03/29/2016 10:46AM

Fornatale: How the Big 3 took down the Rainbow 6


Former NHC Tour winner Brent Sumja pulled quite the double on Saturday. Not only did he take first in a National Handicapping Championship Tour qualifier on NHCQualify.com, he also was one of three prominent contest handicappers to take down Gulfstream’s Rainbow 6 for $89,456.54.

It should come as no surprise that Sumja, who bets professionally, has a contrarian way of looking at the world. This played into his Rainbow 6 hit on Saturday. Sumja has an interesting way of approaching mandatory payouts in general. “I have a mathematical formula I use to evaluate the proper amount to invest,” explained the former trainer. “I determine the amount by estimating the total pool, dividing that number by a percentage and then multiplying that number by the percentage of dead money to the whole new pool.”

There obviously is a little guesswork involved in Sumja’s formula, but his equation usually puts him in the ballpark. The idea of tailoring one’s investment to the opportunity at hand is smart but nothing new, but when it comes to how to construct his bet, Sumja breaks some serious ground. Most sophisticated players approach a bet like this by labeling their contenders as As, Bs, and Cs and constructing multiple tickets. From there, they adjust their tickets to fit their bankrolls.

Sumja does something completely different. “My theory is to find the horses who can't win so I get my ticket up to the range that my formula says should be played to make the investment a full swing,” he said. “It goes back to my belief that, while I might not be good enough to find that one ‘separator’ winner everyone is seeking, I firmly believe from my history that I am plenty good enough to pick the horses that will not be that one.”

For this approach to work, you need a bankroll and a gambler's mentality to swing hard when the time is right. “Those of us who do this to survive, drool for days like this,” Sumja explained.

In his opinion, 33 of the 68 runners in the sequence could not win. From there, he constructed a 7 x 5 x 4 x 9 x 3 x 6 caveman ticket for $4,536. “Eliminating every horse in the sequence allowed me to construct a bet that was exactly in my monetary range,” he said, “I realize many other people hit it more traditionally and with a lesser investment but this approach just works for me.”

Sumja is a major proponent of Thoroughbred aftercare and he’s putting his money where his mouth is after his nice hit. He is donating $4,000 to four separate organizations: Friends of Ferdinand of Indiana, GEVA of California, Second Stride of Kentucky, and The Prodigious Fund of Washington. “Anytime I make a big score I want to share it with the athletes who made it possible,” he said.

Dave Gutfreund is more known these days as a poker player than a horseplayer, but perhaps that’s changing once again. On NHC weekend, he won over $100,000. Last weekend, he added the Rainbow 6.

He started out Saturday in a lucky spot – sitting in the Eddie Logan Suite at Santa Anita, where last year he’d won his way to the National Handicapping Championship via a DRF Bets contest. “I could have chosen to sit in the hotel room and play online,” he said, “but mindset and environment are relevant when it comes to gambling, and for me it’s pretty damn good at the Eddie Logan Suite.”

Gutfreund  played six tickets totaling just under $1,400 using an A-B structure with main contenders and backup horses. He considers himself lucky with the Rainbow 6 result. “I didn’t prepare enough and I didn’t construct the tickets nearly well enough,” he said, “and given the opportunity that was there, I didn’t bet nearly enough money.”

His problem was that he got too skinny in the fourth leg. “I never should have been in a spot where the top tier in that particular leg only had two horses in it,” he said. “When I tiered that race, I didn’t think of the repercussions of what I was doing.”

He described the wait between the third and fourth legs as agonizing. “Given what my opinion was, I never should have been in a position to miss hitting that,” he said, “and I would have been appalled with myself had it gone wrong.”

His actual opinion in the race was on Favorite Heir, who was nowhere, and he only threw in the winner, Bippo, because he couldn’t bring himself to single there. Logically, he should have spread more with As, but when Bippo won, he had gotten away with it.

The sequence was bet-of-the-year type stuff for Gutfreund, between the 20 percent overlay in the pool ($10.78 million bet in, 13.15 million paid out) and the preponderance of turf races. “Some people would say I’m just a grass kind of guy,” he said.

Pro player Duke Matties has numerous contest wins and cashes on his resume but he’d never hit a Rainbow 6 before Saturday. He had a lot going on. “My head was spinning between playing all the tracks I usually play, the Pick Sixes at Gulfstream and Santa Anita, and an online contest,” he said.

Matties put together four tickets for around $800. “On three of them, I singled Harmonize in the turf stakes because she just looked obvious to me,” he said. On another ticket he singled 2-1 morning line horse Prime Time Tommy in Race 9. He really thought both of his short-priced singles would win. “If that horse won, I would have hit it multiple times but would it have payed a lot less, obviously,” he said, adding that he didn’t invest more because he thought those singles meant it would be chalky.

His specific ticket that hit was a 4 x 3 x 5 x 5 x 1 x 3 combination that cost $180. In retrospect, he wishes he had taken a slightly different approach. “What I should have done was to try to hit the bet multiple times,” said Matties, for whom $800 was a modest investment given the opportunity at hand. “If I sat there and really thought about it and invested, I might have hit it 25 times.”

