NHC Veteran Joe Scanio Seeks Gotham Score

The Gotham Challenge takes place this Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack and online for the first time via NYRA Bets. Entries for the $500 live-bank contest close Thursday night at 5 p.m. One of the players looking forward to competing is Joe Scanio.

Scanio is an old-school New York horseplayer. How old school? He describes himself as being from the Fred Capossela-era. He used to hitchhike from his home in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn – where he still resides today.

“First, you’d get a ride from the Verrazano Bridge to Flatbush, and from there you’d get another guy to take you to Lefferts Boulevard,” he happily recalled.

His horseplayer “origin story” is a twist on a theme. Unlike so many in his generation, he did not have an older relative who introduced him to the track.

“No one in my family was into the horses,” he admitted. “I broke the mold. I like to kid that I got my Associate’s Degree at Aqueduct, my Bachelor’s at Belmont, and my PhD at Saratoga.”

His first experience came one day when he cut school to hang out at a Bay Ridge pool room – as one did back in the day. There he met a couple of older guys who took him along to the races.

“I bet on a horse named Mountain Crest,” said Scanio. “You always remember your first horse. And the worst thing that could have happened, happened.”

Mountain Crest was an easy winner and Scanio’s $2 bet across the board multiplied in value.

“I said, forget school, what do I need that for? I want to come here every day.”

Scanio has been active since the earliest days of NYRA’s contests in the tent in the backyard at Belmont. He might not have learned racing from a family member but he has passed on the bug to a future generation. His niece and protege, Stephanie Davis, won one of the first NYRA contests and continues to be an active participant.

“She’s great because she doesn’t get emotionally bent out of shape like a lot of everyday gamblers,” he said. “She stays calm and collected and makes better decisions than I do when it comes to contests.”

He estimates that he’s qualified for the National Horseplayers’ Championship 14 times and figures six of them have come on the NYRA circuit. He’s been to one NHC Final Table, and he and Davis both made the semi-finals in 2018.

Scanio has followed all the changes in NYRA contests through big transitions, from mythical money fixed-odds to real-money live-bankroll, and now the advent of online play.

“I think it’s a good idea and it should help increase participation a lot,” he said. “I’ll always go in person when I can. I have to work weekends sometimes and this is a benefit to me to play online those days but I’d always prefer to go because that’s really where the fun of it all is.”

Speaking of work, Scanio’s had an interesting and varied career. He started off in direct sales, and now works selling timeshares in New York. He’s also been an actor, and is currently working on a comedic screenplay – Crime Share – based on his experiences in his day job. But his real passion is for racing.

In fact, Saturday night, after the Gotham Challenge is over, he plans on heading across the river to play in a harness racing contest at the Meadowlands.

“The last time I did a doubleheader, it was Aqueduct-Roosevelt Raceway but I was a lot younger then,” he joked. “This time around we’ll see if I have the energy to survive.”

RULES OVERVIEW

Winning players on Saturday will receive cash as well as the opportunity to qualify for a seat to the two-day 2019 Belmont Stakes Challenge on June 7-8 or one of two seats to the National Horseplayers Championship in February 2020.

Tournament races include those races run live at Aqueduct Racetrack, Gulfstream Park, and Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, March 9, 2019. The final tourney race will be the nightcap at Aqueduct. Permitted wagers include Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Quinella, and Daily Double wagers. Rules require players to wager a minimum of $25 per race on a minimum of ten 10 races. Players can go all in at any time.

In order to enter and play online, contestants must be registered NYRA Bets account holders. New NYRA Bets members are currently eligible to receive a bet $200 get $200 bonus.

Full rules for the Gotham Challenge are available at this link.

Source: NYRA

Industry Profile: Handicapper Marshall Gramm, Memphis Rhodes Professor

The Rhodes professor has become one of world’s best at betting the horses

He grew up in Washington, D.C., poring over the horse racing odds that appeared in The Washington Post sports section. Then he went to Rice University in Houston, got his Ph.D. from Texas A&M, got hired by Rhodes College 19 years ago and never left Memphis.

After initially researching “bank regulation boring stuff,” he decided to turn his habit into his job. He began to use horse racing data to look at betting markets as a proxy for financial markets and pricing.

He’s also a co-founder and part-owner of Ten Strike Racing, a 10-year-old syndicate named after the 1884 winner of the Tennessee Stakes held in Memphis.

He owns about …

Industry Profile: Handicapper Jonathan Kinchen

“I think the biggest sucker play in racing is handicapping for 45 minutes, and then spending three minutes deciding how to bet it. So often, players will get home from work, handicap to 11, wake up and handicap, go to the track and then construct their Pick 5 ticket at the window. I think you should spend as much time constructing your ticket as handicapping, if not more.”

