04/01/2015 10:28AM

Fornatale: Longshot hit wasn't just luck


Critics of the mythical-money tournament format were out in droves Saturday night. Paul Shurman played a 60-1 shot to end up second for $100,000 in a tournament, and out came the complaints.

“These mythical-money tournaments are a joke.”

“It’s not fair. People just play longshots at the end.”

“To say that you liked that horse based on handicapping is an insult to handicappers.”

“He never would have played that horse had he already been in the top three.”

These reactions proved to be way off base. Shurman, in fact, really did like Trident Hero. He was kind enough to revisit his notes on the race in question, Race 14 at Fair Grounds on Saturday night. The race was a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint and an optional starter allowance. Those facts alone meant that chaos was a strong possibility. All the quotes below belong to Shurman.

#1 VOODOO SPELL: “This was the favorite, coming off a 10-week layoff with a vet scratch in the middle. He also had a two-month gap last October and November. Many of his races were fast enough to win, but he was not a horse to be trusted.”

#2 TRIDENT HERO: “On the Thorograph figures, he matched his top in his last race in his first time on turf – that suggests a forward move off that race. That would put him ahead of every horse in the field other than the favorites, both of whom had question marks. He’d also been racing much better after going back to original trainer. This is a play any day of the week, tournament or not.”

#3 SLIP KID: “Nothing for me to like about it. My brother Bill played this one, expecting improvement from age 3 to 4 and because he showed the best closing fraction rating on HTR, a software program we use.”

#4 SOUTH FLOYD: scratched

#5 MEAN MARINE: “Unplayable off the two straight vet scratches, although he ran some intermittent good numbers last year. Turf numbers dreadful. Still lower odds than my 60-1.”

#6 WOLF PACK JACK: “Too slow and trying turf for first time as 5-year-old after 16 tries on dirt. Lower odds than my horse.”

#7 EXPECTING CASH: “This was the second favorite who threw a hideous race last out, the worst of his career. Granted, he was stretching out then and now back to best distance, but not an exciting betting prospect at 3-1.”

#8 BILLY TWO HATS: “Competitive numbers. Consistently a tick faster than Trident Hero’s last race, but again, I was expecting Trident Hero to move forward. I wasn’t expecting any improvement from this one – he is a 7-year-old and will not get any faster.  This one was 4-1. Trident Hero was just as good, with more potential.”

#9 FOREST ELF: “He also looked decent, but the new trainer hadn’t moved him up.  Wouldn't expect anything more than a small move forward off that last race. At 8-1, he seemed an underlay compared to Trident Hero.”

#10 OUIMET: scratched

#11: RUN RIGHT AT IT: “Not the healthiest of horses. His recent sporadic dirt numbers were decent, but his couple of turf races were nothing special. No reason to consider this one, even at 16-1.”

:: Click here to purchase a copy of “The Winning Contest Player” by Peter Thomas Fornatale

Trident Hero made a little sense on old-school Daily Racing Form handicapping as well. He only lost to Billy Two Hats by three lengths last out, and he was moving inside now, and that rival was moving out. Three lengths in a chaotic race shouldn’t be the difference between 4-1 and 60-1.

Like almost all mythical-money contests, there was an odds cap. But this cap works a bit differently than most. Contestants are given full odds on the first $2 to win and place. The remaining $18 to win and place are capped at 19-1 to win and 9-1 to place. Still, a 60-1 shot is worth a significant amount more proportionately than your average capper.

Shurman was in 25th place going into the last race and was genuinely surprised that no one ahead of him used Trident Hero. “I think the big price actually might have scared some people off,” he said. Of course, if you want to do well in contests, a big price should cause the opposite reaction.

It’s important to note that Shurman attached special importance to this race because of where it was in the sequence. “I always look at the last race of a tournament first,” he said. “That way, I know what my range of options is depending on what I need.”

Now that we’ve established that this wasn’t a stab, what about the next question: What would Paul have played had he been in the top three going into that race?

“I would still have played Trident Hero,” he said. “I liked the horse, and even a place price at those odds would have moved me up.”

