Last to First in the Kentucky Downs Turf Challenge Tournament

Colonial Downs Names Turf Course After SecretariatFRANKLIN, Ky. (Monday, Sept. 13, 2021) — Kenny Mollicone, a 47-year-old real-estate developer from Somerset, Mass., is the 2021 National Turf Handicapping Champion, having won the six-day online Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs.

Mollicone finished with an aggregate total of $5,783.90 Sunday after playing in all three of the individual two-day, live-money competitions. That gave him a comfortable $1,163.90 advantage over runner-up Christy Moore, who finished on top in the second contest.

As the King of the Turf, Mollicone earned $20,000 in prize money and the BetMakers King of the Turf Trophy. He earned a seat and prize pack to the 2022 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas in late January by virtue of his second place in the second contest.

If Mollicone was a horse, his race-chart trouble line would read “left at the gate, rallied, won under wraps.”

Santa Anita to return to Hillside Turf course and run 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill in October.

Mollicone tapped out in the first two-day contest staged Sept. 5-6, finishing with a $0 score as Gary Gristick won the competition with a $2,500 bankroll. Undeterred, he finished second at $3,778.40 behind Moore’s winning bankroll of $4,620 in the second tournament Sept. 8-9 and seventh with $2,005.50 Saturday and Sunday in the final leg won by Ed Deicke at $7,392. Contest players were required to bet a minimum amount of money on a minimum of five races each day.

“I was going to bet Kentucky Downs anyway,” Mollicone said by phone Monday. “To be honest, I really didn’t concentrate on the tournament. I usually bet $200, $300, $500 a race. I liked a horse or two, so I screwed around and the horses didn’t win, so I was done (with the first tournament). Some people do so much a race and manage their money. Me, I’m just like if I take a shot and win, great; if not, hey, I’ll do the next tournament. Kind of like that’s what happened.

“Like, I did OK for the tournaments, but I did great betting on my own…. I entered the contest figuring if I like a horse, I’ll take a shot. If he does well and I win, I got money and I keep playing. If not, then I just keep betting on my regular account.”

Mollicone says he played some horses whose double-digit odds seemed too high, but he couldn’t generally remember their names. One name he clearly recalls, however, is Arklow, who got bottled up in traffic in midstretch before getting through late and coming up a neck shy of Imperador in Saturday’s $1 million, Grade 2 Calumet Farm Turf Cup.

“He got blocked, should have won the race for fun,” he said. “He wins that race, I probably win that tournament. I had big doubles going in to him and big doubles going out with him. That’s what kind of killed me. Then (Sunday), I just did what I had to do. I didn’t like anything on the card.”

He said he calculated that he had enough bankroll to win the overall title and quit playing after Sunday’s seventh race — his handicapping there proving correct.

Mollicone is a fan of the competition’s format.

“It kept it interesting,” he said. “I knew I didn’t do well on the first one, but I kind of liked a couple of horses in the second one; it kept me involved. I thought it was great, the way they set up it and the way they did the overall so you’re going to play all three. Whoever came up with it, I think it’s a great idea. It keeps you wanting to do it.

“A couple of guys who beat me (in the third leg), they didn’t do the other tournaments and they didn’t get the $20,000. Shame on them. You’re going to bet Kentucky Downs anyway. It’s great racing. You’ve got great horses. I think the more the people find out about it, especially with the bonus at the end, you’re going to find more people playing next year. Guys are going to kick themselves in the butt for not playing the whole thing.”

Mollicone calls his late father, Bob, the best handicapper he’s ever known. He says the first thing he learned how to read was the Daily Racing Form and went Suffolk Downs and the off-track betting at Rhode Island casinos with his dad, the two also traveling around the country to play contests.

“I love betting turf races,” he said. “It’s a more exciting race, a more true race. And I just love the set up (at Kentucky Downs). They’re going uphill, downhill. I just love it. You look forward to it. I’ve always done well at Kentucky Downs. You get horses who pay $25, $30 that you think should pay $8 or $10. Great racing and great value.”