LAS VEGAS, NV.–Jonathon Kinchen is maybe the closest thing the handicapping world has to a rock star. In little more than four years, Kinchen has gone from an unknown real estate investor with little tournament experience to a commentator on Fox Sports’ Saturday at the Races. He’s arguably the most recognizable and popular player at the NHC, and it’s easy to see why. Kinchen’s young (for a horseplayer), he can pull off the odd tropical shirt, and his sleeved left arm is covered in tattoos of Barbaro, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. His Tweets are often clever, and even his Twitter handle–@UTBigHair, a nod to his alma mater–is above average.

At root, though, the 36-year-old Kinchen is simply a good horse player. He remains the only player in NHC history to have both of his entries qualify for The Final Table, and in 2015 he won the NHC Tour, a testing year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned events.

You’d be familiar with Kinchen’s introduction to handicapping. He grew up in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and his father often brought him along on trips to Lone Star Park.

“He’s a horrible bettor,” Kinchen laughed. “He doesn’t look at the Form; he’s the guy standing in line in front of you looking back at the TV screen, betting our address. But I saw a lot of guys with computers and papers doing it seriously, and I figured that if I was going to come with him, I should at least figure what it’s all about.”

 

Industry Profile: Bryan and Judy Wagner

This past weekend Bryan Wagner was inducted into the NTRA’s Horseplayers Hall of Fame, post mortem.  His wife and racing partner, Judy Wagner, a dear friend of mine, gave an emotional acceptance speech at the 20th annual dinner banquet for the NHC.  [This article originally in the Horse Player magazine, which is no longer in print.]

BRYAN AND JUDY WAGNER

2009 NHC TOUR CHAMP & 2000 NTRA HANDICAPPER OF THE YEAR

By Rich Nilsen

I sat down with Judy and Bryan Wagner for this Horse Player Magazine interview not long after their appearance in the 11th annual National Handicapping Championship (NHC). I met the charming and gregarious couple from New Orleans on the tournament trail several years ago and am blessed to have become friends with them during that time.

Their beloved Saints (which Bryan used to own a piece of) upset the Colts to win the Super Bowl and temporarily turn their world upside down – but in a good way. The Wagners still found time in their busy schedule to share their thoughts about the NHC, the challenge of finishing one-two in the NHC Tour last year, and handicapping in general.

 

HP: How did you each get started with handicapping and following our great sport of horse racing?

Bryan I started by going to the track as a teenager and immediately feel in love with the track and racing.

Judy – I met Bryan in late June, 1994.  He took me to the track with him the next month.  After my second visit to the track with him, he handed me a Racing Form and said I want a partner not a companion.  He said you can learn this since you are a person that likes stats.  I took the racing program the first couple of times and saw who the leading trainers and jockeys were and looked for runners that they rode or trained.

 

Bryan and Judy Wagner at 2018 Eclipse Awards, Gulfstream Park, FL 1.25.2018 copyright AGOS

HP: Winning the NHC Tour was quite an accomplishment, but finishing one-two was pretty amazing. When did you decide to go after the grand prize of the tour?

Bryan – I became very involved with Congressman Joseph Cao, our first Vietnamese Congressman, in 2008.  He will run for re-election in 2010.  Since 2009 was an off year, I felt if either one of us could get some early Tour points this was the year to give it a shot.  With the TwinSpires.com Leaderboard, other online contests, our local contests and the other contests we like to travel to, I would have the time for probably approximately 15 contests.  After Judy was in first place in early May, we really started giving this more serious thought.   I then won a contest in June and that pretty much sealed the deal to give it a big effort.

Judy – I was very fortunate to win the first online NHC Qualify tournament of the year in April.  A couple of weeks later I received points in the free NHC Tour contest on Kentucky Oaks/Derby weekend.  Since there were not that many contests in the early part of the year, the total points I received in these two events put me in first place.

As with all of us we like seeing our name at the top of a leader board.  Although I had said in the past, once I qualified I would not go for the Tour top prize, when the rules changed where the top five finishers get the auto qualification to NHC the following year, this made me revisit my quest.  Prior to the auto qualify the following year, I felt I did not have the time to play enough tournaments and the chances were so slim with the odds against me, I really did not consider going for first.  With the top five getting the pass for 2011 coupled with the start I had, I decided to continue to play, especially in online tournaments.

