Filly Exacta in DerbyWars $10,000 Weekend Tournament

Horse racing can still sometimes come across as a male dominated sport, although the tides are surely shifting. After all, three of the past four Horses of the Year have been fillies, proving that it certainly pays to ‘Run like a Girl.’

kimgamecardThis past weekend, Kimberly Shurtleff (kimas1) and Barbara Bowley (Sophia) left the competition in the dust in the featured $10,000 Weekend Tournament.

“It’s the $10,000 Distaff!” exclaimed one jovial contestant in the lively game chat.

It was Barbara Bowley who got off to the quickest start as one of three players to have correctly selected Sandyinthesun from the eighth race at Saratoga, which was also the contest’s opener. That put a quick $50 into her account as the selection capped out. But Bowley knew the contest was far from over.

“You always have to look over your shoulder,” Bowley wisely noted. “You can never get complacent.”

Undeterred, Shurtleff wasn’t too worried after the opener as she had the benefit of selecting second place finisher Lure of the South, putting $17.60 into her bankroll.

“I was just a little nervous after the first race,” Shurtleff said. “But not too worried. It’s a long contest.”

kimplaycardThe nerves may have been more with Bowley, who wasn’t excited about the upcoming races from Arlington Park.

“Arlington is not my strongest track,” admitted Bowley. “I’m a So. Cal girl, you know. I was waiting for Del Mar. In fact, on the drive down there, I was playing on DerbyWars Mobile…I wasn’t driving!”

Shurtleff would take advantage of those races from Arlington, adding to her bankroll with Gifted Girl in the Beverly D. and Real Solution in the Arlington Million.

“I felt lucky in the Million,” said Shurtleff, commenting on the disqualification of The Apache and the elevation of Real Solution to first place.

Luck may have been part of it, but shrewd handicapping prowess would put Shurtleff ahead of Bowley and the rest of the field as she added another $18 to her bankroll in Saratoga’s twelfth race with Jesses Giant Dunk.

The Apache & Real Solution cross the wire in the Arlington Million. Story continues below.

Arlington Million XXXI


sophiaplaycardThe final four races of the contest would take place at Del Mar and, just as predicted, Bowley hit her best stride. She would select the winners of three consecutive races at the San Diego racetrack. Unfortunately for Bowley, Shurtleff would have two of those winners as well and position herself nearly $16 ahead going into the final race of the contest.

“In Del Mar’s sixth and seventh races, the top three all picked the same horses,” recalled Shurtleff. “I knew going into the last race I couldn’t pick (8-5 race favorite) Kitten’s Dumplings. I had to use value.”

As it was, it wouldn’t matter. None of the top three selected race winner Discreet Marq, much to Bowley’s chagrin.

“I should’ve picked Julien Leparoux on the turf!” laughed Bowley in retrospect. “I could’ve won!”

Bowley, upbeat about her solid second place finish in the featured game, would go onto compliment the DerbyWars platform and community.

“It’s so exciting – I love DerbyWars!” remarked Bowley. “There are a lot of good female handicappers coming on. There’s something about the way the site is structured. It’s so easy to use. It’s not intimidating – a very female friendly environment.”

Shurtleff was similarly excited to come away as the weekend’s big winner. She has been a racing fan for over five years after attending a day at the races at Tampa Bay Downs.

“I started to love the game,” said Shurtleff. “It’s challenging and I like that.”

A member of the DerbyWars community nearly since the beginning of the site, Shurtleff is enjoying the big win and still dreaming of things to come. Last year she placed sixteenth in the Horseplayer World Series in Las Vegas. She hopes to qualify for the National Handicapping Championships next year.

“That is kind of a dream,” remarked Shurtleff, an attorney based in Trinity, Florida.

She’ll have plenty of opportunities to qualify on DerbyWars, with four seats into the championship event up for grabs over the next few weeks and chances to prequalify happening daily.

Good luck, guys.

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Another Chance At NHC Glory for Finance Executive

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.”

labordogameboardThat is the quiet confidence of Darwin Labordo, a finance executive from Southern California who has earned his fourth consecutive berth to the National Handicapping Contest in Las Vegas.

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 labordoplaycardevery 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.”

