TORONTO, August 2 – Sometimes the most important decisions in handicapping contests are made well before the first race is run.
When Ed Reidy, a physician from Pittsburgh, saw that players would be starting the July 29 Woodbine Mid-Summer Handicapping Tournament with a $250 betting bankroll, he figured from his experience with live-bankroll events that it would take about $2,500—or 10 times his starting stake—to have a good chance at winning the 67-player tourney.
When he read that contest play would allow for Win, Place, Show, Exacta and Daily Double wagering, his strategy became even clearer.
“Unless someone went all-in on a 5-1 shot to win, I couldn’t see anyone getting over $2,500 without using Exactas or Daily Doubles,” said Reidy, 51. “I personally don’t play a lot of Daily Doubles, so I decided to focus on Exactas.”
The competition required players to make 10 plays of at least $25 each on races from Woodbine and Saratoga with at least five having to be on Woodbine. Reidy decided he would supercharge his chances a bit by making five $50 exacta plays. If he was successful with any, he could then go about making his five other requisite plays. If not, well…at least he would go down swinging.
His first cold exacta play came in the second race at Saratoga. “I missed by a quarter of an inch,” Reidy said. (In more traditional racetrack parlance, he had the winner but got beat a nose for second.) His next planned play was a cold $50 exacta on 6-5 in the third at Woodbine, going off at 1:59 p.m. It was the start of a great 35 minutes for Reidy.
The 6 horse won by 1 ¾ lengths at odds of 7-1 and the 5 horse, the 6-5 favorite, complied by running second. The $2 exacta paid a generous $50.90—which Reidy had 25 times for a total collection of $1,272.50.
With that first collection achieved, Reidy now tweaked his strategy slightly by switching to $25 exactas. This would give him more opportunities to up his total, while still contributing towards his mandated 10 plays of $25 or more.
The strategy paid off. He immediately hit back-to-back $25 exacta plays, connecting first on a $66 (for $2) exacta in the 2:07 p.m. third race at Saratoga that combined a 1-2 winner with a 30-1 runner-up. At 2:34 p.m., he had an even bigger score, putting $25 on the 2-7 combination in the fourth at Woodbine that paid to the tune of $125.40 for a deuce. Reidy’s total collections for these two races: $2,392.50. That raised his overall bankroll total up over the $3,700 mark.
At this point, Reidy told himself he wouldn’t look at the leaderboard until after the seventh race at Woodbine. He wanted to concentrate instead on just getting all of his requisite plays in.
“When I did look,” he said, “I was $3,000 ahead! I figured I’d play conservatively from there until someone got up to $2,000, but no one ever did.”
Reidy finished the day with an even $3,500, which he retained along with his winner’s share of the prize pool–$2,227.50, plus a coveted seat to the February 2018 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas. It will mark the seventh straight year that Reidy has qualified for the NHC.
Pasquale Parente rallied valiantly to finish second with a bankroll of $1,661.28, which earned him an additional $1,089 from the prize pool plus the other available NHC berth.
Mike McIntyre ($1,160.50), Stephen Nowicki ($817.85), Frank Brown ($523.50), Pasquale Filippelli ($495.40), Stephen Nowicki (entry #2–$437.05) and Daniel Dreger ($388.60) rounded out the top eight in the standings, and took home additional prize pool winnings ranging from $495 to $99.
A previous commitment will preclude Reidy from attending the Woodbine Weekend Handicapping Tournament on August 26-27. That could be good news for those with designs on the Woodbine Player of the Year Series title, since Reidy also missed the June 24 Woodbine Spring Meet Handicapping Tournament won by Carol Johnson. Series rules requires participation in three of the four 2017 Woodbine tournaments to be eligible for Player of the Year honors and the cash and prizes that go with them.
However, Reidy already has September 16—the date of the $3,500 Woodbine Mile Handicapping Tournament—circled on his calendar.
“I’m planning to go to Woodbine Mile Day,” he said. “I’ve traveled to four or five Woodbine contests over the years. They’ve all been really well run, and the contest tent [where everyone competes] is in a very nice area only about six feet from the turf course. It’s great to be able to see the horses up close.”
Thanks to an artful blend of handicapping skill and game strategy, Reidy got a lot closer to the horses during the Mid-Summer Handicapping Tournament than his competition got to him.