Thursday, December 8, 2005 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . December 8, 2005 . . . Robert Forbeck of Alexandria, Kentucky, turned an imaginary $40 bankroll into $140 of imaginary winnings and took home $10,000 real dollars at Turfway Park on Sunday, December 4.
Forbeck finished first among 180 players representing 300 entries at the event, a qualifying contest for the seventh annual DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. His win brought him Turfway’s $10,000 first prize as well as a spot in the national tournament on January 27-28 at Bally’s Las Vegas. Also qualifying for the national tournament were Andrew Willnus, whose second-place finish was good for $2,500, and Jon Jazdzewski, who took home $1,500 for third place.
Forbeck, a 57-year-old route driver for AVI Food Systems in Hebron, Kentucky, has been playing the races since his teens. He had entered four or five other qualifiers in the past but this will be his first trip to the National Handicapping Championship. “I didn’t even look at the placings through the day,” he said of his Turfway win. “I didn’t want to know.” Forbeck jumped to the lead when he hit the 8th race at Fair Grounds, betting The Penguin to win and place for payoffs of $35.20 and $11.60.
Willnus, 37, lives in Whitmore Lake, Michigan, where he is a sales manager for a wholesale nursery. He started going to the races with his dad when he was 5 years old and has been studying Daily Racing Form since he was 10 or 11. He finished his day at Turfway with $126.60 in imaginary winnings, good enough to qualify for the National Handicapping Championship for the second year in a row. Last year he finished 26th in the national contest after qualifying with a second-place finish at Thistledown.
Willnus entered qualifiers at Hawthorne and Keeneland earlier this year and both times long shots took him out of contention. At Turfway he looked for a long shot early, hitting Countess Cadet in Turfway’s first race for a $46.20 jump-start to his campaign.
With winnings of $126.10, third place and the final qualifying spot went to Jazdzewski, an equine dentist from Paris, Kentucky. Now 35 years old, he began playing the races in his teens. He has entered at least two qualifiers at Keeneland, mostly, he said, as a way to entertain relatives visiting from his native Wisconsin. He said, “We would joke with our wives as we were going out the door, ‘See you later—we’re going to go win a trip to ‘Vegas,’ and this time I’m actually going.”
Jazdzewski’s best qualifying effort previously was a ninth-place finish at Arlington. At Turfway he also hit Countess Cadet’s 21-1 payoff, and he said he would have won the contest if he had listened to his brother-in-law. “I was in second place with one race left, and he told me to bet a horse that eventually paid $39 to place. I picked the favorite instead.”
The DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship offers $500,000 in prize money, with $225,000 going to the winner.