08/08/2014 10:06AM

Fornatale: Graham wins Battle of Saratoga

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Bradley Graham, a real estate broker from Raleigh, N.C., won the annual Battle of Saratoga handicapping contest. Graham takes home $110,000 in prize money and earns seats to both the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and the National Handicapping Championship. Graham – a two-time NHC qualifier – already had qualified for a third time back in March on NHCQualify.com, so now he’ll have two shots to win his share of $2 million at the NHC.

The contest attracted a record field of 274 players and paid down to 30th place.

Publichandicapper.com Editor Christopher Larmey finished second, taking home $44,500 and also securing a second NHC seat. Don Ablamsky ran third for $30,000, but since he was not a registered NHC Tour member prior to the tournament, there will be no NHC for him. The third berth instead goes to Scott Eyraud, along with a check for $20,000. Eyraud is no stranger to success at this tournament – he won the inaugural Battle of Saratoga in 2010.

As for Graham, he previously had played in the Battle of Saratoga three times but had not had any success. That trend continued the first day this year – he had only one winner Wednesday – but Graham didn’t panic. He got up early on day two, studied the cards, and formulated a plan. He had three mid-priced winners early in the day and was saving bullets for two races in particular – the nightcaps at both Saratoga and Arlington.

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The New York Racing Association contest allows players to use a double bet of $40 as one of the 10 wagers each day. Graham used his at Arlington on Royal Seven.

“She had previous synthetic experience and was coming off a layoff with a couple of nice works,” Graham said. “At that price, I thought that was a good place for my $40 bet.”

Graham wasn’t as confident about the last at Saratoga, but similar to many in the room, he took a shot with Given Fire at 18-1.

“I like 5-year-olds, and since she’d added blinkers, she had good speed,” said Graham. “I thought the Nihei barn might be heating up, and I like Junior [Alvarado]. I thought she could get out front, and they might not catch her, and that’s what happened.”

Graham had a bullet left for the last contest race – the third at Del Mar – as did several of his closest pursuers, a few of whom even had their double bets remaining. Graham had a few moments of anxiety when 7-1 Social Request won – if someone in contention had used a double bet on the winner, he would not have won.

“It was pretty quiet after the race,” Graham said. “So I thought, ‘Maybe I have a shot.’ ”

Graham’s previous biggest contest win was a first in the Grade 1 Gamble at Keeneland two years ago. His biggest win at the windows also came at Saratoga.

“I hit the pick six here two years ago for $160,000 on a carryover day,” he said. “Saratoga is an awesome place.”