04/21/2014 11:27AM

Fornatale: Public Handicapper is a unique and fun way to play the races

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The 2014 Public Handicapper Challenge begins in just two weeks and will last through the Breeders’ Cup. It’s as unique a handicapping contest as there is. It’s free to play, and the two finishers win a seat to the National Handicapping Championship next January in Las Vegas (as long as they have signed up for a $50 NHC Tour membership in advance of the contest).

The Public Handicapper Challenge is a unique contest in other ways as well. It’s more than just a contest really; it also offers a chance to be part of a racing community where you can share your thoughts about the four races on offer each week, just as if you were a public handicapper yourself.

You don’t have to provide analysis – you can just make picks if you want – but the ability to offer an analysis is fun and will make you a better overall player as well. Writing race analysis is a great way to force oneself to do the work and be accountable, as well as objective. Reading others’ race analyses can be just as valuable. To quote the great pro player Mike Maloney, “You can get good information from almost anyone who has been around this game and survived enough to still be playing in a contest. Even if you don’t agree with what’s being told, it’s good to listen, because part of the money on the tote board is being represented by that line of thought. The more you can understand what makes those lights blink on the toteboard, the more you’ll know about all the different philosophies and what the game is all about.”

Maloney wasn’t talking specifically about Public Handicapper in that quote, but he might as well have been. Let’s take a look at four winning analyses from this past weekend’s Public Handicapper Prep contest (a much shorter version of the big contest that wraps up next week in advance of the big one).

Here’s what Mugateaman had to say about the Ageless in the Giant’s Causeway Stakes at Keeneland: “Love Leparoux taking this ride. She has great success running fresh. It's tough to predict the running style that some of these will choose so can't figure how this race is going to set up but we know that she can win off the pace or be on the lead.”

Ageless paid $18.40.The next race is the contest was the Ben Ali, also from Keeneland. Mugateaman capped his own rolling double ($1, Jason Blewitt) by selecting Frac Daddy: “Frac Daddy started his improvement 3-back at this very track. His next two were very respectable. He returns to this track today where he won impressively in his first and only synth try. Pretty small sample, 1 for 1, but I'm thinking he might just love this surface.”

Frac Daddy ran away and hid in the Ben Ali, getting $13.20 for his backers, looking like a 4/5 shot in the process.

The Sixty Sails at Hawthorne was next. RodrickD nailed this one: “At a mere 117 lb I would be most disappointed if this Flashy American did not turn this grade 3 contest into a romp. Happy to see one of my favorite distaffers return to the races instead of hitting the breeding shed. Veteran rider on board, trainer is as crafty as any and this distance hits her squarely between the eyes. Loves real dirt and if it rains in old Chi Town , it would not faze her one bit. I'm going in.”

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

She paid $7.80, and as we know, sometimes in contests, every bit helps. In many contest formats, you can play a 5/2 shot that you love.

The final contest race this past weekend was The Lexington Stakes from (where else?) Keeneland. Things went from chalky to chalkier as Mr. Speaker did the business at just over 2/1. Giants1 got the $19.80 exacta cold, “Mr. Speaker: Was much the best in the Palm Beach but encountered major traffic. Hopefully he gets a cleaner trip today from the rail. If he handles the Polytrack he should be very tough for Shug. Divine Oath: Not often you seen a horse win his first two starts going 7 and 1/2 on the Turf.”

For contest purposes, Giant1 only gets credit for the $2 win mutuel on Mr. Speaker but this still demonstrates how Public Handicapper is a great resource, especially for newer players. Go ahead and sign up today for the Public Handicapper Challenge. There is simply no easier, better way to sharpen your contest handicapping skills.