I was very fortunate to pick up more points in July online.  By this point with both of us having won tournaments and having other points, we were in the top 15 and the Tour grabbed us.  The year for me did not start with the goal of chasing the Tour but it grabbed me about July – really tight.  It was never a situation that one of us was trying to beat the other.  We were and always have been each other’s biggest cheerleaders.  We were working hard at that point to try to get one of us to the top and hopefully the other in the top five.

 

HP: I think you both knew it would be a major challenge to finish in the top five on the Tour. Just how difficult was it?

Bryan – It was extremely difficult and we did not know until the last tournament of December that we both made it.

Judy – In September I moved into fourth or fifth place and Bryan was in top 10.  He had a good finish at Fairplex, moved into the top five, and knocked me down a few spots.  Within two weeks I had two good point finishes at Fairplex and moved into first.  Shortly there after, someone else moved into first.  The scores were so tight it was obvious the 2009 Tour was going to be tight to the end as the scores were so close and numerous players were within striking distance.

After Bryan had a first place finish, and I had a second in the TwinSpires.com Leaderboard that ended in November, Bryan was back in first and I was in the top five again.  We really felt we had to be aggressive at this point to try to get the results we wanted.   We made plans to play in two tournaments in December we had never participated in – Keeneland and Turfway.  We both did not do well.

We faced a very difficult decision about going to Surfside, leaving family on Christmas night.  Steve Hartshorn was breathing down Bryan’s neck as he had won the NHC Qualify online in the middle of December.  California is his home turf and he is such a strong handicapper, that we felt we had to go to fight for both of us to try to stay in the top five. I was barely hanging on to 5th position.  The racing Gods smiled on us and our family forgave us for leaving children and grandchildren at 8 pm Christmas night. Bryan finished second at Surfside sealing his first place position.  I was lucky and finished third.  This gave me the points to move from 5th into a tie with Steve for second.  We were fortunate as there were several very good handicappers that could have won or moved up.  We just hung on for our handicapping lives.  Yes, I would say it was difficult, but the pressure was worse.

 

HP: Let’s talk handicapping. You each have different approaches to handicapping. Can you go into detail how you dissect a race.

Bryan – Since I do not have to play every race, I will look at a race for about five minutes for an angle- lone speed, lone deep closer, hidden jockey change, and “better-than-it-looks” races.  I will also search for one of only a few horses that can go a particularly long distance.  If race is a mandatory race, I just handicap race and look for best value and how the price of the horse affects my standings in the contest.

Judy – First thing I look for is to see if a runner has been the distance and condition.  If not, I look at pedigree for distance and surface. My favorite races are those that are first time starters and first time on turf.  I also look at trouble first trips.  I feel young runners can change very quickly with even one start.  Some are quick studies with one time in paddock and starting gate.

Also trainer/jockey stats for conditions are very important.  Some trainers are anxious to get horses to the starting gate and their stats show that runners may not be ready.  Others will not send a runner to a race until they are sure they can handle race.  These stats are very important in my analysis of race.  Also for distance races, especially long races of 1 1/8 miles or more, I really look at experience and pedigree for runners.  My favorite races to handicap are those with first turf starts and first time starters.  I especially like to follow young sires.  The lower profile sires with high percentage success is an angle I search for.  Also, the trainer stats for this type runner is very important.  Although some of the top trainers do not push their first time runners and I shy away from their runners.  I really like to find an “under-the-radar” trainer that has a very high percentage for this race condition.

A great example was Saturday, day two, of the NHC. In Gulfstream Park race 3, the #6 horse had a trainer with over 40% success with first turfers.  The runner won at over 80-1.  This was a very much under-the-radar trainer.

 

HP: What tools do you rely on in your handicapping?

Bryan – This depends on how many tracks are in a contest.  If only one or two tracks are involved, I use DRF or BRIS Ultimate PPs, as well as the Sire Stats book for first time on a new surface.  I will use HTR for workouts and quick stat summaries.  In contests with several tracks, I also use Thorograph Sheets for a more comprehensive view of race.  This also allows for a quick look at many aspects of race in a shorter period of time.  Frankly, I am dissatisfied with my ability to consistently get the results I need and I am going to dedicate this year in deciding on a lone handicapping methodology.

Judy – I start my handicapping with the Brisnet Insider Picks and Power Plays.  I use this as my racing program. I feel naked if I go to the track without my Insider Picks & Power Plays report. On it, I note runners, trainers or jockeys that have outstanding stats.  It gives me the red flags that tell me whether or not to pay attention to a particular runner.

