08/08/2014 11:06AM

Fornatale: Graham wins Battle of Saratoga


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.”

Mark Mcguire More than 1 year ago
congrats to all the fabulous players that cashed..i had a great time at dinner . peter ,thanks for you company ..I however must compare the rest of my experience's to my last visit to the chicken ranch. Had a great time ...but left felling a little violated & fleeced.. the tournament adding 70 players after capping it at 215 is a huge rules violation .canceling the after party ,was just downright cheap.& shortsighted. A better buffet would have eased the pain...don't get me wrong peter I would not of cashed ,if this tournament was limited to 10 players..integrity should not be thrown out the window .to make a buck.........all that begin said look forward to the next tournament on the schedule.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
LOL the chicken ranch! The expansion was unusual for sure -- for me it was mitigated by the fact that 100% of the money (+) was paid back to the players. As far as I'm concerned, there wouldn't be any effective difference between preparing for a contest with 200 entries and 270. But it's definitely a valid point for discussion and I'm glad you brought it up. Also, glad you brought up the lack of a hospitality event this year. Many players complained to me about this and I have to admit that I agree. Was a weird place to get chintzy with all those players coming in from all over the country. I'd like to see that restored next year. All in all, I thought it was a great tournament and I'm sorry you left disappointed. Hope to see you soon.
Randy More than 1 year ago
Funny how things work out. I thought Barrier To Entry would make the lead against Given fire. But, alas, the mare from the bad barn with a play-against jock (Solis, welcome to the HOF), got a little nudge at the break and that was that. Congrats to the winner.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
That's horse racing. . .