After this weekend’s tournament action, eight of eleven spots in the first DerbyWars NHC Qualifier are now filled. The final three spots to the August 3 qualifying tournament will be divvied out on Sunday, July 28.
Jason Ige Enjoys Reversal of Fortune, 10¢ Win in Saratoga PreQ
Jason Ige knows what it’s like to put in the long hours of handicapping in advance of a big qualifying tournament, to look up at the leaderboard following the last race, and to see a fellow handicapper has amassed a bankroll 10¢ larger. He knows because it happened to him when a seat to the Horseplayer World Series was on the line and the consolation prize offered no such travel package.
But karma may just be coming around for Ige.
After jumping out to an enviable early lead after the first leg of the contest by throwing out $41.60 horse Rapscallion in Saratoga’s 2nd race, Ige would endure a string of seven races which saw him add just paltry sums to his bankroll. He would be passed by a cavalry of handicappers which had taken advantage of numerous longshots which had lit up the tote board throughout the day. With David Santoni (“chiliking”) leading the contest with a bankroll of $49.90 larger, Ige knew he needed a cap horse, and he knew he needed a cap horse nobody else would pick. [A cap horse is a horse that would return the maximum $50 payout allowed to DerbyWars players on an individual horse]
Enter Galiana, who was let go at odds approaching 70-1. She appeared overmatched against first level allowance company, having only her debut $7,500 maiden claiming victory to her credit. With four other potential cap horses being offered in the race, Galiana would surely be the least popular selection. And thus, she became the perfect selection for Ige.
Karma came full circle for Ige when the longshot filly stormed home from last place to capture the closer in spectacular fashion, outgaming 7-2 shot She’s Stoned Sis to light up the tote board. The $50 capped payout to Ige’s bankroll was enough to put him 10¢ to the better of Santoni, who would have to settle for the consolation prize of $100 cash.
But Ige was quick to credit all the horses that added to his bankroll, as he was sincerely thankful for every dime he had amassed.
“Sometimes you need that chalk to win,” Ige astutely noted. “That’s how I had those ten cents. You have to do the math – what the winning total needs to be based on where the competition is.”
Ige will move onto the August 3 DerbyWars NHC Qualifier where he will face ten competitors. He is still seeking a qualifying spot to next year’s NHC, having been to the handicapping championship twice in prior years. He has also been to the Horseplayer World Series six times. When asked how he’s done in those tournaments, Ige could only chuckle to say “I’m still waiting to cash.”
“My strategy is to handicap the way I would normally,” said Ige, who has played in contests for roughly ten years. “But you have to find those mid-range to upper-range horses. DerbyWars is unique in that they have a $50 cap. That changes things up.”
Ige was introduced to horse racing as a kid through his aunt and uncle, who took him to the races at Del Mar and Hollywood Park during his summers outside of school. He noted champions Greinton and Precisionist as horses who captured his young imagination; the latter he uses as his handle in DerbyWars games and chat.
Ige works in the healthcare industry and hails from Minnesota. While his local track is Canterbury, Ige prefers to play from the comfort of home with a laptop, television and comfy furniture. It surely helps his focus when it comes to playing DerbyWars contests. And when he’s not in Minnesota, he might be found in Las Vegas, a favorite vacation spot where he enjoys the warm weather and hot gambling action.
Perhaps he’ll book his next trip on August 3.
David Santoni Avenges 10¢ Defeat, Dials In Del Mar Victory
Having experienced the toughest of beats in the early DerbyWars NHC Prequalifier featuring races from Saratoga, David Santoni diverted his attention to the evening’s Del Mar contest hoping for better luck.
Santoni had gone into the final leg of the earlier Saratoga PreQ with a sizeable lead and only a handful of longshot horses that could best him. Unfortunately, it was the longest shot of them all that snuck into the winner’s circle and catapulted his competitor Jason Ige to a ten cent margin of victory.
Turning things around would be a unique challenge for Santoni given the circumstances. Santoni wouldn’t have the benefit of keeping close tabs on the tournament action throughout Del Mar’s race card, seeing as he is enjoying a vacation in Quebec, Canada. Instead, he would need to put in all of his picks prior to the start of the contest and simply hope for the best. In effect, he was playing ‘Lockdown’ style, but his opponents all had the benefit of changing their picks at will.
It wouldn’t matter.