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DerbyWars™ NHC Qualifiers to Offer NHC Tour Points, Two NHC Seats

DerbyWars is pleased to announce that future NHC Qualifiers hosted on the industry’s premier digital handicapping contest platform will now award players NHC Tour points and two NHC seats per contest. The change will go into effect starting on Saturday, August 24, coinciding with Travers Day from Saratoga.

“Offering NHC Tour points is an important element for many players trying to qualify for the NHC on DerbyWars,” noted Mark Midland, CEO and Co-founder of DerbyWars. “After listening to feedback from our valued DerbyWars customers, we are excited to offer NHC Tour points starting immediately.”

The first DerbyWars NHC Qualifier eligible for NHC Tour points is scheduled for Saturday, August 24. That contest will also be the first such tournament on DerbyWars to award NHC seats and travel packages to the top two finishers. The current NTRA policy is the only award NHC Tour points to qualifying contests offering multiple seats to the NHC.

The DerbyWars NHC Qualifier format will be altered slightly to accommodate expected demand and support the altered prize structure. The August 24 DerbyWars NHC Qualifier will field 21 players for the contest, with each spot earned through successful completion of a DerbyWars NHC Prequalifier. Prequalifying events will be held daily on DerbyWars; contest formats will vary.

DerbyWars NHC Qualifiers will go on hiatus on Saturday, August 17, in advance of the revamped qualifying format, and will resume on a biweekly basis.


The NHC will be held at Treasure Island in Las Vegas, Nevada, on January 24-26, 2014. The tournament will feature a prize pool of over $1.5 million. All contest players must be members of the NHC Tour to win a spot in the NHC tournament. Players may sign up for the NHC Tour using the following URL:

DerbyWars is a revolutionary digital handicapping contest platform for horse racing. Handicappers have the opportunity to win real money participating in daily cash contests, all in a fun and easy online tournament setting. Players can sign up for free at and will receive 1,000 mythical points to start playing. Popular tournament formats include $2 win-place bankroll and show survivor; tournament environments range from head-to-head competitions to contests consisting of over 100 players. DerbyWars was designed and built by the team behind

In its 15th year, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers. There are no “buy-in” entries at the NHC. It is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino racebooks, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping websites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals. Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards. The 14 NHC Champions since the event’s inception, in chronological order, are Steven Walker, Judy Wagner, Herman Miller, Steve Wolfson Jr., Kent Meyer, Jamie Michelson, Ron Rippey, Stanley Bavlish, Richard Goodall, John Conte, Brian Troop, John Doyle, Michael Beychok and Jim Benes.

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Scott Pulcini Wins First DerbyWars™ NHC Qualifier

It had been a frustrating weekend for Scott Pulcini as he found himself in Las Vegas contesting a large handicapping contest at the Wynn – with no luck.

“I spent a day and a half blanking, cashing no tickets,” lamented Pulcini. “But you’ve got to stick with it.”

pulcinigamecardSticking with it would ultimately ensure Pulcini another chance to strike it rich in Las Vegas, as he would go on to secure a seat in next year’s DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship by winning the first DerbyWars NHC Qualifier on Saturday evening.

Pulcini (‘iceiam33’) was forced to play in the DerbyWars NHC Qualifier from the confines of the handicapping contest epicenter of the Wynn Resort, which can be a loud and somewhat distracting environment in Pulcini’s view.

That may have helped to explain the slow start Pulcini got off to in the DerbyWars NHC Qualifier. In a contest consisting of twelve races, Pulcini was sitting on a $0 bankroll through the first seven.

“Saratoga has been tough for me,” Pulcini chuckled. “But the room was a little distracting too. That’s why I like DerbyWars. There’s no ruckus!”

That had Pulcini well behind Eric Moomey, who had occupied the top spot throughout all the early stages of the contest.

Moomey (‘moomeyer’) was the only player to have selected Assateague in the first race of the contest, which netted him $49 and a substantial lead. That lead would grow to $63.50 after just two more races, psyching some of his opponents out from the get-go.

“Merv can start writing the press release now,” remarked at least one player, sardonically.

“There’s still a long way to go!” replied the dashingly handsome chat moderator, encouragingly.

pulciniplaycardThings would pick up for Pulcini quickly as the contest shifted exclusively to Del Mar for the final five races, starting with Del Mar’s fifth race (the eighth race of the contest). It was in that event that Pulcini selected You Know I Know, a 10-1 shot which would add a healthy $33 to the bankroll.

