04/06/2016 12:36PM

Fornatale: Archaeologist good at digging up winners


Dan Camoro, 55, is a man with good stories. Like the time his horse trainer uncle robbed a bank and a movie was made about it. The movie was "A Nice Little Bank That Should Be Robbed," and Camoro's uncle, Angelo P. John, was played by Mickey Rooney. Years later, when Uncle Ange, got out of jail, his brother ridiculed him constantly about his poor life choices.

"When I was a kid my old man would always say, 'Danny, hide your piggy bank, Uncle Ange is coming over.' "

When they drove by the bank in question, on their way to Yonkers Raceway, naturally, his dad couldn't resist. "My old man would look at Uncle Ange and say, 'You wanna stop, cash any checks?' "

Camoro's own professional path was very different than that of his uncle. He currently works as the chief operating officer in an Oregon accounting firm, but he has a background in archaeology.

"I earned an Archaeology degree at SUNY Purchase and worked on many digs in Westchester and Fairfield counties, as well as many in the American Southwest, namely Chaco Canyon," he said. He discovered a thousand-year-old dog burial near the Connecticut coastline at Tod's Point beach. The other two significant sites he helped dig were the Deer Trail rock shelter in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., and the Rockrimmon Rockshelter, in Stamford, Conn.  "Both sites contained artifacts that dated back to at least 3000 B.C.," he said. "I have a good understanding of time."

He sees parallels between the worlds of archaeology and handicapping. "The deductive skill set that I acquired as an archaeologist set the foundation for me becoming a good handicapper," he explained. "I look at each race as a puzzle and I look for the relevant information. I also place much importance on the people associated with each horse. I look for people that have been around the game a long time and that have set a precedent of some sort."

Camoro, who won Saturday's NHCQualify.com contest outright last weekend, has been to the NHC six times -- once as the winner of the free Public Handicapper Challenge -- and has finished in the money twice. He makes a habit of visiting Oakhurst Farm, near where he now lives in Oregon, and he brings his 12-year-old daughter, Afina. They go to see Derby winners Grindstone and Giacomo.

He believes that whether you're talking about research or form study, there is no more powerful tool than relying on your own instincts. "I tune out all the noise from the so-called racing experts and rely entirely on what I think before arriving at a selection," Camoro said.

Laurino wins second NHC seat

Anthony Laurino is a newcomer on the handicapping contest scene, but he too made a mark on NHCQualify.com last weekend, winning a seat to the NHC with a second-place finish. Three weeks ago he entered his first tournament, a live-bank event at Laurel Park, and had a good experience. "I have always wanted to try tournaments, but always thought it was so daunting," he said. "Then I realized I could do well because I am not afraid to play longshots and back up my opinion with a wager."

Next he decided to try online play. In the last race two weeks ago on BCQualify.com he went from last to sixth in the final race with a cap horse. "I realized that online tournaments are all about finding the right races in which a longshot is likely to score and being on that horse," he said.

This is similar to Laurino's approach to multirace play. "I look to identify vulnerable favorites as much as possible, and attack those races, especially if I can single against a heavy vulnerable favorite, which opens a wider net in other races."

With that in mind, Laurino was particularly interested in the Turfway races on NHCQ on Saturday. He zigged when he should have zagged in the Rushaway, playing too conservatively, and vowed not to make that same error again. "Oscar Nominated was the turning point for me," he said. Laurino then backed up that big-priced winner with Clude at Santa Anita and place points on Wake Forest in the Pan American at Gulfstream and Cape Wolfe in the San Simeon back at Santa Anita.

Laurino's handicapping follows a time-tested process. First and foremost, he looks at race shape. "I start with pace and identify who is going to be on the lead, and then build the race out from there envisioning likely scenarios based on today's projected performances," he said.

From there, he looks to eliminate noncontenders. "I believe that elimination is more important than selecting the winner," he said, "because the more horses I can confidently eliminate the more likely it is that the winner is in the remaining group and that helps me narrow my selections."