Tournament Director Brian Skirka called the 2021 Kentucky Downs King of the Turf Handicapping Challenge “a massive success.”

“We had over 400 combined entries over the three contests and awarded over $171,000 in prizes,” he said. “I’d like to thank all the players who participated and Kentucky Downs for putting on six days of world-class turf racing. In just two years, these Kentucky Downs contests have proven themselves to be some of the most-challenging and most-lucrative in the country. I look forward to working with the Kentucky Downs team to grow them even more in the future.”

source: Kentucky Downs

The 2021 NHC Tour Begins Today

NTRA NHC logoLexington, Ky. (January 25, 2021) – The 2021 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Tour officially begins this Friday, January 29 with a $75 online qualifier to be held on HorsePlayers.com, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today.
Friday’s contest will be the first NHC qualifier to offer 2021 NHC Tour points awarded to Tour members who finish in the top 10 percent of officially-sanctioned NHC contests and among the first contests to offer berths to the $3,000,000-estimated 2022 NTRA National Horseplayers Championship to be held at Bally’s Las Vegas January 28-30, 2022. The officially declared Tour points leader will be eligible for a $5 million bonus should he or she win the 2022 NHC.
The 2021 NHC Tour, which offers an additional $365,000 in prize money, runs through January 9, 2022 and is expected to offer hundreds of online and onsite opportunities to compete for an NHC berth. The top 75 individual point leaders on the overall year-end Tour Leader Board, who have not already qualified through an official on-track or online contest, will automatically qualify into the 2022 NHC. Horseplayers cannot buy an entry into the NHC; they must earn a berth in qualifying contests held throughout the year.

How to Participate in the 2021 National Horseplayers Championship

Tour membership of $50 must be paid prior to participating in an online or on-track NHC qualifier to be eligible to win a berth in the NHC. To sign up for the NHC Tour, go to www.ntra.com/membership.
For more information on the NHC Tour benefits and to view the official rules go to www.nhctour.com. A schedule of 2021 Tour events will be updated regularly at https://www.ntra.com/nhc/nhc-events/.
About the NHC
The NHC is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers and is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino race books, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping websites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals. There are no bye-ins to the NHC. Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards. For more information on the NHC, visit NTRA.com/nhc.

2020 NHC Tour and Qualifying Opportunities Coming to a Close

NTRA NHC logoLexington, Ky. (January 13, 2021) – Highly-coveted berths to the $3 million-estimated National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas remain up for grabs as the 2020-21 NHC Tour season winds down with online and on-track contests offered over the next two weekends and berths tied directly to season-long participation are determined by end-of-season Tour points totals.
Only six contests remain in the 2020-21 Tour season with events scheduled for Friday-Sunday on each of the next two weekends. In addition to the six remaining NHC contests, “feeder” contests offering complimentary berths into to the main qualifiers are available every day for as little as $18 per entry.
A total of $300,000 in Tour prize money will be awarded to the top 15 finishers in the NHC Tour, based on the official 2020 NHC Tour rules. The newly-crowned NHC Tour Champion will win $100,000 and be eligible to compete for a $5 million bonus at the 2021 NHC.
The top 75 individual overall points leaders, who have not already qualified for the 2021 NHC through an officially-sanctioned NHC on-track or online contest at the end of the Tour season on January 23, will automatically qualify into the 2021 NHC. In addition, $15,000 will be paid out to the overall, official Tour Points Leaders, as of January 23, who are first-time NHC Tour members (e.g., “Rookies”).
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 NHC, presented by Racetrack Television Network, Caesars Entertainment and Bally’s Las Vegas, will be contested August 27-29 at Bally’s. The NHC is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers and is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino race books, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping websites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals. There are no bye-ins to the NHC. Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards.
Details on the Tour-ending NHC qualifiers are below:
Friday, January 15
Horseplayers.com
Prizes: 2 NHC berths and 2020 Tour Points + travel package guaranteed
Entry Fee: $75
Saturday, January 16
Horseplayers.com
Prizes: 2 NHC berths and 2020 Tour Points + travel package guaranteed
Entry Fee: $165
Canterbury Park
Prizes: 1 NHC berth (no 2020 Tour Points) + travel package guaranteed
Entry Fee: $100
Sunday, January 17
Horseplayers.com
Prizes: 1 NHC berth per 21 entries guaranteed (Tour points if 2 berths awarded) + travel package
Entry Fee: $500
Friday, January 22
Horseplayers.com
Prizes: 2 NHC berths and 2020 Tour Points + travel package guaranteed
Entry Fee: $75
Details posted soon on Horseplayers.com
Saturday, January 23
Horseplayers.com
Prizes: 2 NHC berths and 2020 Tour Points + travel package guaranteed
Entry Fee: $100
Details posted soon on Horseplayer.com.
Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship
Prizes: Up to 5 NHC berths awarded (player’s choice 2021 or 2022) and 2020 Tour Points + travel package
Entry Fee: $6,000 ($5,000 bankroll + $1,000 entry fee)
One must be a current NHC Tour member to be eligible to win NHC entries. To sign up for the NHC Tour, go to www.ntra.com/membership. For more information on the NHC and NHC Tour, visit www.nhctour.com/nhc or contact Michele Ravencraft at mravencraft@ntra.com.
About the NHC
The NHC is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers and is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino race books, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping websites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals. There are no bye-ins to the NHC. Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards. For more information on the NHC, visit NTRA.com/nhc.

