12/20/2013 10:08AM

'Old school' player looks for horses offering value

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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.