By Molly Jo Rosen
“I had fun taking an early lead and protected myself at the end by not taking some longshots because I didn’t want to run up style points.”
Of his trio of previous tries, Labordo’s best NHC finish was 2012 when he was a close third and he knows where he went wrong, saying “if I’d only listened to my son and daughter, it would’ve been a totally different outcome!”
Raising a pair of handicappers is probably not what he expected his future would hold when he accepted the assignment of writing a paper on Random Walk Theory as an MBA student at UCLA several decades ago. Labordo came to the conclusion that picking horses is much like picking stocks: there is no way to predict the outcome with any certainty because – in the case of racing – horses are not machines.
His strategy for playing tournaments is not exactly a simple formula: “Handicapping is part technology, part art form, and you have to trust your intuition most of all. I try not to get overwhelmed by the data and remember to look at each and every horse as an individual.”
It’s this approach that Labordo brought to the NHC Pre-Qualifiers and, ultimately, secured him the victory in Saturday’s Final. After taking a commanding early lead, Darwin remained focused on the his tournament strategy throughout all 12 races. He had $48.40 longshot Dangerous Lad in the very first leg of the tournament and would go on to score points in five of the next seven races.
Even though he finished out the tournament with four straight off-the-board finishes, it was somewhat by design. “It was textbook play for me and I caught a few breaks early. Playing against a small field was a tremendous advantage, even if my fellow players tried to psych me out in the chat. I just quietly plugged away and it turned out to be a nice competition.”