05/17/2016 10:50AM

Fornatale: Veteran of the sport, rookie on Tour

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Ed Osterhout is a racing lifer. But when it comes to the National Handicapping Tour, he’s a rookie.

The 64-year old pharmaceutical salesman from Waterford, N.Y., has been attending races for as long as he can recall, starting with visits to Saratoga with his father as a boy.

“I fell in love with Kelso and wanted to be Arcaro,” he said. “Fred Capposella calls still send shivers through me.”

His love of racing led him to the backside, where he worked in harness racing during his high school summers and eventually for trainer Angel Penna Jr. during his college summers. Handicapping was always a large part of the appeal for Osterhout, who created and published a selection sheet for New York tracks and off-track outlets in the early 90s called Moffett the Prophet. His cheeky tagline was “Remember, even a Wizard listens to a Prophet,” referencing famed tipster Michael Kipness.

He discovered contests in an appropriate city – Las Vegas – where will Osterhout will be returning for the NHC after his outright win on NHCQualify.com on Sunday.

“Several years ago I stumbled into the contest room at Treasure Island and was like a kid in a candy store,” he said. “I knew that I would enjoy the challenge of competing, and would eventually get involved in tournament play.”

Another impetus for him to get involved was a visit to Keeneland last fall where he saw the action and energy at the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. After that, he decided to make a sincere effort to qualify for the two best contests in the world, a mission that is now half complete.

Osterhout is a first-generation disciple of Andy Beyer and Steve Davidowitz and the landmark handicapping books they wrote in the 1970s, all of which are still relevant today.

“Back then I created my own par times and speed figures, kept chart books, etc.,” he said, “As that information became more readily available to the betting public I took on a more eclectic approach to staying ahead of the betting public.”

That approach concentrates on maiden races and races that offer chaos, where he’ll try to find an overlaid horse to use as a key for vertical exotics, especially the superfecta.

“I follow workouts closely, and oftentimes use only comparative works to either select or eliminate horses in maiden races,” he said.

That idea came in very handy in Sunday’s contest as it helped him land on $35.70 winner Mongolian Prince.

“He had a series of comparable works with top Pletcher colts, and Johnny V stuck after dismal dirt effort in Florida,” he said, noting that he wasn’t put off by the long odds because he felt the public was wrongly focused on the lone dirt out and he “felt his workmates indicated the quality of the horse and the confidence of the connections.”

Osterhout has even more motivation to play in NHC qualifiers on NHCQ now. In addition to the chance to win a second entry to the $2.5 million NHC, he is eligible for a $10,000 bonus for the rookie who accrues the most points on the qualifying site. That said, his strategy for future tournaments is still a work in progress.

“My limited tournament experience has me typically watching race-by-race, analyzing the leaderboard, and making selections slash changing selections based on my position,” he explained.

In Sunday’s contest, he felt confident enough in his selections to stick with his default picks.

“My strategy was basically to focus on my four main opinions and hope I was right,” he said, and when he connected with two winners right off the bat in La Jolla d’Oro and Brolic he was in great shape. After he had the confidence to stick with his later longshots, Mongolian Prince and The Crocheron Kid, he was home free.