It was a start, but it wasn’t enough to strike the front. Pulcini would still need one or two more salty selections to catch Moomey and the others. His hopes would be kept alive as Meinertzhageni finished second in Del Mar’s 7th race, adding $11.40 to his bankroll and putting him within striking distance.

The separator came in Del Mar’s 8th and featured race, the Clement Hirsch, when Lady of Fifty surged to the front coming into the stretch en route to a convincing victory at odds of 10-1. That filly would add $33.40 to Pulcini’s kitty and give him a slight $3.90 edge over his closest competitor, Steven Simonovich (‘stivo’). But he still had one more race in which he had to maintain that modest lead.

“The last race is where it got complicated,” admitted Pulcini. “I knew everyone would play bombs. And I also had to try to determine what stivo would play.”

Lady luck, despite having been an antagonizing jezebel toward Pulcini for most of the weekend, would smile on his fortunes in the finale. Not only would Pulcini’s selection finish second and add a paltry sum to his bankroll, but the winner of the race – Chibita, who would have added $26.40 to any player’s bank account, an amount sufficient for numerous players to have passed Pulcini – went unselected by all eleven contestants.

“I was shocked nobody picked her,” gasped Pulcini in bewilderment. “She could have lifted a lot of players.”

Pulcini will be attending the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship for the first time next January as a result of this weekend’s victory. He is excited about the opportunity and is bullish about his chances.

“My strategy will stay the same,” said Pulcini when asked about how he would adapt to the NHC’s tournament format. “You can’t play horses under 10-1; you’d be wasting your picks. There’s no point in playing the chalk.”

Pulcini hasn’t decided whether or not he will pursue a second NHC tournament entry, having recognized that he retains a sharper focus when playing with a single entry. That being said, he still plans to play in future DerbyWars NHC Qualifiers – just in case.

Pulcini was introduced to racing by his grandfather during his teenage years, frequenting Balmoral Park just outside of Chicago. He is a handicapping contest veteran, having honed his skills in the game of skill for roughly 20 years.

But some of the largest rewards Pulcini has reaped have come from the pari-mutuel windows, including a sensational week at Del Mar back in 2004 which saw him hit two Pick 4 tickets, each of which were well into the six-figure range.

Everyone at DerbyWars wishes Scott Pulcini the best of luck in Las Vegas!


Qualifiers Continue on DerbyWars

The next DerbyWars NHC Qualifier will be hosted on Saturday, August 10. Eight of the eleven spots in that tournament have already been filled, leaving only three remaining open seats.

To earn a chance to compete in Saturday’s tournament, players must win a prequalifying tournament. Prequalifying tournaments are held daily on DerbyWars, including two scheduled for Thursday, August 8, and one for Friday, August 9.


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Last Race Lifts Doug Knudson to $10,000 Tournament Score

“Going into the last race I had six people in front of me,” recalled Doug Knudson. “Lady of Fifty looked just as good as the rest of them. I was just hoping not to get blocked.”

knudsongamecardSince the early stages of the contest, all players had been chasing Garrett Skiba (‘skibasher’) in the weekend’s featured $10,000 tournament. Skiba, who took down a $10,000 tournament three weeks prior, looked to be in healthy shape of a repeat effort going into the final race of the contest, the Clement Hirsch (GI) from Del Mar.

For Knudson (‘dougefresh’), there were only a handful of fillies that would pay enough to catch the leader. Luckily, one of them was Lady of Fifty, who Knudson had circled earlier in the day as a live value play. The wagering public had let her drift up from her 6-1 morning line odds to north of 10-1 on the board, ensuring that a win would be enough to surge past Skiba.

Knudson’s first break came when the gates flew open and the game chart appeared signaling that none of his competitors with a higher bankroll had also selected Lady of Fifty. Had any of them done so, there would have been no chance of a win, as Knudson would have been effectively ‘blocked’ from advancing past that foe.

knudsonplaycardWith that hurdle behind him, Knudson still needed to get Lady of Fifty into the winner’s circle to secure his own victory. With Del Mar’s inconsistent racing surface providing few clues as to any discernible track bias, it was difficult to ascertain whether her unhurried approach to the early part of the race was doing her any favors.

