Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Florida.
Like most horse racing handicappers, Steve Tucker and Henry Walthert were faced with the question “how did you choose this horse?” Countless times.
After finishing 1-2 in the “Festivus Challenge 10-Day Handicap Contest”, it’s a challenge they aren’t afraid to take on.
Even though Tucker was in third place on the final day of Friday of the online competition hosted by Tampa Bay Downs, the Hillsborough, NJ High School biology teacher decided a game of intuition was too strong to ignore. in the fourth race on the grass.
“My roommate at Rutgers University was called Skip so I decided to play Skipperini,” Tucker said of the 2-year-old gelding who was 8-1 on the morning line. “Whether you do the stock market, play horses or bet sports, there are so many different angles you can take. “
Walthert, a retired association executive from Ottawa, Canada, had a more logical reason for selecting Skipperini in the free online competition: he was in 18th place on the final day and needed to win a lot of land to finish first or second and collect money. price.
“The guys in front of me were probably going to play the favorite so I wouldn’t be able to jump big enough otherwise,” he said.
By the time the race started, Skipperini’s odds had dropped to 19-1 – the longest shot in the race – and Tucker and Walthert seemed to be hanging on to the straw. But when Skipperini and jockey Antonio Gallardo rallied for victory, their two big contest sponsors raised $ 63.40 on their iconic $ 2 bets – enough to defeat more than 1,300 entrants.
At the end of the contest, Tucker had a bankroll of $ 247.60 and Walthert $ 223.20. Tucker won first place by $ 1,000 and Walthert won $ 500. In an interesting twist, Skipperini had won his previous start two weeks earlier, smashing his young daughter as a 2-1 favorite.
“It’s an exhilarating feeling,” said Tucker, who won $ 5,000 playing an online crippling event through Remington Park in Oklahoma several years ago. “I’ve been following horse racing for 20 years and coming out the winner is really something. It’s a lesson in humility because there are a lot of people who know more than me.
Skipperini wasn’t the only horse in a hurry to help Tucker win. He played Bens Malice on December 10 because his brother’s name is Ben, and the 2-year-old gelding won at odds of 27-1 while bringing in $ 82 in legendary contest winnings.
Walthert, joined Monday on a ski vacation at Sommet Edelweiss north of Ottawa, was already having fun entering the contest when Dame Fortune smiled at him on Friday.
“It’s always a challenge to pick the winners, and when you can, it’s rewarding,” he said. “It makes you look forward to the next race. It’s fun to follow and see how you are doing.
Walthert’s general strategy throughout the competition was to seek out trendy horse-related jockeys and trainers with chances that he believed he could reap enough profit to move up the leaderboard.
“I tried not to go with the favorites,” he said.
While Walthert and his wife Monique visited the Tampa Bay Downs, Tucker and his wife Diane did not. The Festivus champion says that will likely change.
“I’m thinking about (retiring) next year, and I have a few friends who are retired in Florida,” Tucker said. “I really hope to make it to Tampa Bay Downs. Everyone I have spoken to that has been there says it is a beautiful place.
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