From this I go to HTR and review their stats and especially workout ratings for first time starters and first turfers.  I also keep notes during the year on young sires and what their runners have done.  The past workouts have really played an important part in my handicapping.  I watch for layoffs and how a trainer brings runners back after layoffs.  I immediately note jockey changes in the materials I use.  I still have a racing form to refer to as this was my initial tool when I started my handicapping journey.  I really like to compare the various information that is available.  This is especially important for new sires. I never handicap without my Sire Stats book from BRIS that has several years of notes that are transferred every year.

 

HP: Do you feel there are some handicapping factors that are over-weighted, as well as factors that not emphasized enough by the wagering public?

Bryan: I think that workouts are often overlooked by the public. However, at major tracks the workouts can be overbet due to the presence of more clockers and dissemination of information.

In some states, the state-bred runners are equivalent to anywhere in the country; whereas in other states, they can be vastly inferior.

Judy: I think for the average player that does not really dissect the race, certain trainers and jockeys are overbet. Certainly there are excellent well known trainers and jockeys with good percentages, but I love to see these types “bet down” when I have a longer priced runner that I really like. Oftentimes, these are horses with lesser known connections.

I think that the general wagering public does not get into pedigree handicapping, nor do they spend the time necessary to figure out a trainer’s strengths or weaknesses.

As I like to bet first time starters, there are several well known, very successful trainers that do not push their horse first time out, and I think this is something that is overlooked numerous times by the public.

Sometimes, articles and information often put out by women are not given the same type of respect as information put out by men. For example, I love the work that Lauren Stich has done in regards to pedigree information.

 

HP: What are your favorite wagers to make?

Bryan: I like to make exacta wagers, as well as the Pick-4. My favorite wager of all is when there is a carryover pool on the last day of a meet where there is a mandatory payout.

 

Judy: As far as contests go, I like win and place wagers. In terms of betting, I prefer the dime superfecta wager, especially in a full field of maidens or two year olds.

I love keying a horse that I like at 5-1 or higher in multiple trifecta partwheel tickets.

 

HP: Bryan, you were the lone player eligible for an incredible $2 million bonus if you captured the NHC in January. How much added pressure did that put on you, and is there anything you feel that you would have done differently?

Bryan: First of all, I have been to the NHC enough to realize how incredibly tough it is to win it. I would say that the favorite in a tournament like that should probably between 80 and 100-1. Secondly, I don’t get along with Vegas and the higher altitudes, so that makes it tougher on me. Thirdly, I prefer tournaments that only have a few tracks versus a lot of tracks like the NHC. With those factors in mind, I did not feel a lot of pressure. But I sure did enjoy the experience and being the Tour Champ. People were very gracious.

As far as doing anything differently, I should have played some higher priced horses at the NHC.

 

HP: Judy, I believe, this was the third time you have cashed in the National Handicapping Championship [and fourth time finishing in the top 30]. Do you approach that tournament any differently than a contest during the year, and what do you feel has been the secret of your success at the NHC?

Judy: Just the common sense things. I try to go out a couple days early and be well rested. I spend a lot more time dissecting the types of races I like there, than I do at other contests during the year.

I download the reports from Brisnet early in the week, and then later in the week, use some of my other tools. I keep all my notes on my form at the NHC.

 

HP: What preparation do you typically do leading up to the NHC each year?

Bryan: First of all, tracks that are running 30 to 35 days prior to the tournament – I like to look at those races so that I can judge for myself where the really tough fields are, how the track plays, and hopefully some of the “better than looks” horses will show up in the tournament. I will put them in my stable email.

Secondly, BRIS reports come out with some of the information earlier than other sources. I try to get a jump on the races that way.

Judy: The tracks that you assume will be used in the tournament are the ones I will watch. For the tracks I normally don’t follow, I will go through the result charts for the past several weeks to try to uncover any types of patterns, hot trainers and jockeys, etc.

I am not very good with pace handicapping, but the BRIS Ultimate Past Performances will give me details on the track biases that I can note, as well as the pace ratings for each runner.

 

HP: Since you are already qualified for the 2012 NHC thanks to your top five finishes, to what extent will you go after the tour this year? What advice would give to players participating in the tour?

Bryan: I definitely plan on participating in a few tournaments this year, just because they are fun to play in. It will be great to play in a contest where there is very little pressure. If one of us happens to win a couple of tournaments in a row, then obviously it would change our plans concerning the Tour.

I would love to expand on that second question in a future issue of The Horse Player magazine!

Judy: I have not made a firm decision on the Tour this year. There was a lot of stress going after the Tour last year! I still have my household responsibilities, so going after the Tour the same way is a tough decision. Now, if early in the year, I win a tournament again and find myself on top of the Leaderboard, it is possible I will chase the Tour the same way. Regardless, I will certainly participate in the Tour to some extent. We are entered for the $500 level.

