06/28/2015 1:45PM

Fornatale: Brush with greatness snaps Kinchen out of slump


Jonathon Kinchen started off the year on an incredible role. From his historic performance at the National Handicapping Championship to his six-figure pick six score on Kentucky Derby Day, he was flying high. The last two months have been a different story, however.

"It's been rough," Kinchen said, "I went cold. I was doing the same thing, swinging the bat the same way. I was just missing the ball."

Kinchen flew out to Santa Anita on Thursday to play in the Gold Cup Betting Challenge. He had an encounter on Friday morning he believes may have changed his luck. Since he emerged on the tournament scene, Kinchen has been quoted many times talking about how the best part of contest play for him is how many friends he has made since he started playing. One of these friends arranged for Kinchen to get up close and personal with American Pharoah.

"It was one of the coolest things I've ever done," he said, "Not only that, but when I turned around to get my picture taken he took a little playful bite out of my shoulder. I've heard that it's good luck to get bit by a horse, so it must be great luck to get bit by a Triple Crown winner."

That afternoon he did well, hitting the early pick five for $5,000. And Saturday, a little luck was on his side. He had initially planned on going all-in on Curlin's Fox in the Senorita but the price ended up being too short.

"I wasn't going to go all-in at 3-5," Kinchen explained, "I ended up playing tri's so I still lost, but I only lost $1500 instead of my whole bankroll so I was still alive."

Shortly after that, Kinchen's new friend American Pharoah paraded.

 "It was great to see all the excitement in the crowd," Kinchen said, "They were running after as he walked in front of the stands like he was The Beatles."

In the last race, Kinchen leapt up into contention when Contemplate just barely prevailed at 19-1. As for Sunday, Kinchen will benefit significantly more from a first-place finish because of what it would mean for his chances of winning the NHC Tour and the $75,000 that goes with it. Still, he doesn't plan on pressing his horse-bite-driven luck.

"I'm not going to play conservatively," he said, "but I'll be very happy if I end up in the top two because of the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge seat that goes with that."