Big Bucks at Stakes in the 2020 NHC in Vegas

Hear AGOS Founder Rich Nilsen on the NHC Monster Podcast

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (February 6, 2020) – An estimated field of nearly 700 entries will compete for a record prize pool of some $2.95 million – and horse racing’s official title of “Horseplayer of the Year” – at this weekend’s 21st NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Presented by Racetrack Television Network, Caesars Entertainment and Bally’s. The three-day tournament, Friday to Sunday at Bally’s Las Vegas, will offer a first-place prize of $800,000. Including complimentary travel and hotel, cash and awards total some $3.8 million.

The NHC field will be reduced to the top 10 percent of players after the first two days. The highest 10 cumulative scores after the Semi-final round will fill out the Draft Kings Final Table. Bankrolls amassed during Day 1, Day 2 and the Semi-final round will roll over to the Final Table, with the 10 finalists settling the NHC score in seven “mandatory” assigned races.

nhc final table vegasPlayers who do not make the Semi-final cut will still compete on Day 3, in a separate $50,000 Consolation tournament.

A full scoreboard will be updated regularly at https://www.ntra.com/nhc, where fans and players can also find each day’s contest race menu and news updates.

“The NHC is a true celebration of the horseplayer—the individuals who fuel every aspect of the sport and business of Thoroughbred racing,” said NTRA Chief Operating Officer and NHC Tournament Director, Keith Chamblin. “We thank the many organizations who hosted NHC qualifiers throughout 2019 as well as our presenting sponsors and partners.”

At the Races with Steve Byk will broadcast live on SiriusXM satellite radio (Sirius 219; XM 201) from Bally’s and online at www.stevebyk.com daily, Thursday to Monday, with NHC coverage slated for 2-8 p.m. ET (11 a.m.-5 p.m. PT) Friday-Sunday. Additional news and exclusive content will be shared on Twitter via the official NTRA account, @NTRA.

Defending NHC champion Scott Coles – who last month was honored with an Eclipse Award as the 2019 “Horseplayer of the Year”– heads this year’s field, which is comprised of an estimated 556 individuals (pending the outcome of Thursday’s Last Chance Contest). There are 148 rookies, representing some 25 percent of the field. There are 119 dual qualifiers going into Thursday’s Last Chance Contest at the Bally’s Event Center.

As the 2019 NHC winner, Coles received an automatic berth into this year’s tournament to defend the title he won last February when he prevailed in his first time playing in the NHC. Coles amassed a winning score of $367 over the three-day tournament from 53 mythical $2 Win and Place bets en route to becoming the tournament’s youngest ever winner at age 34. He will seek to become the first-ever two-time winner of the NHC, as will 10 other past winners that have qualified. The other qualifying champions are: Chris Littlemore (2018), Ray Arsenault (2017), Paul Matties, Jr. (2016), Jim Benes (2013), Michael Beychok (2012), Brian Troop (2010), Richard Goodall (2008), and Stanley Bavlish (2007), Jamie Michaelson, Jr. (2005) and Stephen Wolfson, Jr. (2003).