But as the field turned into the stretch and it became obvious that heavily favored Include Me Out was faltering, things started looking up for Knudson. Lady of Fifty would surge to the lead after rallying five wide on the turn, en route to a 1 ½-length victory under Corey Nakatani. Just as Lady of Fifty had run down the field in the Clement Hirsch, Knudson had rallied to pass his rivals late to win the $10,000 tournament.

“I liked the angle of her being a twice beaten favorite,” explained Knudson. “And I knew I needed to play a longshot. I read somewhere recently that favorites at Del Mar are hitting at a historically low 20%. That’s really, really low!”

Knudson won the winner’s share of $4,525 in cash and a $475 token to play in Sunday’s $5,000 High Stakes tournament.

A longtime racing enthusiast, Knudson grew up in the Glendale, California area and was next door neighbors with trainer John Dolan, active primarily in the 1980’s and 90’s. Knudson resides in Las Vegas and frequently plays in contest, which he has done as long as he can remember. He has been a member of the DerbyWars community since the site began beta testing back in 2011.


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$10,000 Contest Highlights Busy Tournament Weekend at DerbyWars™

The tournament board is chock-full of action this weekend and features a $10,000 tournament with racing action from Saratoga and Del Mar.

Entries for the large dollar contest will remain open until the contest officially kicks off at 5:04pm EDT, or until the capacity of 67 players is reached. The entry fee is $175. The contest consists of races 9-12 from Saratoga and races 1-8 from Del Mar.

Players have one last opportunity to qualify for the $10,000 tournament in an early afternoon qualifying contest. That contest awards 4 berths into the tournament, all of which will be reserved for the top four players. The entry fee for the qualifying tournament is $29 and is limited to the first 28 players which sign up. The first race of the qualifying contest begins at 1pm.

Also taking place on Saturday is the 1st DerbyWars NHC Qualifying tournament. Eleven players will compete for a seat in next year’s NHC tournament and an accompanying travel package. Each of those players secured their spot in the contest by winning a prequalifying tournament on the site over the past several weeks. Prequalifying tournaments for future NHC Qualifiers take place daily on DerbyWars during the month of August. Players may not purchase into tomorrow’s NHC Qualifier, but may participate in the NHC Prequalifier for a spot in next weekend’s qualifier.

Three qualifying tournaments for Sunday’s $5,000 High Stakes Tournament will be offered on the Saturday menu of tournaments, including two in the early afternoon and one in the early evening. Winners of each will receive a $475 token which is used as entry into the Sunday high roller contest. The $5,000 High Stakes Tournament is limited to twelve players and awards a $4,000 grand prize; the runner-up receives $1,000.

A wide variety of tournaments fill out the game board this weekend, including head-to-head contests, small table games, Lockdown formats, survivor style games and more.

New players are welcome and can register at First time depositors are eligible to receive a cash bonus with their first cash deposit.

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Eleven Players Set For 1st DerbyWars™ NHC Qualifier

Eleven prequalified players will participate in the 1st DerbyWars NHC Qualifier this Saturday, August 3. The contest features 12 races from Saratoga and Del Mar and starts at 5:12pm EDT.



Each of the participants in Saturday’s NHC Qualifier earned their way into the tournament by having won a prequalifying event over the past several weeks. Having earned their way to this point, they now must face only ten foes for a chance to earn a seat to next year’s NHC tournament.

The grand prize package for the DerbyWars NHC Qualifier is worth approximately $7,500 and includes a seat in next year’s National Handicapping Championship, four nights’ accommodations at Treasure Island Resort, and a $400 travel stipend. Seats into the NHC must be won in official NHC qualifying events, as sanctioned by the NTRA; NHC seats cannot be otherwise purchased.

All participants in the DerbyWars NHC Qualifier must be members of the NHC Tour to be eligible to receive the grand prize package, as a policy of the NTRA. Players may sign up for the NHC Tour using the following URL:



NHC Qualifying and Prequalifying Tournaments Continue

While this is the first chance for DerbyWars players to earn their way to the NHC, it is not the last!

DerbyWars will host four more NHC Qualifiers during the month of August, each occurring on Saturday afternoons. The format of each DerbyWars NHC Qualifier will be the same as the first, with eleven players competing for an NHC seat.

