03/06/2014 11:24AM

For couples at tournaments, handicapping is a team effort

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At live handicapping contests around the country, you see a number of couples playing together. Bryan and Judy Wagner have been playing together for a long time. More recently, Kevin and Nicole Cox have been showing up at tournaments nationwide.

Another interesting couple to make a mark on the tournament landscape is Bob Hansan and Kate Borges. Hansan won the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge in 2010, and Borges also is no stranger to success, having made a nice run in the Saratoga Betting Challenge in 2013. Borges also is a semifinalist in the Ms. Racing Queen Pageant at Gulfstream Park.

The winner of the Ms. Racing Queen title will receive $100,000 and appear as an ambassador on behalf of The Stronach Group at such major events as the Preakness Stakes, Florida Derby, and Santa Anita Derby. The runner-up will receive $50,000.

Hansan and Borges spoke with me this week by telephone from northern Virginia.

Kate, how did you discover horse racing?

Borges: Bob introduced me to the exciting world of horse racing about three years ago. I’ve been to tracks all over the country, and I love it. We’ve been to the Derby, the Preakness, two Breeders’ Cups, and Saratoga, which is my favorite, along with Santa Anita.

Bob, tell me about your Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge win in 2010.

Hansan: I knew I couldn’t out-handicap those players. But I thought maybe because it was a live-bankroll event, where you can put emphasis on certain opinions, that I could out-gamble the field. Going in that year – and I know this now sounds odd with how high the score was this year – but I figured I needed about $35,000 to $45,000 to win. I had the idea to make my mandatory bets as show bets and preserve as much of my bankroll as possible to bet it all on Blame in the Classic. I liked Blame in the race, and I knew he’d be good value because Zenyatta was certain to be overbet. And I was able to do that, and I won $185,000 or so.

Kate, what’s your highlight as a handicapper so far?

Borges: While I’m not as good of a handicapper as Bob, I have had some success. I was in second place after the first day last year in the tournament at Saratoga. On the second day, I didn’t do so well, but I still beat Bob, so that was a great achievement for me. That was my first tournament ever, and it was very exciting for me.

Where did you guys meet?

Borges: We met at work. I just came back from living in Brazil, and I applied to work at Bobby McKey’s, which is a dueling piano bar that Bob owns outside of D.C. And I got a job as one of his managers. And he asked me out, and I said no. But then he offered to take me to the track, and I fell for it!

Kate, what is your approach to picking winners?

Borges: I have different methods of trying to pick winners. I look at the pattern of the last few races each horse has run, and I’m looking for horses who have won or at least run well recently. I also like to look at the morning workouts. You can tell a lot about a horse from how they’re working. But mostly for me, I like going to the paddock and seeing how the horses are reacting, their body language. That tells me a lot. I can’t see what I need to see on TV. I need to be down by the paddock. That makes all the difference.

How do you guys approach playing together?

Borges: We love playing as a couple. He’ll be handicapping, and I’ll run to the paddock and come back with my report, so we work as a team in a way.

Hansan: Any weekend, anybody can play, and anybody can win. That’s what makes it fun. I’ve been doing this a lot longer than Kate, but she made that great run at Saratoga, and I was like, “How did you do that?” On the second day, going into the last race, Kate was in a position where there was a horse she liked, but if she played a cap horse, she had a chance to win or at least finish in the high money, and I was helping her out at that point, so I asked her what she wanted to do.

Borges: I said, ‘Go big or go home,’ so we switched my ticket, and the horse I played was leading almost the whole way, but then the horse I liked came up at the end and won. It was very disappointing. It’s a sensitive subject.

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Tell me about the Ms. Racing Queen contest. Why did you enter?

Borges: I thought it would be fun. I love horse racing, so my attitude was, “Why not?” It’s a great idea to try to find ways to get younger people excited about horse racing, and it surprised me that a lot of the other contestants come from a pageant background and don’t know that much about racing. And I feel like I’m the opposite – I know my way around the racetrack, and I don’t know anything about pageants.

What ideas do you have about how racing might reach out to women?

Borges: I think women are generally more careful with their money. To appeal to women, I would promote racing as an affordable activity for the whole family. And I would promote the idea of going to the paddock. Who wouldn’t want to see these beautiful creatures up close? And if you’re female and you’re single, it could be a great place to meet somebody. There are a lot of eligible bachelors at the track.

◗ Follow along with Kate’s quest to be crowned Ms. Racing Queen over the next three Saturdays at Gulfstream Park. And you can try to qualify for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge this Saturday at BCQualify.com.