My only advice would be that if enjoy tournament play or just handicapping in general, then you should definitely give the Tour a try. You do need to have a real competitive spirit if you are serious about doing well on the Tour.

 

HP: Having owned horses myself for 10 years, I feel that has given me insight into the game that most handicappers don’t have. You have owned a stable for many years and have a piece of Kelly Leak, who defeated Mine That Bird in the 2009 Sunland Derby. How has owning racehorses influenced your handicapping?

Bryan: This gives me great insight into why a horse might be placed in a race. In some cases they may not have been able to find a proper race so they are giving the horse a start. Sometimes you will see a horse, particularly a filly or mare, run in a stakes race in a short field just to get black type (a top three finish for their pedigree page) which enhances the breeding value.

For the modest cost of getting into a partnership, I recommend every horseplayer, who can, to become an owner at least one time.

Judy: Right now I don’t personally have any horse ownership. When owning horses, however, you know the importance of proper training. You tend to investigate trainers to know more about their ethics, their philosophy, etc. You tend to understand trainer patterns, such as why they may have a certain jockey on a horse. You understand more why a trainer may place a horse in a certain spot.

Almost by osmosis, when working with your trainer, you pick up details on other trainers and how they handle their stock.

 

HP: Judy, you are without a doubt one of the most accomplished female handicappers in the game. How do you feel the sport can market to women better and bring more Judy Wagners into racing?

Judy: I have gotten to know a fellow female handicapper from Arkansas. I got to sit with her at Louisiana Downs. By conversing with her, she reminded me that females are less intimidated to ask other females about how they got into a certain field, hobby, whatever.

I wish I had the magic answer for this, but I really don’t.  I have done some seminars entitled “woman in handicapping.” One of the first things I tell woman in those seminars is to get to know the leading trainers and jockeys.  Also, you can’t learn everything in a day, a week, or even a year. Choose one segment of the game and begin by learning about that.

I would love to get to know more women who are committed to handicapping and learning.

Bryan Wagner, Trey Stiles Selected For NHC Hall of Fame

Wagner, Stiles Selected For NHC Hall of FameLAS VEGAS, NV (January 31, 2019) – Bryan Wagner, a 14-time National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) qualifier, and David “Trey” Stiles, who has qualified for every NHC since 2003, have been selected for induction into the NHC Hall of Fame, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today.

Wagner and Stiles represent the fifth class of NHC Hall of Fame inductees and will be recognized during the NHC Champions Dinner on Sunday evening at the conclusion of the 20th NTRA NHC Presented by Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens™ and Treasure Island Las Vegas, set for Friday to Sunday at Treasure Island. Since its launch in 2014, the NHC Hall of Fame has inducted two impact figures each season, making Wagner and Stiles the Hall’s ninth and tenth members.

The Wagner name is already part of NHC lore. The husband of 2001 NHC Champion and 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Judy Wagner, Bryan Wagner earned the distinction of 2009 NHC Tour Champion and earned more than $100,000 at the annual NHC finals in Las Vegas. In addition to their handicapping proficiency at other NHC-sanctioned contests, Bryan and Judy Wagner were among the Tour’s most popular figures. Bryan Wagner, who died in August of 2018, was particularly known for his gentlemanly ways and was described in a Rolling Stone feature as holding court “like a John Grisham character.”

“I am thrilled to hear Bryan is being voted into the Hall of Fame,” Judy Wagner said. “Bryan was almost a lifelong handicapper. It started when he learned to sneak into Fair Grounds in New Orleans as a young teenager. He had an unbelievable mathematical/analytical mind that was a perfect fit for handicapping.

“When the NHC Tour kidnapped him a few years ago he accepted the challenge and fought long and hard to achieve his goal of winning the Tour. Although he had many memorable handicapping experiences winning the Tour is near the top. This honor of Hall of Fame is another that I am sure would be at the top.”

Stiles, an attorney in Houston, TX, began visiting the racetrack in his teens at Delta Downs and has gone on to become one of the most recognizable faces on the NHC Tour.

A self-taught handicapper, Stiles played in his first handicapping contest in 2001 and began his record-setting streak at the NHC with a win at a contest at Retama Park in his native Texas in 2002. His knowledge serves both himself and other horseplayers well as he is also a NHC Mentor, teaching new Tour members the ins and outs and strategies involved with contest play.

