12/20/2013 10:08AM

'Old school' player looks for horses offering value


Ken Seeman is one of the most consistent and respected men on the contest scene. I have been looking for an excuse to interview him for a while and I got one last weekend when he qualified for the next Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge on BCQualify.com.

Peter Fornatale: How did last weekend’s contest play out?

Ken Seeman: The first race of the 12-race contest, a 40-1 shot – a capper – came in and I didn’t have it. Ten people did. I went 0 for 6 in the first six races. And to make it worse, one of the races I didn’t make a pick because I was distracted with the Jets game. The leader had $95 plus. In the last six races, I hit a 23-1 winner, a 15-1 winner, a 7-1 second place, and a 50-1 in the last race.

Wow, what a run. What lesson do you take from that?

My main secret in contests is this: Never give up.

How did you get involved with racing to begin with?

The classic clichéd story: My dad took me to the track as a teenager and by then I was already reading the Racing Form and telling him what he needed to bet. Eventually I started working for SportsChannel and I was the third director on Harvey Pack’s show for many years. When Mitch Levites and Stan Epstein weren’t around, I would be the guy directing. I still work for MSG on the TV side. If you’re watching a Knicks, Rangers, Devils or Islanders game and you see a graphic on the screen that says, “Please stand by: We are experiencing technical difficulties,” that’s me.

Tell me about your general approach to contests.

I adapted to contests really well because I am a longshot player in my general play. As most horseplayers should, I am always looking for value, medium-priced or longer shots. And those usually make the best contest plays. And that’s what I play on a typical day anyway. My natural style fits in perfectly with what I think is the best approach to contests.

What is your handicapping methodology?

My main thing is that I’m still old school – I use Daily Racing Form and a pen. And I still use the Beyer Speed Figures. I try to use all my tools: the Racing Form, replays, and my knowledge of conditions books I got from being a small-time owner. I try to apply each and every facet of my knowledge of the game to the contests. And then I apply those to my general approach to handicapping, which is that I look for value.

How did you get involved doing trip work?

Going back to my days working with Harvey, I’ve watched a lot of replays and I do a lot of trip handicapping. I didn’t just work on the show, I watched the show.

What are you looking for specifically?

I’m looking for horses that may not have been able to give their best run. And, obviously, a troubled trip is particularly important if it’s not in the chart call. You’re looking for some bit of information out of a race that isn’t available to anyone just handicapping with the past performances. For example, horses that show speed off a layoff and then tire. Obviously you have to give them a pass and draw a line through those efforts and expect that they might be capable of doing much better the next time.

I’m interested in how you use the condition book. That sounds pretty creative.

I used to own some horses with my horse racing partner Al Bernstein. He’s a teacher at Suffolk Community College and he’s been around horse racing forever. He fills in for Mitch Levites now on the NYRA show. Owning horses I learned about condition books. I mostly only use this for a big contest like the NHC. I’ll try to go one step further than a lot of players and see what races are coming back over the days of the NHC to see what horses I’m already looking at from my trip work that might be entered those days. Once the condition book comes out for the contest days, I’ll make notes to see if certain horses have races available where they might run back in the same spot.

It seems to me that you’re a player who has likely been unlucky not to have won a really big contest by now. Is that how you see it?

That’s one way of looking at it. Or maybe I’m just super lucky in general. Consistency is really important to me. When the Giants beat the 18-0 Patriots in the Super Bowl, who was the better team overall and who was the better team on that day? I believe I’m the only person to be in the top 15 at the NHC three times. And I’ve only been playing contests for the past five years. I wouldn’t say I’m unlucky not to have won the big one, but I would say if you can be consistently competitive, with all the great contest players who are out there, that’s more telling to me than anything that can happen in one particular contest.

◗ Entries are open for the Sunday, Dec. 22, one-day qualifier over at www.NHCQualify.com. Entries are $165 each and up to six NHC seats will be awarded, with three seats guaranteed. Free DRF past performances are available for the contest races for contestants. Qualifiers will receive a $500 travel voucher and a four-night stay at Treasure Island.

Kenny King More than 1 year ago
I'm talking qualifiers here, the actual Big Show is part mandatory...... part choose races across menu so things even out, also 2 days across 6-8 tracks helps
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
There are plenty of qualifiers for the NHC with formats other than the all-mandatory one you don't like. The solution is simple: stick to those or learn to adjust.
Kenny King More than 1 year ago
the cap does zero, you still have to have THAT bomb or it needs to be a day full of bombs
Kenny King More than 1 year ago
there is a simple way to make these contests more interesting and actually have handicapping come into play ..........."NOMANDATORY RACES"....just make it AQU, GULF, SAnita, fairgrounds whatever and say 10 plays on across any of the 40 odd races.......simple as that stabcappers would be done. Look at the leaderboards of these contests 250 people sign up and a 50-1 shot comes in 1st mandatory and 15-25 of them have it its just stupid....most 30-1 n up horses are flukes
Carm More than 1 year ago
Glad to hear from an old fashioned handicapper who has logical reasons for picking longer priced horses in contests. It is frustrating playing in contests and seeing the "stabbercappers" hit one bomb and win NHC seats or prize money. When you click on their list of picks, it is obvious they are "stabbercappers." Remarkable to see that he finished in the top 15 three times. If you look back at past NHC winners, NONE of them have ever finished in the top 100 in any of the other NHC Championships!!!! Proves they were good handicappers and "lucky stiffs" one time.
BeychokRacing More than 1 year ago
Just to keep the record straight, I'm not sure of other NHC winners, but I did finish in the top 25 the year before I won the NHC. And, I certainly am a "lucky stiff" as Carm says but hey if the shoe fits... BTW, Ken is not only a very, very good contest player but a great guy. Met him at the Monmouth contest this summer that I believe he won.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Thanks for chiming in MB. . .you beat me to the punch. I was already composing a reply to Carm in my head where I was going to tell him to slow his roll. . .I interviewed six former NHC winners for the book and all had excellent insights to share. None could be described as a "lucky stiff". . .It's easy to sit back and throw stones, harder to objectively analyze what's really going on out in the world I guess.
Judy Wagner More than 1 year ago
As a past winner I plead guilty to being a "lucky stiff" also. I have finished in the money at NHC more than twice. I have finished in the top 10 twice in the year long NTRA/NHC Tour including a tie for second - only beaten by my husband. I have also tied for last with zero in contests over the years. Great article about Ken - an excellent handicapper, a friend, a true gentleman that I consider a potential winner of any contest he enters. BTW Kent Myers finished 10th the year following his Championship. There are other past champions that have been far from one hit wonders. If an 11 time qualifier to NHC is a "lucky stiff" I will accept the description.
Judy Wagner More than 1 year ago
You need to recheck your stats for past champs. Kent Meyer finished 10th the year after his victory. I personally have finished in the money over 2 times. I have also finished in the top 10 on the NTRA/ NHC Tour twice. Call me a " lucky stiff" or whatever you want but this "lucky stiff"/ stab capper will be playing for the 11th time in NHC. I think you will find other past champs have finished in the top 100. Great column on Ken, a friend, great handicapper and true gentleman - a potential winner of any contest he enters.
mb More than 1 year ago
congats ken...
Alan Bernstein More than 1 year ago
It's ironic that my name got changed from Bernstein to Goldstein, especially since the noted pornographer Al Goldstein died yesterday. Oh, well...these things happen.