04/17/2014 11:39AM

Fornatale: Contests a tremendous growth area for the sport

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Before I was ever a racing fan, I knew about the Daily Racing Form. When I started writing about racing in 1999 for The Saratoga Special, I was in awe of the DRF guys I’d see around at the Spa. Not only were guys like Steven Crist, Dave Grening, and Dave Litfin great writers, but they got to write about horse racing for a living. I’d see them and think to myself, “How cool is that?”

A few years later on, I did a bunch of freelance work for the Form. Back in 2003, Frank Scatoni and I wrote a book for DRF Press called “Six Secrets of Successful Bettors” – my first significant freelance project when I left the world of full-time employment in book publishing. The following summer I got to work closely with the DRF luminaries mentioned above, along with Andy Serling and Harvey Pack, at the DRF seminars from Siro’s. To this day around Saratoga, people will flag me down and recognize me as the guy who sat at the corner of the stage during the shows and they’ll invariably ask, “Hey, how’s Harvey?” (He’s great, by the way).

After 10 years as a full-time freelancer, I am joining the work force proper once again. And as great as it has been to have DRF as a freelance client over the years, there’s something special for me about joining Daily Racing Form as a full-time employee. I know it’s a cliché to describe it as a “dream come true,” but, hey, if the cliché fits . . .

I’m particularly happy that I’ll be expanding my coverage of the handicapping contest world. This is an area of the sport that continues to grow at a rapid rate – and I know there are a lot of players out there who are curious about contests but don’t know where to start. That’s something I’m eager to help with. At the same time, I want to be writing articles that tournament veterans will want to read as well. 

:: Click here to purchase a copy of “The Winning Contest Player” by Peter Thomas Fornatale

If you’ve been enjoying the work I’ve been doing in this space since the Breeders’ Cup, that’s good – because there’s going to be more of it. I’m envisioning posting at least one piece a day during the week. The content will be a blend of recaps, strategy pieces, interviews, question-and-answer pieces with readers, handicapping specific previews and whatever else I can think of along the way.

I also look forward to participating in some new media ventures with Daily Racing Form, whether that means webchats, webinars, video previews, or even some live contest coverage throughout the year.

As ever, I encourage readers to participate in the conversation and ask questions via the comments section of the blog or Twitter (where I can be found @loomsboldly). As I’ve said many times before, one of the great things about handicapping, whether you’re talking about day-to-day play or contests, is that you never stop learning. I believe that have as much to learn from all of you as you do from me, and I hope you join me for the ride.

