08/28/2014 12:15PM

Fornatale: Computer glitch helps Boyd to qualify for NHC


Eric Boyd, a 46 year-old farrier from the mountains of Fort Davis, Texas, is new to the contest world. He played in his first paid event – a credit-builder on NHCQualify.com this year, and two weeks ago he finished first in a credit-builder and won $2,450. “I’m a garden-variety racetrack degenerate just like everybody else,” he said. “I wanted to take a shot to build some credits up and be able to compete in [NHCQualify] tournaments without shelling out $165.”

Last weekend, Boyd did just that. He not only competed on NHCQualify, he won a seat to the NHC in Las Vegas. Heading into the last race he was in seventh place. “I had originally liked the chalk,” he explained, “But I thought ‘maybe I better find me a better-priced horse.’ ”

Boyd went to the computer to change his pick, but his Internet connection was out. But that ended up being a blessing. The favorite ended up winning and paying enough for Boyd to get fourth place and a trip to Las Vegas. Boyd joked, “I thought I’d found a loophole and could take my wife out there for our honeymoon, but she found a technicality and said it doesn’t qualify.”

Boyd grew up in northeast Wyoming going to the bush tracks with his dad. He’d find older kids to make bets for him so he could have some spending money. “Back then, parents could just turn their kids loose at the bush tracks,” he explained. “I loved it out there.”

His love of the game led him to become both an owner and trainer at tracks in Wyoming, South Dakota, Idaho, as well as Canterbury Downs in Minnesota. As a trainer, he mostly dealt with Quarter Horses but he did have one Thoroughbred winner from two starters out at Yavapai Downs in Arizona. These days, he raises a few horses but mostly sticks to shoeing horses, some of which compete in local match races.

For Boyd, contests are a great way to follow racing on a national level. His strategy is not complicated. “I just pick the ones I think are going to win,” he said. “You can pick a few short-priced favorites but you’ve got to have some longshots. The favorite is going to lose 70 percent of the time so you got to look for some value and find one that’ll pick you up.”

Boyd is what you might call a pattern handicapper. “Trainers, jockeys, and horses are all creatures of habit,” he said, “A lot of times they’ll find something that works for them and they’ll keep returning to it. I try to pick up on that and find a horse that’s sitting on a win. Each race has its own story and each horse has its own story and you have to figure out which one is going to have the best story that day.”

Despite being a horseman himself, Boyd avoids all supposed inside information, “Being on the backstretch so much, everybody from the trainers on down to every guy with a pitchfork and a manure bucket has the scoop on a horse that’s ready to fire,” he said. “For me, the only thing that matters is what I read in the Daily Racing Form. That’s where I get my information.”