Players must prequalify for a spot into any DerbyWars NHC Qualifier by winning a prequalifying contest.

Prequalifying contests are held on a daily basis. Players can compete for a spot in a DerbyWars NHC Qualifier for as little as $25 or $47.



New Players Welcome!

DerbyWars is horse racing’s premier digital contest platform, offering the best contest choices and simplest, friendliest contest environment!

Players can register for DerbyWars at First time depositors can receive a cash bonus. For more details on DerbyWars NHC Qualifiers or any DerbyWars related inquiries, please email the DerbyWars support staff at









The NHC will be held at Treasure Island in Las Vegas, Nevada, on January 24-26, 2014. The tournament will feature a prize pool of over $1.5 million. All contest players must be members of the NHC Tour to win a spot in the NHC tournament. No NHC Tour points are accrued for participation in DerbyWars NHC Qualifiers. Players may sign up for the NHC Tour using the following URL:

DerbyWars is a revolutionary digital handicapping contest platform for horse racing. Handicappers have the opportunity to win real money participating in daily cash contests, all in a fun and easy online tournament setting. Players can sign up for free at and will receive 1,000 mythical points to start playing. Popular tournament formats include $2 win-place bankroll and show survivor; tournament environments range from head-to-head competitions to contests consisting of over 100 players. DerbyWars was designed and built by the team behind

In its 15th year, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers. There are no “buy-in” entries at the NHC. It is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino racebooks, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping websites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals. Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards. The 14 NHC Champions since the event’s inception, in chronological order, are Steven Walker, Judy Wagner, Herman Miller, Steve Wolfson Jr., Kent Meyer, Jamie Michelson, Ron Rippey, Stanley Bavlish, Richard Goodall, John Conte, Brian Troop, John Doyle, Michael Beychok and Jim Benes.

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Pierre Poulin Sweeps DerbyWars™ Weekend Tournaments

It was the type of weekend every player fantasizes about. The type where the money horses keep performing, everything keeps going right, and the competition just can’t keep up. For Pierre Poulin, it happened when the stakes were high.

PierrePlayerCardPoulin took advantage of an early afternoon qualifier to secure entry into Saturday’s $10,000 tournament, finishing third in the contest which featured early races from Saratoga and Monmouth Park. The qualifying contest, starting at 1pm and sporting a $29 entry fee for 28 players, awarded berths to the 4:30pm $10,000 contest to the top four finishers and provided an affordable opportunity to play for big money – an opportunity of which Poulin took full advantage.

Armed with just a single entry into a contest which many players choose to contest with multiple entries, Poulin was forced to rely on his handicapping chops and a well-honed contest strategy in order to emerge with a big paycheck. He was already hot, and he had to stay hot.

PierreGamecardBut picking winners wasn’t the ultimate key to victory.

“I only had three winners,” recalled Poulin, who goes by the username ‘vitesse’ in DerbyWars games. “I had five second place finishes, most of them in double digits. That’s what made the difference.”

Indeed, Poulin astutely picked Bio Pro in the contest finale, annexing an additional $46.40 to his already swelled bankroll, but he hardly needed a windfall to vault him to the top of the leaderboard.

“I was already on the lead going into the last race,” noted Poulin. “But in these bigger contests with more people, you’ve got to have at least one longshot.”

Of the nine individuals that picked longshot Bio Pro, Poulin’s bank account was by far superior, securing him the win and a grand prize package worth $5,000, which included $4,525 cash and a $475 token for entry into the following day’s $5,000 High Roller Tournament.




That $475 Token would prove to be the gift which kept on giving. In Sunday’s $5,000 High Roller Tournament, Poulin was brimming with the confidence that comes from having already won a high dollar tournament the day before.

HRPlayerCardThat confidence would only grow as Poulin struck early blood in the second race of the tournament, picking cap horse Dissention in the 8th race from Saratoga. He was one of only two players to hit the $50 horse, enough to put them just a few dollars ahead of David Santoni (“chiliking”), who was the only player to have hit the $47.60 horse in the first leg.

With a quarter of the field already well out in front, it changed the complexion of the game for everyone, including the early leaders.

“Games with a small number of people are different than big games,” advised Poulin. “You really need to pick several winners in there. But with us being out in front by so much, it changed everything. The others had to change their strategy.”

