Sunday, December 2, 2007 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . December 2, 2007 . . . Bill Downes, Michael Kappel, and Jerry Branham finished first, second, and third, respectively, in Turfway Park’s handicapping contest Sunday, earning their way to the ninth annual DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas in January.
Starting with a $48 live bankroll, the 254 contestants placed $2 win and place bets, choosing from a total of 36 races at Turfway, Calder, Aqueduct, Hawthorne, and Fair Grounds. Standings were determined by accumulated winnings.
Downes, of Columbus, Oh., also earned $6,350 for his top score of $188.90. The track announcer at Beulah Park near Columbus and Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., Downes enters handicapping contests regularly and has qualified for the national championship three times before, finishing as high as 15th. He got off to a quick start in Sunday’s qualifying contest when first-time starter Sparky’s Precision won Turfway’s fourth race at 16-1.
“This was a unique contest,” said Downes. “You had to make sure your bankroll lasted, but you also really needed to play every race. I played a couple of races ahead and that let me keep up with my spreadsheet, with post times coming up every few minutes. I had to sprint to the window for one race, but I made it.”
Kappel, semi-retired from work with computers, finished second with $182.00 to earn his first trip to the national contest. A resident of Belleville, Ill., and a regular at Fairmount Park, he has been entering qualifiers for three years. Kappel was fifth in the standings until he scored in Turfway’s last race. He took home a check for $3,800 for his work Sunday.
Turfway Park regular Jerry Branham finished with $181.70 to earn third place and $2,115. Branham, a resident of Aurora, In., and a dealer at Argosy Casino in nearby Lawrenceburg, will be making his second trip to the national contest. He enters only the Turfway qualifier each year and earned his first trip with a second-place finish at Turfway about five years ago. His score Sunday got a boost from a 26-1 shot that paid $18.60 for place in Hawthorne’s first race.
The DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship is slated for January 25-26, 2008, at Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas. Total prize money is estimated at $1 million.