08/25/2015 11:56AM

Fornatale: Pettit continues on a tear


Contest players have been known to go on runs -- hot streaks where they seemingly are drawing live in every tournament they play in.

Consider Joe Pettit of Charleston, S.C. In just the last two weeks, Pettit, a 48-year old businessman who owns the Key West Hat Company and Almost There fishing charters, has run second at the Saratoga tournament, won last Saturday's NHCQualify.com contest, and won not one but three contests on DRFQualify.com. In the process he has earned two spots to the National Handicapping Championship, one $10,000 Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge spot, two $3,000 seats to the Sept. 19 Gulfstream, one seat to the $4,000 Santa Anita Autumn Championship, plus over $35,000 in cash.

Pettit, now a three-time NHC qualifier, credits his experience on the owner and breeder side of the business with helping him as a handicapper. "A lot of guys use advanced software to help them handicap but if you've bought horses at sales, claimed horses, raced horses, bred horses, then when you look at a race you can get a different perspective," he explained.

For example, in claiming races, maybe a drop in class is logical or maybe it's just a give-up. "Some of the stables out there racing are breeders," he said, "and they have different goals with fillies and mares who are destined for the breeding shed as opposed to somebody buying a horse and trying to make some money. Every race is unique, and if you look at racing as a breeder, and an owner, and a buyer, and a horseplayer, you can look at every race from four different sides."

For Pettit, this shift in perspective helps on the other side of the equation as well. "Playing in tournaments, you follow a lot of the circuits full time and you'll gain familiarity with all the trainers and their moves," he said. "You'll learn more about how they train their animals than somebody who is just purchasing."

His handicapping methology is value-oriented. "I look at a race and I try to set the imaginary line on what a horse should be," he said, "and my play is usually a horse I feel should be a 6-1 shot going off at 20-1."

He has evolved over the years, and doesn't hesitate to play shorter as long as he believes the value is still there. "In years past I was strictly a bombs-away player," he said, "but I've learned recently, especially in events where you can't change your picks as you go, that there's nothing wrong with an $8.20 horse that's a winner as opposed to a longer-priced horse that's a loser."

In other words, better a short price than a long face.

Not surprisingly, Pettit is a big fan of DRFQualify.com. "They host some of the most economical touraments you can play," he said. "The prize structure is significant -- you're going to get a live-money bankroll to bet at a great destination. Who doesn't want an excuse to go to South Florida or California? The format is great and you can end up with both an NHC entry and a BCBC entry."

Pettit is looking forward to his fall contest schedule, "I really enjoy live-bankroll tournaments," he said, "There is even more to them because it's not just picking horses, it's also managing your money."

In mythical tournaments, Pettit tries to make his selections in the morning and stick with them throughout the day. "A lot of times I'm busy in the afternoon with my son and my wife and I couldn't make changes if I wanted to," he explained, "and sometimes if you start changing your play you can cost yourself or you lose anyway. If you're far back late in the day you have to adjust, of course."

Back in 1990, Pettit worked in Atlantic City as a dealer and got involved at a low level in the harness business. "I'd deal blackjack all night, drive up to Freehold and muck stalls all morning and make it over to the track to watch the  horses," he said, "It was a lot of fun but I always preferred Thoroughbreds."

He segued over to the flats and bought a few horses with his buddies, racing under the names Loose Cannon Stables and he his current nom de course, Kentucky Stud. In 2011, he got involved on the breeding side. "I claimed a horse named Rinella Storm years ago," he said, "and I followed her throughout her career after we lost her at Belmont. I bought her back in West Virginia. That mare started it all. She took us on a great run."

He's still involved on the breeding side but humble about his role in the industry. "I breed gorgeous-looking racehorses that are very slow," he joked.

Saturday NHCQualify.com

Rank Name Score
1 Joe Pettit $136.20
2 Stephen Thompson $107.30

Both win NHC seats plus four-night stay at Treasure Island and $500 in travel.

Saturday DRFQualify.com

Rank Name Score
1 Joe Pettit $133.30

Wins $3,000 Gulfstream seat.

Sunday NHCQualify.com

Rank Name Score
1 John Farrar $115.60
2 Anthony Acierno $111.60

Both win NHC seats plus four-night stay and Treasure Island and $500 in travel.

Sunday DRFQualify.com

Rank Name Score
1 Joe Pettit $111

Wins $4,000 Santa Anita seat

For BCQualify.com standings, check out http://www.bcqualify.com/leaderboard.aspx?cid=150. I'll be previewing Saturday's Round Two event later in the week.