Thursday, December 9, 2004 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . December 9, 2004 . . . Joel Elam was $3.80 behind going into the last available race in the Turfway Park DRF/NTRA qualifier December 5. A minute and 45 seconds later, he was $2.80 ahead, taking first prize with a tactical place bet on the last race at Fair Grounds. The winning bet earned Elam not only $5,000 cash but also the last Turfway spot in the VI DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship at Bally’s Las Vegas January 21-22. He finished with $114.20 in his mythical bankroll, best of the contest’s 140 participants.
“I took a long time figuring out my strategy,” said Elam, who lives in East Alton, Illinois. “I liked the 6 horse, but if the other guy [the leader] also picked the 6 and it won, I couldn’t win. So with three minutes left I bet the 6 to win and the 3 to place. The other guy did bet the 6 to win—and it came in third.”
“The other guy” was Ken Magner of Freehold, New Jersey, who won $2,500 for finishing second with $111.40.
Elam made his big move earlier on the Fair Grounds card. He was $40 behind the leader when he bet one horse to both win and place in the “sixth or seventh” race. That winning wager paid $24 to win and $11 to place, putting him right in the hunt.
Elam has been playing the races since his teens. About ten years ago he decided to get serious about his hobby, which takes him most often to nearby Fairmount Park. He cites his ability to map out betting strategies as his greatest strength and has entered qualifying contests since the national tournaments began. He has been in contention at other qualifiers but this will be his first trip to the national contest.
Elam will celebrate his 62nd birthday on January 22—the second day of the Las Vegas tournament—and says he’s hoping for a big birthday present. “But I’ve already reached my goal,” he said. “I will prepare and I will take a swing at it, but I’m going to go out there and enjoy myself.”