Steve Young More than 1 year ago

Here’s my story.


I’m not a big money player, but I increased my bankroll to play via tournament earnings from the Stronach Group’s Ultimate Betting Challenge


I earned my way to the tournament by entering the Santa Anita low roller tournament.   A $40 live money tournament.  Since opening day I played it twice and finished third one time. However, by finishing third I earned an entry into one more one-daytournament.   The lone 1st place prize was a free entry into the UBC.


Thanks to Generosidade (URU) winning the San Luis Rey Stakes at 71-1, I was able to win my spot.  Indecently I was told by the tournament official that 7 of the 50-60 players had that horse, including Jose Arias who was very gracious to me.   He is a class act.


The tournament was a blast.  At one time very early I was in second place, but as I took my swings at prices I feel down the board and went home with $2,000.   I know I played conservative compared to more experienced players, but I wanted to go home with something to show for my efforts.  That $2,000 gets added to my playing bankroll.


Now fast forward to last Saturday.


I am not a pick 6 player. In my view to play that wager correctly you need to be heavily capitalized which I am not.  I’ve played the bet no more than 20-25 times and only if there is at least a double carryover or if it’s the closing day of a meet.


On Saturday I played into the Rainbow Pick 6.  My $432 wager (the biggest of my life), took down a piece of that huge pot for $89k. By far the biggest score of my life.


My ticket… 1,8,10/1-3,7/1,3,10/2,5,6/1,4,6,8,9/3,5,8,11


In a sense I was able to parlay a $40 low roller entry into a lifetime big score.


Congratulations to all the winners.   This game is fun!

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great stuff, Steve!!! Thanks so much for sharing that and I'll interview you the next time you do well in one of our DRF contests for sure. PTF
Marvin Friedman More than 1 year ago
Would Duke Matties have won that much more money by having 25 winning tickets on the Rainbow 6 ,given that he was betting in to a finite pari-mutuel pool?
Dahorsecapper More than 1 year ago
yes he would have won much more.The winning combination paid $89k and change if there were 25 more winning combinations sold it would have paid around $ 76,000  and change which would have produced around 1.9 million if someone had it 25 times
Marvin Friedman More than 1 year ago

Can someone clear up a basic math question about hitting the Rainbow 6 25 times? Given that the pool was a parimutual ,the winners deciding the losers money, would hitting the pool 25 more times result in a substantially larger payout?

jtim11 More than 1 year ago

on rare days like this in which there is free money to whack up in horse racing (let that digest that for a moment)  

I believe it is wasteful energy to guestimate what the payoff will be.

my sole focus is to hit the thing and then let the sequence of races, determine what races I decide to add leverage and press opinions with...

Greg Scherr More than 1 year ago
I love the idea of cutting horses that you feel has no shot, I do the same and once I have my ticket constructed I go thru the ticket and eliminate those again who I don't feel will win, i.e. trainers with win rates of 00-05%, Jocks who are 1/75, etc. it's all a game of odds and the trainer with 1 win in 55 starts is going to win 1 and leaving him off will win me 54, I'll take those odds.  
Greg Scherr More than 1 year ago

Well done guys, I hit as well

Gulfstream Park 7 $0.20 P6 4,8,10 / 1,2,3,12 / 1,3 / 5,8 / 4,5,6 / 5,7,11 $86.40

$0.20 PICK 6 6 of 6 10/1/3/5/4/11 $67092.40

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I guess I have to admit that I loved this article.  NOT because I hit the pick-6, but because these are true professionals whose own mentality was such that they justified how much I looked forward to this day, and how much I spent both in time and money pursuing the big prize.

I myself loved the #11 in the final race, and was especially content to have a seeming 'single' in the last leg, making a "Christmas Tree-like" ticket suitable.

In one early leg, 3 of my top 4 selections ALL had a poor start  ("start good for all but 1,2, 6") with one of them ending up 2nd minus 1 1/2 lengths.

The other leg I missed, found me with a 27-1 shot who lost by a length.

I had another ticket which also got 4 of 6, that used "all" in the confusing 10th race, won by Bibbo.

Indeed I spent more than most people would have, but nowhere near what some of these guys spent.  I do not "know" whether I would have connected all of the dots if I had $4500 to put into the pool, but I know that I loved the opportunity.

So thanks to the three mentioned people who shared their story for this article.

Even though I lost...
Hector McGee More than 1 year ago
It takes money to make money when gambling. Matties should be glad he hit the thing let alone asking to hit it for "25 times"
Alan Denkenson More than 1 year ago
pretty good handicappers and sharp as a tack gamblers [ two very different things ] Not like Duke to complain about things :]
Helaine Barash More than 1 year ago
Pete. Hope you are well.I know you know that every horse player never has a bad day.When they get killed they say i lost a few bucks oe broke even.When they win they chirp like a baby bird.Keep up the grest work and keep the news coming Mikey.
robfla714 More than 1 year ago
my ticket: 4,8,10/1,2,3,6,7/1,2,3,6,11/1,2,3,5,11/4,6/3,11 = $300
Erik Marghella More than 1 year ago

that's a nice ticket   Bibo???