10/13/2016 12:06PM

Bair big presence at major tourneys

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Vaughn Bair has come a long way since he first started playing the horses at Les Bois Park in Boise, Idaho, more than two decades ago. He began small, splitting $24 trifecta wheels with friends. “I finally hit my own ticket on a simulcast race at Mountaineer for $680,” he said. “I thought I had it all figured out. Little did I know...”

Bair, a 44-year old co-founder of a real estate company who now lives in Gilbert, Az., has had a few big pick four and pick six scores over the years, playing in concert with friends and family, particularly his brother and best friend.

After qualifying for his $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seat last weekend on DRF Tournaments, Bair will be headed back to a track where he’s had a lot of success betting via simulcast over the years -- Santa Anita Park.

In 2014, on BC day, he played a memorable pick four. “I hit for $38,000 when Bobby’s Kitten went from last to first in the Turf Sprint,” he explained, “and we were right back at Les Bois Park, where it all began,” he said.

The victory was all the sweeter because of the circumstances. “Family and friends were everywhere,” he said, “and the drinks were flowing the rest of that day.”

Bair discovered contest play the previous year because he’d seen coverage of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, and he knew he wanted to get involved. He had played in the 2013 BCBC courtesy of BCQualify.com.

“I didn’t do very well once I got there,” he explained, “but hopefully that will be a good lesson for me this year.”

Bair won two entries into the 2016 National Handicapping Championship as well, one online and the other the day before at the Last Chance contest at Treasure Island. NHC rules allow only the top 10 percent of players to advance to the third day of competition. “I missed moving to day three by about $2.50,” he reported. “It was pretty heartbreaking.”

Last Saturday in the BCQ event Bair did something to alleviate that disappointment. He’s a speed handicapper, and was sharp enough to envision the scenario where Photo Call would be on the lead in the First Lady, alone and in the driver’s seat against heavily favored Tepin. “I was hoping for what happened: get out on the lead and see how long she would last,” he said. “Luckily for me, Kent [Desormeaux] rode her to perfection.”

Heading to the last race, he was in position to get a seat and needed only to stay there. “I was between two horses, the 4 and 11,” he said, “and luckily I picked the right one" -- Guest Suite -- "to finish off the contest.”

Like a lot of contest players, Bair feels like you have a little more control over the events in a tournament than you do at the windows. “You have no one to blame but yourself when you pick the wrong horse,” he said. “You have to play both favorites and longshots. Every single point matters.”

But the real thrill of contests is the way they make him feel. As Bair explained it, “The atmosphere of being alive to win or qualify in the last few races is a huge rush.”

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