02/28/2015 4:45PM

Fornatale: Raise Your Game tournament declared no contest


With the cancellation of racing at Gulfstream Park after Saturday's fifth race, the Raise Your Game tournament was ruled a no-contest. Players get back any monies remaining of their live bankrolls, and their $1,000 entry fees will be returned. No prizes will be awarded.

"Unfortunately, we never even completed half the card, and there were eight minimum races," contest director Ken Kirchner said. "We feel this is the fairest way for us to approach this. We are extremely disappointed with what's happened here with the weather."

The decision was a popular one with the players, many of whom were struggling to adapt to the conditions and none of whom wanted to see racing continue under potentially dangerous conditions. Nick Tammaro, who flew in from Houston to play in the contest, summed up the sentiment in the room.

"It's unfortunate that other Mother Nature saw fit to interfere," he said. "But this was the only equitable arrangement for everyone involved."

Gulfstream and Daily Racing Form will attempt to find some way to reschedule the contest at a later date. The unprecedented situation revealed the perils of hosting any type of handicapping contest with only one track, even in Florida in February.

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At the time of the cancellation, Thomas “Oger” Owen, a 55-year-old professional gambler on horses from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was in first place with $6,450.50.

“I totally agree that they had to end the tournament, though I was hoping that maybe they could have found a way to get me a [National Handicapping Championship] seat somewhere,” Owen said.

Of course, that solution would have created more problems than it would have solved as five NHC and two Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seats would have been awarded had the contest been completed.

Owen is a Thoroughbred owner. He co-owns Ogermeister with trainer Wesley Ward. After an impressive maiden win back in 2013, Ogermeister went on to compete in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot. He finished 15th of 24 but was beaten less than five lengths. Owen also has qualified for the NHC approximately five times and has plenty of contest experience.

In the second race, he played Buff Bradley’s Rhythm Park, and in the fourth, he bet Ben Perkins’ Easy to Say to build a solid lead through exotics. But with so many races left to run, there was a lot more work to do before he could be declared a winner.

“When you’re involved in racing, there are a lot of bad beats,” he said. “This is just another story I’ll have to tell.”