The Del Mar card produced very few pricey horses throughout the duration of the contest, keeping the bankroll spread comparably compact and setting things up for seismic changes if a longshot were to hit. Santoni had positioned himself in striking distance by selection two of the larger priced horses to hit in the contest, but he still needed a decently priced horse to jump to the front of the line going into the last race.
Santoni’s selection of Centenario de Oro in Del Mar’s 9th and final race would provide such a horse. Only three others selected the potential cap horse, let go at 28-1, and none of them had more than a few dollars in their bankrolls. Centenario de Oro finished second in the race, which may have been enough to secure the win, but was elevated to first via disqualification, cementing the victory for Santoni.
Not that Santoni was watching the drama unfold. He had sagely planned for such a sequence of events well in advance when he made his selections and went back to his vacationing agenda. When he pulled out the phone to check the results, he knew that this time a cap horse had WON him a contest instead of stealing it away.
Santoni will look to parlay this past weekend’s PreQ win into a strong showing in the August 3 DerbyWars NHC Qualifier, where he will face ten foes in search of a seat to the NHC. It would be his first ever trip to the handicapping championship, as Santoni is a relative newcomer to the world of handicapping contests.
“I’ve never been a tournament player,” Santoni admitted. “But I’m friends with Tom Anderson and Mike Ferrozzo and they introduced me. I really started getting serious around Preakness Day when I won a Head to Head game.”
Now, Santoni is a regular DerbyWars player and has even recruited his dad, Ron Santoni, onto the handicapping contest platform.
“When I was playing that Head to Head, I was at the races with my dad. I kept pulling out my phone to make picks and he kept asking ‘What are you doing?’” laughed the younger Santoni. “I said ‘I’m playing in a thousand dollar contest and I want to make sure I win!’ So I taught him how to play and got him hooked on it.”
The Santonis frequently play in head-to-head matchups and the family rivalry continues to evolve.
“I used to win them all,” David Santoni chuckled. “Now I can’t beat him!”
That may be just as well. David Santoni owes his father (and grandfather) for fostering his interest in horse racing. He frequently attended racing action at Monmouth Park, Delaware Park and Atlantic City growing up, and his father owned horses.
Santoni has three children, aged 13, 8 and 7. Thanks in large part to the hustle and bustle of raising those kiddos, he is a fan of playing Lockdown games where all players must submit picks prior to the start of the contest and needn’t stay on top of the racing action all the way through a tournament.
Not that it mattered in this one.
Richard “Guggie” Guggenheim Wins First ‘Lockdown’ Format NHC PreQ
Players had their first chance to try for a spot in the August 3 DerbyWars NHC Qualifier in a PreQ event designated as a ‘Lockdown’ game, meaning players had to finalize all selections prior to the start of the contest. The strategic twist would benefit longtime tournament aficionado Richard Guggenheim, who most tournament players know fondly as ‘Guggie.’
Guggenheim jumped out to the front of the pack in the first two races, selecting two mid-priced horses to amass a quick $38.40 bankroll after two events. But he would have to endure a bit of a dry-spell before getting the much needed price separator in the penultimate contest race when the aptly named Bigger is Bettor added another $34.80 to his bankroll and vaulting him to the top of the leaderboard.
“I just took it race by race,” Guggenheim noted. “In contests I always go for longer prices.”
No stranger to big money contests, Guggenheim is hoping to punch his ticket to next year’s NHC in the August 3 DerbyWars NHC Qualifier. He has attended the last three NHC tournaments and is also an alumnus of the Horseplayer World Series and the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.
Guggenheim is a longtime horse racing fan and even counts owning part of a Grade 1 winner as one of his prouder accomplishments in the sport. He was part of the ownership of Lear’s Princess, who won the 2007 Gazelle (GI) over Belmont Stakes champion Rags to Riches. The group would go on to sell Lear’s Princess for an astounding $2.7 million at auction.
A successful businessman and proud grandfather, Guggie was introduced to the sport by his father when he was a kid growing up in Brooklyn. He would attend the races at Aqueduct, Belmont and the now defunct Jamaica Race Course. One of the first horses to have caught his fancy was Bald Eagle, a champion racehorse bred by Harry F. Guggenheim, who was of no relation to Guggie, and trained by a young Woody Stephens.
Pictured below: Trophy Presentation for 2007 Gazelle Stakes
Photo Credit: Coglianese Photos