Bill Pizzo More than 1 year ago
Pete. I just don't see how I can compete w those that post multiple entries and those that are part of "teams". I like the concept of handicapping contests and enjoy head to head battles. I just think my betting dollar is best served going to my day to day search for value and profit
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Bill: I got several versions of this same question from you in my queue. Please know that I moderate the comments myself and they don't always post right away. You only have to post once and I'll get them. Give me 24 hours to respond during the week and 48 hours over the weekend. As for your question, that's fine if that's your decision but I (obviously) don't agree. As part of my new responsibilities with DRF, I'll be adding a column once a week where I answer a question from a reader. This one is near the top of the list for me to answer. I'll probably get to it next week. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Bill Pizzo More than 1 year ago
Oh,sorry about the multiple questions, I thought they didn't "send" properly :) Ok, I appreciate you taking the time to respond.. I will be keeping an open mind regarding contests...l.
Ron Solberg More than 1 year ago
your letting a lot of potential players slip by buy charging to read articles.some of these people including myself have spent thousands with you over time.i started reading forms in 1961 and I think it was a quarter, I have paid $5.00 for one lots of times.just keep it up and you will be the one that loses in the long run.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
My pieces run in the free area of the site obviously. I have some sympathy for your point of view but I also see the other side: in the new media world, content must be monetized for entities like DRF to survive and thrive. DRF Bets customers who bet a certain threshold can get access to all DRF content. Perhaps that's an option to explore?
Roger More than 1 year ago
Peter Congrats its great to have you on board full time. Looking forward to the coverage you provide its always right on the money and entertaining. The contest world needs more coverage and really seems to be taking off now. Best Wishes..Roger
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Thanks, Roger! I appreciate the support. I'm looking forward to posting A LOT more good stuff for DRF.
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
Peter Congrats and well deserved a great addition for DRF. I agree with everything about the growth and need for information on Contest tournament play. I for one was intimidated by not knowing the game and your info has been very helpful. I now look forward to entering and playing in some of these contest. Please continue with the basics to encourage other great handicappers the opportunity to compete. This is the future of high end professional play IMO. All the best
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the kind words -- I definitely appreciate your contributions in the comments, keep 'em coming! And I think your optimism about the future of contests in justified. . .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
what ever happened to the DRF March 30 contest I can not find the results
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I've posted these before but here they are again: http://www.drf.com/events/drf-contest-results
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
As I have previously written, I played tournaments from 1984 through 2003. I did quite well. The traveling and the grind just got to be too much. As a full time bettor, I found the mindset for playing tournaments was contrary to the mindset of betting professionally on a regular basis. The tournament player's mindset should be......"who COULD win this race?" The working pro who bets to win/exactas,etc is asking ........"who WILL win this race?" I know a few players who have stopped playing tournaments because it takes away from the time needed in their everyday handicapping and betting. Tournaments are fun and exciting. When you're younger, it's easier......the physical wear and tear doesn't get to you as much. For me, I'll play an internet tournament once in a while, but for the most part I'll grind out a nice income spot betting. Again, good luck with the new gig.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Thanks, Chuck. Always a pleasure to see your name in the comments. One of these days we gotta talk about the old days. . .
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
Thanks Peter...........any time you want to talk let me know.
Donald Koepplin More than 1 year ago
Good luck with the new job, Peter. I am not a tournament player but I do enjoy reading your columns related to tournaments and interviews with many of the tournament players. I also enjoyed watching the recent Horseplayers series on TV. I have been a horse racing fan since 1967. I am not a tournament player because I classify myself as a favorite player who stumbles onto a good 5-1 to 10-1 horse maybe two times a month ( if I'm lucky). It is hard for me to see horses like Danza winning the Arkansas Derby when he has not ran further than 7 furlongs or exceeded 80 on the Beyer scale. Mine That Bird winning the Derby in 2009 was another example of that impossible to logically select. I do occasionally play in free handicapping tournaments and usually do not fare well. I am hoping that by reading your articles that I will get a different prospective to looking at races. Thanks for the great work.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Thanks, Donald. I hope you stick around. There are definitely certain contest formats were one is less vulnerable to those type of results but there are always going to be results in racing that makes us say, "Did that REALLY just happen?"