“It’s a pretty amazing group so it’s quite an honor,” Stiles said of his Hall of Fame induction, adding that his first NHC experience lit the fire for his 16-year run. “I would say it would be my first time (at NHC that stands out), not because I did my best, but I enjoyed it so much that it made me want to get back there. It was such a cool experience. It hooked me and it made me want to learn and I’ve done that.”

Wagner and Stiles join Steve Crist (2016), Mike Mayo (2015), Chris Larmey (2018), Ron Rippey (2015), Paul Shurman (2017), Judy Wagner (2016), Steve Wolfson, Sr. (2017), Steve Wolfson, Jr. (2018) as Hall of Fame inductees. The honorees are chosen by the NTRA in consultation with the NHC Players’ Committee.

The main criteria for the NHC Hall of Fame are as follows:

· Competed in NHC-sanctioned tournaments;

· Played consistently well over an extended period of time;

· Gained the respect of peers;

· And, contributed to the overall growth and success of NHC tournament play, with indelible positive and lasting results.

Second-Half Surge Propels David Gutfreund to NHC Tour Championship

LEXINGTON, Ky. (January 17, 2019) – One of the most remarkable stretches in the history of the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Tour propelled longtime contest player David Gutfreund to five tournament victories in the second half of the year en route to earning 24,123 points to win the 2018 NHC Tour, which ended Saturday.

Gutfreund earned $100,000, a 2020 NHC seat, a trophy, and the chance to play for an additional $6 million in bonuses at NHC 19, plus the $800,000 winner’s share, Feb. 8-10, at Treasure Island Las Vegas.

“It’s beyond incredible and I’ve been around gambling a long time,” Gutfreund said of his Tour win. “I won $90,000 on a 20 cent (Rainbow Six) bet and I’d argue that this is more unexplainable and more difficult odds wise than that was.”

Twice a top-10 finisher at the NHC, Gutfreund put together a body of handicapping work in the last couple of months in 2018 that even the veteran himself counts as one of his most improbable gambling achievements. Having already double qualified for the NHC by virtue of a pair of on-track tournament victories at Hawthorne Race Course in July and the Meadowlands in September, chasing a Tour title was not exactly something the Chicago resident and longtime successful poker player and horseplayer had as an objective.

Gutfreund didn’t play in another Tour event until Thanksgiving weekend at Hawthorne, with a confidence boost being his main goal rather than points. When he notched on-track win No. 3, some prodding from comrades and re-examination on his part convinced him that ending up atop the 2018 Tour Leaderboard wasn’t such a far-fetched notion.

“Quite frankly, my poker and my gambling had gone pretty much south since I had won that tournament at the Meadowlands in the middle of September and I needed a little bit of a slump buster, a little bit of a confidence builder,” Gutfreund said of his Hawthorne Tour win on Nov. 24. “I had had success at that Hawthorne tournament over the years and I was in Chicago over Thanksgiving weekend. There was no entry fee and I decided to support the local racetrack who had done a great job over the years hosting NHC qualifiers.

“Later that night, a couple of my cronies gave me a call. They mentioned the Tour and I felt as if I needed to do a little bit of due diligence to see where I actually stood. With the three live bankroll wins that I had already accomplished, I was like what the heck. Maybe I can get into the top 20 or maybe sneak into the top five. Running down (First Half winner and NHC Hall of Famer) Paul Shurman was never a thought in my mind until quite a ways through the process.”

Overall NHC Tour standings are determined by totaling a player’s top seven scores from NHC-sanctioned qualifying contests, which must include at least one live, on-site event. Gutfreund earned 20,225 of his winning point total in the second half of the season. Following his November victory at Hawthorne, he won another on-track Tour event at Los Alamitos on Dec. 8 and grabbed another 3,891 points with yet another on-track triumph at Monmouth Park on Dec. 29.

“There are so many things that had to go right for me to win those five tournaments,” Gutfreund said. “I was really taking it one tournament, one day at a time, focusing on what I could focus on in the moment as opposed to looking at it as a big picture.”

Shurman, a resident of Dix Hills, N.Y., and the 2011 Tour Champion, finished in second place in the 2018 Tour with 23,425 points and earned $50,000.

Finishing third on the NHC Tour in 2018 with 22,460 points was Philip Lam of Fresh Meadows, N.Y. Lam earned $25,000 in purse money.

The top five overall Tour leaders were rounded out by fourth-place Tour finisher Karen Carey of Saratoga Springs, NY (22,002 points), and fifth-place finisher Kevin Willett of Hastings, Neb. (21,688 points).

