at Blinkers Off.
And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get lucky.