Ed Peters, 48, lives in Pelham, N.H., and runs a bread distribution company. He's a longtime horseplayer who has been playing in contests for over five years. He scored out in Saturday's Fourstardave Challenge presented by Encore Boston Harbor, netting over $63,000 in cash and prizes.
Successful contest players typically operate under similar principles. One axiom states that a player should treat the real money on a live bankroll like play money.
“In real life, I'm not that big of a bettor,” he said. “But, in a contest, it's Monopoly money and I'm willing to bet it all. If you're not willing to do that, you're going to be at a big disadvantage.”
He also understands the importance of backing up his opinions in a smart, efficient way that doesn't lead to excessive spreading out. This is what really got him going on Saturday.
In Race 6 at Saratoga, he saw the race clearly in his mind. He thought that Saint Moon would set the pace, and Paper Clip would stalk, take over, and win. He liked two horses to round out the trifecta. Of the $600 he bet in the race, $560 of it was bet in this direction. But he took $40 and played two additional trifectas in case the speed didn't stop and the race ran Saint Moon-Paper Clip over one of his closers. The latter scenario played out, and Peters won almost $8,000.
Peters has an unusual name for this ticket construction – he calls it being “exactly wrong.” Someone else might call it being nearly perfect, but not quite. Shrewd players will still find ways to cash when they are almost right.
His next big bet, after failing to get alive going forward in doubles, was $1,000 to win on Got Stormy in the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave.
“She could not have won any easier last week,” he said. “I watched the replay 10 times and came away convinced that it was both a winning race and a workout for this.”
Her win was a great result but had Uni not prevailed in the photo for third, he'd also have cashed a $50 trifecta to salt the contest away. Got Stormy, who set a track record in victory, paid $12 for a $2 win bet and as it was, he was still in a great spot with over $13,000.
Peters thought he might need a little something extra – especially after seeing the strong scores from the previous day. Once again, he tried without success to get alive to his choice in the last race. It didn't really matter anyway as that selection, Magnesite, ran off the board. Then came the dreaded waiting game.
“I was nervous because the top three were logical horses but then I went to look at the exacta probables, and I saw that someone really would have had to bet big to catch me,” he said. “I felt OK, but you never really know until it goes official.”
When the final leaderboard went up, his name was still on top. “I think, at the end, a lot of the players were playing for second and they just kind of let me run off, which I'm thankful for,” he said.
Peters is no stranger to contest success with a couple of deep runs at the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge, a Public Handicapper Challenge win, and plenty of online wins, but this one was special.
“Any time you're playing against 200 of the strongest handicappers and bettors in the world, it's a daunting task and when it works out you've got to enjoy it,” he reflected.
In the end, the bread man walked away with the dough.
Friday's big winner was Randy Gallo, 38, a professional gambler, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Gallo has been going to the track since before he could walk and playing tournaments for nearly 20 years. The Gallo name is well known in the world of contests, between his own success, and that of his father, J. Randy Gallo, and uncle, Ross Gallo, both veterans on the tournament scene with numerous wins and cashes. But, on Saturday, it was the younger Gallo whose light shone the brightest.
“I really liked the last race and I was trying to figure out how to get there with $1,000 or $2,000 to bet on it,” said Gallo, who played two entries, each of which started with $500 worth of live bankroll.
But as is so often the case, plans are easier to make than they are to execute. By the contest's anchor leg, he was down to $200 on each entry – but that was still enough to make a good attempt at the win. “I knew if I bet my horse right, I could get there,” he said.
That horse was Passing Out, who Gallo loved based on watching the replays, which he calls “tapes” in old-school horseplayer parlance.
He was shooting for between $8,000 and $9,000 and he originally wrote up his trifectas throwing out three horses. Then he remembered a lesson he'd learned the hard way. Gallo explained, “When I was in my 20s and early 30s playing tournaments with my dad, I would pick a race on top perfectly and I would miss the third-place horse and he would say, 'You were there and you had enough to cover them and win but you didn't; you shouldn't throw out a few horses on the bottom because anybody could run third.'”
Gallo heeded the advice this time and included 51-1 shot Enjay's Brass on the bottom for an extra $5. When Passing Out slipped through traffic late to get up over All Quality and Enjay's Brass, Gallo held a ticket worth over $14,000. He also collected $34,000 in purse money plus a $10,000 seat to next year's Belmont Betting Challenge.
Also sweet are the family bragging rights. As he eloquently put it, “That's the one thing I want to do is beat them first.”
The next opportunity to play a NYRA Tournament arrives on August 31 with the Woodward Challenge. Registration for the Woodward Challenge, featuring a $500 buy in, opens on Friday, August 16. For more information on NYRA Handicapping Challenges, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/handicapping-challenges.
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