The top five finishers on the second-half year Tour LeaderBoard were: Gutfreund (14,516 points), Lam (13,205), Shurman (13,009), Joe Petit (12,966) and Alan Levitt (12,433). The top five won a berth into the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge or $10,000.

Keeping his focus at the same razor’s edge it has been in recent months will be key to Gutfreund’s NHC preparations. While besting a field of 650 takes a perfect storm of astute handicapping and good fortune, the momentum Gutfreund is taking with him to Las Vegas is something he is acutely mindful of.

“I’m just incredibly grateful and incredibly excited. To steal a line from Dan Fogelberg, this is my chance of a lifetime in my lifetime of chance,” Gutfreund said. “I know it’s a 650 person tournament. I know how difficult it is to win. But I’ve had two top 10s, I’ve had four top 20s. It’s difficult but it’s not impossible. And I’d love to be back there on day three just swinging for the fences and giving it a run.

“I truly from the bottom of my heart have so much gratitude for this opportunity and I’m just so stoked.”

Getting to Know the BCBC Boys – Tournament Players

Nice profile / handicapping piece from a few years ago by Ren Hakim Carothers

We’ve long marketed our sport as that of kings. While this packaging does reflect the money that goes into breeding, training, and running these majestic athletes, heightening the stakes and romanticizing the idea of triumph, it can also convey exclusivity. It’s no wonder why horses with blue collar backstories competing at elite levels have captured the imagination of those outside our industry on more than one occasion. David, meet Goliath.

It’s time that mainstream audiences realized you need not be an owner of a horse, a trainer, or jockey to delight in the spoils of victory. Racing is not merely a spectator sport. It’s interactive. You simply need a ticket -a bet slip- to go along for the ride, and the fact that it’s not just the horses competing for seven figures this weekend puts an exclamation mark on that point.

BCBC Tournament Players

Again, the BCBC Bonus Boys are fascinating. Take Stephen Thompson, who is known as the “Undertaker” on the betting circuit, as an example. He is from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where he’s the owner and licensed director of Thompson Funeral Home, Inc, which was started by his great-grandfather in 1890. He fell in love with racing at the tender age of ten, going to the races with his family, and has won entry into the BCBC seven of the last eight years. Stephen says you get so pumped up in these tournaments, but he has to stay “flatlined” to stay focused, and that, should he win, the first check he’s writing is for $100,000 to benefit retired racehorses. “Without them, we have nothing!”

There are two entrants looking to pull off a BC/BCBC double. David Lanzman was hooked on racing after he and a couple of friends snuck under the fence at Hollywood Park as teenagers, having a security guard place what would be winning bets for them. He realized you could make life-changing scores playing the ponies when, with his $400 rent due and …

NHC Contest Workshop at Global Symposium on Racing

Tournament Directors from Keeneland and Monmouth Park, along with one of the most successful contest players of all-time, highlight the list of speakers at the Second Annual National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Contest Workshop in Tucson on Monday, Dec. 3, the NTRA announced.

The NHC Contest Workshop, which will be held on the eve of the University of Arizona’s 45th Annual Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming, will take place at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in the Catalina Room from 3-5 p.m. MST. The two-hour session will cover contest formats, marketing tactics, insurance bonus programs, and other factors that can help drive contest participation and revenue.

Admission to the workshop is free and the event is open to racetrack operators, marketing executives, contest operators, horsemen’s representatives, regulators and others. Attendees who also register for the symposium held the following two days will receive a $500 discount off the first NHC spot they purchase in 2019.

Veteran contest operators Jim Goodman (Keeneland) and Brian Skirka (Monmouth Park) will make presentations on how to host successful contests. NHC Hall of Famer Chris Larmey, who also chairs the NHC Players’ Committee, will provide his perspective on why contests have proven to be so popular among horse racing customers. John Unick of IOA (Insurance Office of America) will outline various insurance bonuses available at discounted pricing.

The NTRA also will provide research findings on contest players and provide updates on the 2019-20 NHC and NHC Tour.

Individuals interested in attending can RSVP by emailing Michele Ravencraft at .

Registration for the Global Symposium can be made at the following link: https://ua-rtip.org/symposium/

Source: Press Release

Veteran Tournament Player Streiff Crushes Del Mar Contest Field

Mark Streiff of Mission Viejo, CA, crushed race 9 in the Del Mar Fall Challenge (Nov. 11, 2018) to finish well clear of the 60 other entries. Streiff, down to $1,300 going into the last race scored huge with a series of trifecta wagers keyed by two longshots in first and third paying over $52,000. Dan Kaplan from Las Vegas finished second with a $100 late double for an $18,000 payout. Players began the contest with a $3,000 live money bankroll in the two-day Challenge.