Top 100 Players in NHC Scoring History

Several players will compete for major bonuses tied to earlier accomplishments.

As the winner of the 2019 NHC Tour, David Snyder won $110,000 and an NHC berth. He also is eligible for a $5 million bonus if he goes on to win at the 2020 NHC finals.

Brad Anderson, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC), is eligible for a $3 million BCBC/NHC Bonus if he takes down the NHC title.

In its 21st year, the NHC is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers and is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments.

NHC players qualified via contests hosted by 45 racetracks, casino race books, handicapping contest websites, Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) outlets, simulcast distribution networks, horse owner associations and other Thoroughbred racing organizations. The NHC2020 qualifier hosts were:

Aqueduct, Arlington Park, At the Races with Steve Byk, Bally’s Las Vegas, Belmont Park, Breeders’ Cup, Canterbury Park, Capital OTB, Century Bets, Colonial Downs, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Fair Grounds, Fonner Park, Gulfstream Park, Harrah’s Louisiana Downs, Harrah’s Philadelphia, Harrah’s Hoosier Park, Hawthorne Race Course, Hollywood Casino at Penn National, Horseplayers.com, HorseTourneys.com, Indiana Grand, Keeneland, Laurel Park, Little Red Feather Racing, Lone Star Park, Los Alamitos Race Course, Meadowlands, Mohegan Sun, Monmouth Park, New Zealand Racing, NYRA Bets, S. Florida HBPA, Sam Houston Race Park, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga Bets, STATS Race Lens, Saratoga Race Course, Tampa Bay Downs, The BIG One, Treasure Island, TVG, Woodbine Entertainment Group and Xpressbet.com.

The tournament format for the NHC is meant to be the best possible test of overall handicapping ability. Players attempt to earn the highest possible bankroll based on mythical $2 Win-and-Place wagers. Assigned “mandatory” races – eight per day on Day 1 and Day 2 and seven at the Final Table – will be announced at least 36 hours prior to each contest day (Wednesday evening for Friday, Thursday evening for Saturday, Friday evening for Sunday) on Twitter (@NTRA) and NTRA.com.

The remaining 10 races on Day 1 and Day 2 and all 10 plays in the Semifinal round will be optional wagers on races at one of eight designated NHC tournament tracks: Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Laurel Park, Oaklawn Park, Santa Anita Park and Tampa Bay Downs.

On Saturday, the NTRA also will host an invitation-only online tournament, the 6th Annual Runhappy/NTRA NHC Charity Challenge presented by Tito’s Handmade Vodka. A field of approximately 60 will compete for the $5,000 charitable prize with $2,500 set to be donated in the winner’s name to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and the other $2,500 going to the winner’s charity of choice.

Draft Kings is the exclusive sponsor of the NHC Final Table. Official Partners of the 2020 NHC include STATS Race LensTVG, Daily Racing Form, Insurance Office of America (IOA), and NYRA Bets.

Veteran Touranment Player Streiff Scores at Del Mar

Source: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club

Mark Streiff of Mission Viejo, CA scored big in race 9 of the Del Mar Fall Challenge to vault to the lead. Streiff, back to back winner in the Fall Challenge, won an assortment of last race wagers including exacta, trifecta and finished a double. Mike Rosenthal from Las Vegas finished a close second with a final bankroll of $18,014.

In addition to Streiff’s $18,705 in bankroll winnings, he receives $25,000 in cash and a $10,000 BCBC entry. Rosenthal earns an $8,000 entry to the 2020 Del Mar Summer Challenge and $10,000 cash prize. Day one leader Roger McDow, first until the very last race, finished third. McDow also receives a Del Mar Summer entry, $3,000 cash in addition to the $2,500 bonus as day one winner.

