03/30/2016 10:00AM

Fornatale: Larmey's longshots aren't just stabs


Chris Larmey objects to the idea that contest players who take longshots are merely stabbing at prices. In fact, Larmey, a 55-year old engineer who lives in Kennewick, Wash., is living proof that many price horses are the result of careful handicapping. He is one of the editors of PublicHandicapper.com, where he posts picks weekly, often with his own analysis.

Two horses Larmey picked on PH helped him tremendously on Saturday, when he ran second on BCQualify.com, securing a $10,000 seat to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. The bigger price of the two was a limit horse, S’maverlous in the New Orleans Handicap at 20-1. “That put me near the top of the leaderboard, which allowed me to play solid, mid-priced value horses for the rest of the contest,” he said.

In the next race at Fair Grounds, Take The Stand won at 8-1 and Larmey's spot at the BCBC was looking secure, though he backed up that winner with Bippo (8-1) at Gulfstream and a couple of place horses. By the anchor leg, he was in the spot all contest players dream about. “I was well clear of the cut line for a BCBC spot and was basically assured of finishing in the top six, regardless of which horse won,” he said.

Larmey is one of the key players on the National Handicapping Championship scene in that he’s the head of the NTRA Players’ Committee, but he’s a huge fan of the Breeders’ Cup contest as well and sees the two events as complementary. “The BCBC is simply a great contest,” he said. “You get treated like royalty, you get to play the best horses in the world at some of the best venues, and have a chance to win big money. What more could you ask for as a horseplayer?”

One of the keys to Larmey’s success is that he understands that value in contests is not necessarily the same thing as value in a traditional horseplaying sense. “In betting a race, perceived ‘value’ is when you think the chances of a horse are higher than does the betting public as reflected in the odds,” he explained. “In a contest, ‘value” is linked much more closely to how much you think you will likely gain or lose against the rest of contest field if a given horse wins.”

In other words, the value play in a contest may not be the value play at the windows. “This does not make contests any better or worse than betting the races,” he continued. “It just means that contests are different; they add a new layer of strategy on top of your handicapping because after handicapping a set of races, you still have to craft your contest play based on where you stand in contest.”

In this regard, Larmey likens choosing a contest play to constructing a wager. “In both instances, handicapping is obviously critically important,” he said, “but how you play a race or sequence of races -- either in a contest or when betting -- is equally as important.”

These days, contests also provide Larmey a chance to spend time with his son, Alex, who qualified for the NHC and BCBC last year. “Even though neither of us had a great result, we both had a blast,” he said. “Sharing your passion with those you love makes it that much more special. There is also something to be said for passing the torch to the next generation to help keep the sport healthy and thriving. I hope we can continue to do it for years to come.”

Through the years, Chris has taught Alex a lot about racing, but the teacher has learned an important lesson from the student as well. “His passion, energy, eagerness to learn, and aggressive nature are refreshing and something I try to emulate,” the elder Larmey said. “You can get a bit jaded after a while in a tough game like racing and spending some time around Alex and some of the other young guns really helps me recharge my batteries and keeps it fun.”