Overall prizes included nearly $50,000 in cash, three $10,000 entries in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) and three entries in the 2019 $2.5 million National Horseplayers Championship (NHC). The Challenge buy-in was $4,500 with $3,000 going to the player bankroll and $1,500 to the prize pool. 100% of the prize pool was distributed back to the prizewinners with Del Mar adding a $1 million bonus opportunity which will be paid to Streiff if he goes on to win the BCBC.

In addition to Streiff’s $52,812 in bankroll winnings, he receives $30,000 in cash, a $10,000 BCBC entry plus the $1 million bonus opportunity.

PLACE   NAME    FINAL BANKROLL    PRIZES
1 Mark Streiff $52,812 ($30,000 cash and BCBC entry)
2 Dan Kaplan $19,000 ($12,500 cash and BCBC entry)
3 Mikael Christen $15,875 ($4,000 cash and BCBC entry)
4 Mark Deaton $12,720 ($2,000 cash, NHC entry & $1,000 travel)
5 Anthony Mattera $12,460 (NHC entry & $1,000 travel)
6 Davis Basler $9,163 (NHC entry & $1,000 travel)
7 Shawn Turner $8,106
8 Ed Spaunhurst $6,250
9 Linda Rodriguez $5,190
10 Chris Podratz $4,141

Source: Del Mar

What a Birthday for the Defending BetPTC Handicapper of the Year

John F. and his much better half, wife Cheryl

John F., defending BetPTC Handicapper of the Year (2017), celebrated his birthday in horseracing style. John overcame an almost insurmountable lead from Day One leader Scott C. ($5,875; +2250%) to win the 2018 BetPTC Cash is King X Finals.

Besides retaining his Handicapper of the Year title by finishing first for the second consecutive year, John garnered the coveted $12,000 Pegasus Cup Betting Challenge entry.  That event is held Jan 25-26, 2019 at Gulfstream Park (and Santa Anita).  John also keeps the $9,007 in cash he won plus receives travel reimbursement ($500) and perks at the Pegasus Cup.

Although John was a respectable 2nd after Day One ($2,457; +810.19%), Carson’s +2,250% ROI score was imposing. With a big hit at Gulfstream Park West on Sunday, John concluded his weekend with a 2-day total of $9,007; a +1632.12% ROI that put him narrowly on top.

As a 9 time-NHC qualifier, John is looking forward to not only the exciting and challenging Pegasus contest hosted by the Stronach group in late Jan, but also participating again in the $3M NHC contest in Las Vegas in early February.

For his second-place finish, Scott C. earned the $2,000 cash prize plus kept his $8,555 in winnings for a tremendous weekend of handicapping and betting.  3rd place went to Albert T. ($3,304, +278.47%), good for $1,000 in prize money. 4th place was Peter M. ($1,320, +161.41%) and 5th place was Ellis S. ($1,489, +45.75%).  Both Peter and Ellis won $500 cash.  6th place finisher was Andrew W. ($740, +32.62%), and 7th went to David V. ($1,211, +21.42%).  Each received $250 cash.

Congratulations to all 39 contestants who qualified and competed in this year’s 15-week Cash is King contest and Nov Finals.  To learn more about BetPTC and how you can receive a Custom Rewards Schedule via AGOS, click here.

A bonus contest event is being held this Friday for the 7 participants who finished in the top 3 three or more times during the 15-week contest.  An additional $3,000 in prizes will be awarded in that special event.

 

Real Money contestAbout Premier Turf Club (BetPTC)

Premier Turf Club is a U.S. based pari-mutuel account wagering provider that has been in business over 10 years.  BetPTC is regulated in the state of Oregon by the Oregon Racing Commission.

The company provides legal telephone and online betting services, safely and securely handling over $350 million in wagers.  In the summer of 2017, BetPTC released a mobile-friendly wagering platform at BetPTC.mobi.

Unlike the non-pari-mutuel off-shore bookmakers, BetPTC pays the tracks for the right to accept simulcast wagers on their races and co-mingle those wagers with the on-track pari-mutuel pools. Unlike the off-shore ADWs, a portion of all monies wagered through Premier Turf Club go to the horsemen and the local racetracks. It’s these payments that allow horsemen to run meets at Portland Meadows, country fairs and various racetracks throughout the United States.

The owner of Premier Turf Club started out in the racing industry as a horse owner and bettor. The BetPTC staff includes horse owners, bettors and industry professionals that have been involved in advance deposit wagering and simulcasting since their inceptions. The site is designed by horseplayers for horseplayers.