HRGamecardUnfortunately for the rest of the field, there would be no more bombs along the way. Poulin would finish off his closest competitors by selecting a pair of middle priced winners, although second place finisher William Ortega (‘bromosdad’) would put in a respectable late rally to clip the official margin of victory to just $3.50.

Poulin’s winning share of the High Roller tournament was $4,000. Ortega, the runner-up, took home the $1,000 consolation prize.

Poulin started following horse racing in the early 1980’s and enjoys traveling to the country’s premier racing events, including the Breeders’ Cup and the Kentucky Derby. But in addition to the name attractions, he also quite enjoys boutique and novelty meets and tracks, such as Colonial Downs, Kentucky Downs and Ellis Park in addition to obvious hotspots such as Keeneland, Saratoga and Del Mar.

“I like to travel to those spots, and I used to travel a lot more,” laughed Poulin. “I used to travel each weekend to contests. Now with DerbyWars, I can stay home more and have fun!”

Poulin has been an active member of the DerbyWars community since its inception. His first trip to the National Handicapping Championship was last year and he hopes to qualify once again this year. He is also aiming for a chance to participate in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, a high-dollar live-money contest, for the first time.

Professionally, Poulin is a money manager in equities and research analyst, which he somewhat jokingly equated to handicapping the races.

“I’m looking for undervalued propositions,” Poulin chuckled. “You know, the hidden gems.”

Well played, sir. Well played.

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Three More Players Advance to 1st DerbyWars™ NHC Qualifier

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

DImeJason 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]

GalianaEnter 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.

IgeGamecardBut 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.

ChilikingPlayerCardThe 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.

ChilikingGamecardNot 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

GuggiePlaycardPlayers 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 GuggieGamecardnamed 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

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Eric Moomey Flying High After Pair of High Altitude Wins in DerbyWars™ NHC Prequalifiers

Mark Scheider Also Advances to August 3 Tournament

As August draws near, the sense of urgency to prequalify for spots in the DerbyWars NHC Qualifiers grows more intense by the day. The first of five DerbyWars NHC Qualifiers is set to take place on Saturday, August 3; subsequent qualifiers will take place each Saturday of the month.

With just eleven spots in each DerbyWars NHC Qualifier, prequalifying tournaments offer an affordable way to handicap your way into a very competitive chance to secure a highly coveted seat to the NHC. As of Sunday, three more DerbyWars players are dreaming of Vegas.

2013 NHC DW Qualifiers Vegas v2 675x290



Eric Moomey

Fresh off a win in one of Sunday’s two early afternoon DerbyWars NHC Prequalifiers, Eric Moomey found himself sitting in the airport of Flint, MI, playing the evening prequalifying event.

“The first contest I played from home,” laughed Moomey just prior to taking off on a flight, mid-contest. “I’m not doing very well in this contest anyways.”

Indeed he wasn’t. After five contest races, it was time for Moomey to board his short flight to Baltimore, and he hadn’t so much as a penny in his bankroll. Without the benefit of Wi-Fi on the brief excursion, Moomey would be at the mercy of his preselected picks until he safely landed in Maryland.

Moomey2PlaycardThe news wasn’t much better when the plane touched down. Quickly checking the results, he would soon find out that he was still sitting on a goose egg through eight contest races, with only three betting opportunities left from Betfair Hollywood Park.

“I landed and made the change to a longshot seeing I was so far behind,” said Moomey, adjusting his strategy on the fly, as one might say. “Nice move!”

Booting home a cap horse late in the contest was good enough to get Moomey into a close third-place, just a few dollars behind the leader. But Moomey was still tasked with closing the deal to secure the second NHC Qualifier seat, a task that became tougher when his charge in the second to last tournament race failed to place.

Moomey2GameboardIt had been well over an hour since the hopscotch flight had landed, but Moomey still found himself sitting in Baltimore Washington International Airport waiting for the final contest race to go before hitting the highway. He needed some money in the last race, and he needed a horse the two players above him wouldn’t pick.

“I tried to win it with favorites, but I could tell I would be blocked,” noted Moomey. “I had to use a different strategy.”

That strategy turned out to be a winning one as Life Rules streaked home on the inside to win the Betfair Hollywood Park finale in impressive fashion, adding $39.60 to Moomey’s bankroll and securing him a comfortable victory in the NHC Pre-Qualifier.

