08/24/2016 8:23AM

Abelman uses cash wits to earn BCBC berth


Steve Abelman is the latest longtime cash player to find success in the contest world. Abelman, 60, finished first overall in a BCQualify event on Sunday to win his $10,000 entry to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge on the DRF Tournaments site.

“I've been a racing fan since I was a teenager,” said Abelman, who works as a mortgage broker for Capital One. “I was introduced to racing by a friend and a group of us at that time would go to Laurel, Pimlico, Bowie and/or harness tracks once a week.”

These days, he continues to follow the game closely. “I've continued to be a fan although I rarely go in person anymore with the advent of online play and TVG,” he said.

He credits another friend with introducing him to contests. “The self-proclaimed handicapping genius, Bob Brendler introduced me to online contests a few years ago.”

Abelman enjoys the challenge and strategy of live contests as opposed to the pure picking associated with the all-in format. He qualified for the National Handicapping Championship once, out of a Laurel contest, but he couldn’t attend. Since NHC seats can’t be transferred, it went unused.

This will be his first BCBC. “Hopefully this will be the start of something good,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the competition and strategy and being there live at the Breeders’ Cup in person.”

Unlike his friend Brendler, a well-known Ragozin sheet player, Abelman remains a traditionalist when it comes to handicapping. “I handicap strictly from the Racing Form, not the sheets,” he said. “I'm a strong believer in the Beyer figures plus trip handicapping.”

The key horse for Abelman last weekend was Souper Knight in Del Mar’s fourth race. “That horse propelled me to win,” he said. “I liked that he had an apprentice and was getting a seven-pound advantage. His numbers were as good as the other horses. Plus, to me, there was a bias favoring closers that day. The $57.40 addition to my bankroll was the catalyst.”

He was multi-tabling on Sunday, simultaneously playing the BCBC contest and in a cash event. “The other contest I was leading until a huge longshot won at Laurel and I couldn't catch up,” he said. “After the longshot won I checked the standings for the BCBC and was shocked to see I had a huge lead with four races left.”

He’d been making the same picks in both contests but hadn't checked the BCBC standings. Then Abelman went cold. He hit nothing in the last four races and Chris Podratz was $9.40 behind him with one race to go.

“His pick rallied from last to finish second by a nose over the third place horse at 9-1,” Abelman explained. “Now I'm thinking I could lose.”

The horse paid $8.90 to place, meaning Abelman narrowly held on to first by 90 cents. “I was so relieved,” he said, “but then I realized that there were two spots up for grabs so I was safe regardless and had sweated for nothing.”