Del Mar Fall Challenge Format

The Challenge buy-in was $5,000 with $3,500 going to the player bankroll and $1,500 to the prize pool.

Fourth and fifth place finishers Brandon Moran and Don Chung receive entries to the $2.8 million 2020 National Horseplayers Championship in Las Vegas.
2019 FINAL PLACINGS
PLACE NAME FINAL BANKROLL
1 Mark Streiff $18,705.50
2 Mike Rosenthal 2 $18,014.40
3 Roger McDow $14,307.50
4 Brandon Moran 2 $12,852
5 Don Chung $10,199
6 Gene Cahalan $9,450.60

Stich Wins Again. 28yo Handicapper Takes Down Record Field at Monmouth Park

AGOS Founder Also Qualifies at Pick Your Prize Challenge Tournament

Patrick Stich of Chicago, IL turned his $1,000 starting bankroll into $6,150 to win Monmouth Park’s fourth annual $2,000 Pick Your Prize Handicapping Challenge on Saturday, June 1.

Stich bested a record field of 222 entries made up of players from 30 states and Canada.

Rich Nilsen qualifies for the 16th time

For finishing first, Stich received an automatic $14,000 and two picks from the Pick Your Prize board. In total, the board was composed of 22 NHC seats – the most of any online or on-track contest in history – as well as six full Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seats and $86,000 in cash prizes. With his two picks, Stich selected the top cash prize of $12,000 and well as the prize of BCBC+$3,500. Including his bankroll, Stich walked away with $35,650 plus a seat in the $10,000 BCBC.

Early in the day, Stich started strong by hitting a $200 fourth race exacta at Gulfstream for $1,640. A $50 fifth race exacta at Gulfstream earned Stich another $2,475. A $600 win bet in the 11th race at Gulfstream had Stich with $5,050 going into the Monmouth Park finale – the final contest race. A winning $200 cold exacta returned $1,300 and landed Stich the title.

Saturday’s second-place finisher was Tim Yohler of Fishers, IN who finished with a bankroll of $5,843.60.

All Pick Your Prize players were required to bet at least $100 on a total of 10 races from Monmouth Park, Belmont and Gulfstream. At least five of those races needed to be Monmouth Park races. Bets could only be win, place, show, exacta or any combination thereof.

All players kept their final bankrolls. The Top 5 finishers received a guaranteed cash prize. The Top 7 finishers all received two picks from the prize board in order of finish. Finishers 8 through 27 received one pick.

Following is the full list of results from Saturday’s $2,000 Pick Your Prize Handicapping Challenge:

Finish Name Bankroll Prize
1st Patrick Stich $6,150 $29,500+BCBC
2nd Tim Yohler $5,843.60 $14,000+BCBC+NHC
3rd Ross Szlasa $5,253 $13,000+BCBC
4th Frank Fosbre $5,201.60 $10,000+BCBC
5th Mark Streiff $4,848.50 $5,000+BCBC+NHC
6th Rich Pawlowski $4,545.40 $2,000+NHC+BCBC
7th Andrew Gredesky $4,208 $5,500+NHC
8th Gary Wright $4,031 NHC
9th Nick Noce $3,788 NHC
10th Scott Carson $3,678 $4,000
11th Frank Gryboski $3,620 $3,000
12th Stephen McNatton $3,412.50 NHC
13th Tim Hughes $3,410.50 NHC
14th David Wolff $3,377.95 NHC
15th John Vail $3,207.50 NHC
16th Joe Regan $3,053 NHC
17th Roger Cettina $3,000.80 NHC
18th Sally Goodall $2,993.20 NHC
19th David Wolff $2,940 $3,000 (in lieu of a 2nd NHC seat)
20th Scott Carson $2,876 NHC
21st John Fisher $2,735 NHC
22nd Mike Mulvihill $2,724 NHC
23rd Rich Nilsen $2,667.25 NHC
24th Don Chung $2,604 NHC
25th Jose Raphael $2,466 NHC
26th Jeff Bussan $2,429.55 NHC

Nick Fazzolari Wins New Sunday Contest

For the first time, Monmouth Park also hosted a $300 NHC Qualifier on Sunday, June 2. The winner of that contest was Nick Fazzolari of Colts Neck, NJ who used a late all-in in the finale at Belmont to catapult to the lead and best the field of 179 entries. Fazzolari will be headed to the NHC along with second-place finisher Rich Pesce and third-place finisher Mark Odorisio.