John Herzberg More than 1 year ago
congrats again Peter.I played in the free pick and pray last Sunday. I noticed many players had selected a few favorites that won. I'm thinking that if I feel the favorite is sort of a lock through my vision(and I usually am good at that) then I should pick those horses in those few spots vs. a longshot. Is my thinking correct or should I never include horses under 2-1.
EDWARD WRIGHT More than 1 year ago
I believe your thinking is 100% correct, especially in a Pick and Pray contests where entrants can't play the board. That contest was truly a challenge which is why I like the Pick & Pray format. It was not a contest for the "Hail Mary" crowd as the highest payout was a $21.40 place horse. The highest priced winner was $16.40. The contest winner had 7 wins and 2 place finishes with $109.40. He picked up 2 winner due to scratches including the "longshot" $16.40 horse. The person in 10th had $84.40 with 7 wins and one place but was STILL $10 out of 4th place. He also did not have the 2 largest payouts. Seven winners paid less than $10, four paid less than $13 and one paid $16.40. You needed $94.20 to earn an NHC package (4th) and $73.00 to get tour points (30th). 1763 of 1931 scored less than $50, 1070 scored less than $25 and 246 finished with ZERO. If you feel strongly about a horse always take that horse unless you are playing catch up and you're at the point where your picks won't make a difference. Then you can throw a "Hail Mary" and hope to get lucky.
John Herzberg More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the analysis. I will try to include some lower odds horses I like next time.
bertha More than 1 year ago
How about posting all the live tournaments at all track coming up. Example April 30 Santa Anita May 5 Churchill May 21 Belmont. Just so players will know where they are going to be
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
A master list is a good idea but might be more work than I can manage right now! I will do a post next week about all the live bankroll qualifiers for the BCBC. A complete (as of now) list of qualifiers for the NHC is available at www.ntra.com. My book also lists a number of important ones like The Orleans contests, and the Wynn. Also, the Treasure Island Derby weekend contest is worth looking into as the Pick the Ponies contest in Vegas during that week. Last ones I'll mention for now are the NYRA contests -- always a good time and a great deal.
Kenny More than 1 year ago
Check the list at NTRA site, then google the contact at each track and either call or email them directly.....the people like Newby at Santa anita, Bahr at Del Mar and Locke at NYRA are all super helpful
Ron Solberg More than 1 year ago
I agree with you 100%. many times if I knew one existed I would had got in to it.very little info anywhere that I know of.
EDWARD WRIGHT More than 1 year ago
Bertha, here are the Onsite NHC qualifiers through July. Start End Spots Location 4/25/2014 4/25/2014 2 Hawthorne Spring Super Qualifier 4/26/2014 4/26/2014 3 Hawthorne Spring Super Qualifier 4/26/2014 4/26/2014 Q Lone Star First Chance 4/26/2014 4/26/2014 1 Emerald Downs 4/26/2014 4/27/2014 3 Pimlico Race Course 4/26/2014 4/26/2014 2 Monmouth Park SSC Invitational 4/27/2014 4/27/2014 3 Hawthorne Spring Super Qualifier 5/3/2014 5/3/2014 4 Treasure Island XIII 5/4/2014 5/4/2014 4 Treasure Island XIV 5/17/2014 5/18/2014 5 Preakness Day Santa Anita Challenge 5/31/2014 5/31/2014 4 Monmouth Park 6/14/2014 6/14/2014 2 Lone Star First Chance Finals 6/21/2014 6/22/2014 3 Belmont Park 6/28/2014 6/29/2014 3 Santa Anita- Closing Weekend Hundred-Grander 7/11/2014 7/11/2014 2 Surfside Race Place 7/12/2014 7/12/2014 2 Surfside Race Place 7/13/2014 7/13/2014 4 Arlington Park 7/13/2014 7/13/2014 2 Surfside Race Place 7/18/2014 7/19/2014 2 Prairie Meadows 7/20/2014 7/20/2014 2 Woodbine/Saratoga Challenge 7/26/2014 7/26/2014 2 Emerald Downs 7/26/2014 7/26/2014 5 Keeneland 7/26/2014 7/27/2014 10 (max) Del Mar
Steve Wilson More than 1 year ago
Best of luck, Peter - I'm sure lots of people will enjoy this!
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Tx for reading and commenting!
Russ Jenkins More than 1 year ago
Tough day yesterday.....i made picks the night before...kept up with results on DRF throughout the day.....knew i was going well....then got home just in time to catch the last race at Hawthorne and a 13-1 that i didn't have (but it seems, everyone else did). I thought i was gonna qualify 2 tickets at least...instead...i qualified none. Ouch. Any advice for a guy who in weekly tournament play can't make any adjustments (because i'm at work and not able to access such sites)?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Great question, Russ. I will tackle this question in a blog next week.
Starks43 More than 1 year ago
Sounds like Pick and Pray/Lockdown would work for you. Everyone puts their picks in advance and no adjustments.
Kenny More than 1 year ago
Yep thats a tough spot Russ, for an example look at how many people had Danza in the NHC contest Saturday.....Pick N Pray is the way to go if you cant adjust.....see HorseTourneys.com
Lone Speed More than 1 year ago
Yes, take a look at Pick N Pray on horse tourneys or Lockdowns on derby wars