Since all DerbyWars NHC Qualifiers are limited to one ticket per player, Moomey becomes the first DerbyWars player to secure a spot in the August 10 NHC Qualifier, in addition to the place in the August 3 NHC Qualifier he had secured earlier in the day.

Moomey went on to explain his win in the first NHC Prequalifier earlier in the day.

Moomey1Playcard“I was looking for a price separator; I found it in the 3rd race of the contest,” explained Moomey. “Then I only needed to inch ahead of the two folks that came with me.  They put up a good fight.  I was able to successfully block them on the last race.

“My biggest risk was playing the odds-on favorite in the 2nd to last race.  If that horse failed to win I knew I would be out, but it was part of my strategy to inch ahead so I could avoid being beat by a place horse.  It worked perfectly this time, perhaps a little luck also that no one in contention picked the winner of the final race.”

In addition to being a sage handicapper, Moomey is by all accounts a strategic whiz. He has spent years honing his prognosticative prowess and has started to see a significant financial payoff to the many hours of study.

Moomey1Gamecard“If I do what everyone else does, we’ll just be duking it out,” Moomey astutely notes.

He’ll be putting his skills to the test in the August 3 and August 10 DerbyWars NHC Qualifiers, but he hasn’t committed himself to a specific strategy just yet.

“My strength is in knowing my competition, so it depends on who shows up,” warns Moomey. “I track each person. I look at the prequalifiers and see how they won, what their strategy is.”

Moomey is excited to play for a chance to win a seat in the NHC. Last year was his first trip to Las Vegas for the handicapping championship event, which he secured by finishing second in a free qualifier pitting 1500 handicappers against each other.

A member of the United States Air Force, Moomey is extremely data driven in nature.

“I could crunch numbers all day and be happy as a clam,” Moomey boasts rakishly. “I have a hobby that pays. People that like to ski or like to golf, they have a hobby they pay to participate in. My hobby pays me.”

It was a trip to the casino at Charles Town which got Moomey interesting in thoroughbred racing. Instead of playing on slots or other games of chance, the data-driven numbers-cruncher found handicapping the horses to be far more mentally stimulating.

Moomey began playing in handicapping contests in 2010 and has been an active member of the DerbyWars community since the site launched in 2011.



Mark Scheider

The final standings of the first DerbyWars NHC Prequalifier on Sunday indicate a $29 romp by Mark Scheider. But going into the last race of the contest, Scheider led the field by just about $20 – not enough to be comfortably assured of a victory, especially in an eight horse finale peppered with live longshots.

“Going into the last leg, I was playing in three different tournaments – a Tokens game, a $60 game, and the big one,” explained Scheider. “I was playing defense with that last race. Any horse that couldn’t beat me, I threw out the window. That horse [Miracleonbroadway in Belmont’s 5th race] was the likeliest that could have beat me. So I made the pick at 5 minutes to post. If it was going to hit, we were going to hit it together.”

ScheiderPlaycardAnd hit it together they did. Miracleonbroadway streaked under the wire for the win and added $23.40 to Scheider’s already contest-leading bankroll, assuring him the contest victory and a seat at the table for the August 3 DerbyWars NHC Qualifier.

“When that horse at Belmont hit, I got excited,” said Scheider. “I started thinking about the next step.”

That next step will come in just under three weeks when he competed against ten players for a coveted seat in the NHC. When asked about what strategy he might deploy against a compact field of tournament veterans, Scheider played coy.

ScheiderGamecard“I might play aggressively,” Scheider answered evasively. “But hey, I can’t give away the farm here. Those players are serious; I’ve seen them in the tournaments.”

Scheider is a 32-year-old Marine veteran currently working in Manhattan. A relative newcomer to the sport, he was introduced to racing in 2010 by his late uncle Tom Scheider, who brought him to the racetrack. Scheider’s first trip to the Kentucky Derby was in 2011 when he advised friends and family to bet a chestnut colt named Animal Kingdom, only to miss the chance to place a winning wager of his own. He is an annual patron of the Belmont Stakes.

“I started playing DerbyWars in March,” explained Scheider. “I think I won on my first tournament. You know, for a few bucks. I started winning and thought ‘This is cool,’ and got hooked.”


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