Monmouth Park’s next handicapping contest is a $300 Monmouth/Woodbine event ($150 entry fee, $150 bankroll) on Saturday, June 29, which will award three NHC seats . Woodbine’s historic Queen’s Plate will be carded on June 29.

$10,000 Summer Challenge from Racetrack Television Network (RTN)

NTRA NHC logoRTN $10,000 Summer Challenge

The RTN $10,000 Summer Challenge will be a bonus challenge that consists of NHC Tour points accumulated over a 3-month period on HorsePlayers.com. The challenge will kick-off on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27 with a $125 HorsePlayers.com contest and conclude on Saturday, August 31. The top three finishers of the challenge will be awarded $10,000 in cash prizes (1st- $5,000, 2nd- $3,000, 3rd- $1,000).

RTN is offering new subscribers five free days of video live streaming and unlimited race replays. To register for your five free days go to www.rtn.tv and enter promo code TRYRTN. There will be an additional $1,000 bonus awarded to the highest finisher who is a current RTN subscriber or a new subscriber who registers for the five free day promotion.

In addition to the RTN $10,000 Summer Challenge prize, this year’s NHC Tour prize pool will award $325,000 in cash prizes to the overall NHC Tour Leader Board finishers and $15,000 to first-time NHC Tour members. The winner of the 2019 NHC Tour will be eligible for a $5 million bonus if he or she were to win the 2020 NHC.

You must be a NHC Tour member to compete for NHC Tour prizes and to be eligible to participate in the NHC in Las Vegas. There are three more free NHC Tour contests in 2019. These contests are set for June 1, August 2-3, and September 28. For more information on NHC Tour membership go to www.nhctour.com.

About Racetrack Television Network
Racetrack Television Network (“RTN”) is an 80-channel subscription package that caters to horsemen, bettors and racing fans worldwide by delivering every simulcast from North American and select international tracks to televisions, computers, and mobile devices (including iPhones, iPads, Android phones and Android tablets). The television package is available via satellite provider DISH Network, while the online and mobile packages are available directly from RTN at www.rtn.tv. RTN offers the largest simulcast menu in the pari-mutuel industry-either commercially or residentially.

About the National Horseplayers Championship
In its 21st year, the NHC is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers and is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino race books, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping websites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals. There are no bye-ins to the NHC. Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards. The 2020 NHC will be held at Ballys, Las Vegas February 6-9, 2020. For more information on the NHC, visit NTRA.com/nhc.

What Wager won this year’s Keeneland’s Grade One Gamble?

Faron McCubbins Closes with a Rush to Capture Keeneland’s Grade One GambleFaron McCubbin Wins Another Big Tournament

Overcoming inclement weather and late changes to the contest landscape, Faron McCubbins of Mount Washington, KY hammered the 9th race at Keeneland with an $800 exacta on 8-10 that paid $28,560, resulting in an incredible final bankroll of $31,560 that bested 180 other contestants in the Grade One Gamble. For his efforts Faron takes home $35,000 in prize money, a fully paid Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge berth at Santa Anita worth $10,000, and an entry into the 2020 National Horseplayers Championship at Bally’s Las Vegas.

The day began with steady rain that caused all races to be taken off the turf; multiple scratches resulted in decimated fields. Contest management added 3 races from Gulfstream and 2 races from Aqueduct to the contest menu, and the changes resulted in a very competitive contest that was decided at the wire.

Long- time leader Dan Slattery of Bethesda, MD, who cashed for $19,000 on Gulfstream’s 4th race, was passed late by the huge play of McCubbins, but took home his bankroll of $18,449.80 plus $18,000, a fully paid BCBC spot and an NHC entry.

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: 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.