jonathan jobe More than 1 year ago
Peter can you mention what contest this was in?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Patrick J. Gianforte More than 1 year ago
A 60-1 shot in the last race of any contest is very very lucky!! They say timing is everything! That's true too but when a guy like Paul Shurman does it over and over again, year after year, tourney after tourney, it's NOT just Dumb luck! I have watched this guy do it for so long, so many times, it is NOT luck. When you see the same names at the top of the Leaderboards so often, it can't be luck. Some guys play in so many tournaments that it is bound to happen(hasn't for me yet, waiting my turn..LOL) but Paul ISN'T one of those guys that plays 20-30 every week. He is a Successful Lawyer that spends most of his time in Court! Eric Moomey, Brett Weiner, Seaman, Paul's brother Bill, they all win way more "than their share" It is not luck that they are on top of the Tour and many weekly Leaderboards, but not Paul, he plays a select few. I know Paul, I sat with him at the NHC a few years ago when he won the Tour and had a shot at the $2M Bonus. Paul finished about 15th but I watched his selections and they all ran huge, even the losers ran well at prices. He had an 18-1 that ran 2nd at Tampa bay, there was a long Inquiry and in my mind was a no brainer to take down the winner. That would have moved Paul into the top 3 and as we all know Paul always has plenty of Bullets left for his stretch run! had they taken that horse down, I'm pretty confident Paul would have been 1st or 2nd. Impressive to say the least. The point is STRATEGY, not luck is the common denominator that makes these guys successful! Organized game plan to know what types of races are left, when to use or not use your Bullets! My hat is off to Paul, job well done. Payday earned and deserved!
SteveMcNatton More than 1 year ago
I was sitting in 3rd going into that last race so this one still stings. That's being said, I tip my hat to a hell of a pick at a huge moment. It's a three day tournament folks! 45 picks per entry over 200 races. The rules of the tournament allow for the leaders to block multiple horses in that last race if they decide that's the place to make their stand and they have the remaining picks. For those he passed, it was on us to stop him. I wasn't able to... in short, I trusted Voodoo Spell!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
FG horses go in and out of form so quickly. Many turf horses will be dotted with the Circle X in it's races. Meaning they tried to get the horse on turf and in many cases they have tried many times. Example was a race previous on the card. The 9 was the odds on fave in a 5.5 fur turf event. I boxed the 5 who was 48 to1 with him for that very reason. the 5 did get up barely for second but did pay handsomely with an ex that paid $77 A wise man once said take a leap of faith ad a net will appear.
CarsoniPH More than 1 year ago
Anyone complaining that the 60-1 wasn't a legit play needs to reevaluate their handicapping method. The play was legit... the only surprise is the horse was 60-1. Paul Shurman is one of the best. I play side by side with him often and he's a master.
Michael Foster More than 1 year ago
Nobody should forget that it was the last race of a 3 day/45 play contest, Mr. Shurman got himself into a position where this horse could actually move him up like that. I also had it on an entry but was too far back at that point for it to matter. Great job with the other 44 plays so the last one got him into 2nd.
Philip Conforti More than 1 year ago
Sounds like a very good handicapper to me . Nice job
Utbighair More than 1 year ago
I was fortunate enough to watch all of this unfold....and this is 100% accurate. One of his two plays before involved a horse that was sooooo short in price it might make some tournament players sick to their stomach. He did an amazing job and deserves everything he got. It's funny that all the complainers weren't in the contest. I spoke to the guy that Paul caught and cost over $50k and he was gracious. Congrats to a legend...I was lucky to be able to watch him work.
Shapperdacapper More than 1 year ago
glad to hear you say this Kinchen. I come up w long shots too sometimes. Just bc they dont fit w speed figs does not make them horses one would not bet. I hate hearing this crap, especially the more I get into tourney play
foote_mitchell More than 1 year ago
Kudos to Paul!! He had an opinion he believed in and played it at great odds. Isn't that the basis of this game? $$$ It takes belief in yourself to be able to make that bet to begin with, like he says - in a tourny or not he would have played it. Well Done
HatzOffToNixon More than 1 year ago
There are tons of plays like these every single day. most lose. just so ya know. if you're really good, you can turn a profit on these kind, if you can stomach long losing streaks. Always a bit unfair to cherry pick a winner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not cherry picking at all, This is the exact horse that won him 100k.
Greg Scherr More than 1 year ago
Jealousy is an ugly emotion
Ron Solberg More than 1 year ago
I think the guy played very smart.that last race is the mighty one.good luck to him in any more contest coming up.
richard barton More than 1 year ago
Comments after the race don't equal good handicapping!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Part of what I'm trying to do here is help players win. That will mean some after the fact dissection sometimes. And since Paul was accused of not handicapping this winner, but solely playing the odds, I thought it was an appropriate time to dive in. What does everyone else think? Do you like this kind of content?
Stewart Winograd More than 1 year ago
Yes, I like it very much.
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
Sounds like some sour grapes from the tournament players to me. I really don't know why they have tournaments, other than to help the IRS identify who the top player are. Some say it is for the prize money...in my opinion, if you were a good handicapper you would be making this prize money already...from the track.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You're certainly entitled to your opinion, negative as it is and as much as I -- and probably everyone else reading -- disagree. Reasons to play tourneys include: fun, action camaraderie, a way around the takeout, clear risks and rewards.
Kenny More than 1 year ago
The only incredible thing is that not one or 5! between the leader and Shurman used the horse also......that's the miracle........not that this 60-1 overlay came in
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That is a fair point and speaks to the skill involved. If it were truly just an odds based stab, a bunch of others would have it as well.
Michael Bench More than 1 year ago
That was The last race of the big day on closing weekend, the horsemen need traveling money to their next destination. I don't blame Shurman one bit for stabbing at a 60/1 that didn't look horrible on form. And of course he goes wire to wire in a race where 7 of the 9 horses were bumped at the start lol. Congrats to Shurman for capitalizing.
Michael Bench More than 1 year ago
Last race of the big day on closing weekend where the horsemen need traveling money to the next destination. Perfectly logical spot to stab at a 60/1.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everybody is a conspiracy theorist!