09/30/2015 1:04PM

Fornatale: Flanders continues to set the bar high


Ryan Flanders has been profiled before in Daily Racing Form. In the last few years, he has accomplished a lot in the tournament world. He made the final table at the National Handicapping Championship two years ago, and he’s currently in second place on this year’s NHC Tour after a second last weekend at Laurel, where he also won a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seat. He’ll be a major contender at next year’s NHC.

You said before that you weren’t interested in chasing the tour, but here you are several months later still traveling across the country playing in tournaments. What is motivating you at this point?

I’m like any other guy that likes to compete – winning otivates me. Set the bar high, and if you don’t get there, you might still be happy with the results.

Do you think you still might be able to win the tour?

Jonathon [Kinchen] is nearly uncatchable. But the beauty of the tour over the next two months is that there are a few live events that I know I will be entered in because they are for big sums of live cash. Santa Anita, Del Mar, and the BCBC are over the next six weeks, so I’ll play and see what happens. I have to win one of those events to remain hopeful, but even a good showing will probably net me some cash, so it’s worth the press despite the long odds.

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What were the rules in the Laurel contest last weekend?

It was a lot like the NHC format – 15 races per day – eight mandatory plays and seven optional plays from four different tracks. This was a two-day contest, so there were 30 races and a mythical bankroll of $120 being played. It was a grind. I finished second, well behind runaway winner Robert Childress, but the contest was close until near the end, and with any luck, the result might have ended differently.

Was there a particular race that made a difference for you?

Two races stand out. In Laurel’s sixth, the Jamestown, I swung with a 40-1 first-time starter named Cryptos’ Holiday. He had a work pattern that I loved. He came flying but was one jump too late and got beat a neck.

Less than an hour later, I had to put up with a horrific beat on Highland Sky in the Grade 3 Pilgrim. With a fair run, he absolutely runs by that field at 14-1. I knew there were going to be several players who had the winner, but “Sky” was a tape horse for me. His number was competitive, and he had a horrible trip in his only race, so I knew he had hidden value.

What was your contest strategy going into last weekend?

Contest play is a funny animal. The format, combined with a player count, is key for developing a strategy on how to do well. This last weekend, there were only 54 players. The contest had 16 mandatory plays and 14 optional plays over the two days. I’ve noticed that in contests that have a high ratio of races to optional plays, the winning total amounts are significantly lower vs. other formats. I think players in general know that in order to win, they need prices, so in their optional races, they swing with 10-1’s all day, oftentimes missing.

Conventional wisdom definitely dictates that you have to swing for prices in any format with optional races. Do you disagree with that?

The strategy of taking prices is a good one, but it’s super easy to miss every optional race when “bombing away.” I take a slightly different approach. I guess at a winning total before the contest, and then I try to map a plan of how to get me there. For this contest, I thought $200 had a good shot at winning, which is really amazingly low when you consider you’re starting with $120. [Returning] 3-5 on your money is typically a loser in any contest, but sometimes it’s good. For me, format plus the number of entries is the key.

Will you carry this strategy forward to the NHC, or is that a different animal because of the number of players?

The NHC championship has the same format as we had at Laurel, but with one huge difference: The player count will be in the hundreds. That will raise the bar for me from shooting for a 65 percent profit on my initial bankroll to probably a 100 percent-plus profit. If players can double their money over the two days at the NHC, they will find themselves in contention and in position to take a good hack or two and try to take it down.