06/02/2016 4:58PM

BCQualify winners come in all stripes


The main event in the DRF contest universe Saturday is a one-day qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge. With that in mind, let's meet some of the players who qualified online last weekend for the BCBC via BCQ.

Overall winner Lawrence Kahlden, 55, recently retired as the CEO of a mid-sized pawn shop company that operated in central Florida, where he lives, and Puerto Rico.

He's been a racing fan as long as he can remember. "My father started racing Quarter Horses at some bush tracks in Louisiana," he said. "When Louisiana Downs opened my father started breeding and training Thorougbreds. He only ran his own. I kind of disappointed him by not getting in to that part of racing but I fell in love with handicapping and betting the horses. He passed away six years ago. I sure do miss him and he would love seeing me have some success in the tournament scene."

Kahlden is anxious to get back to the BCBC for the second straight year. "I love the trip and attending the Breeders' Cup as much as playing in the tournament. I love the perks -- last year [tournament director] Tim [Schram] was able to get us paddock passes for the Classic. That part of the trip gets my wife involved and she is thrilled to be able to attend again."

Larry A. David plays in contests on occasion, but has recently come up with a good plan for how to attack them that might increase the amount he chooses to participate. "Basically, I try to find races where I think a possible longshot might come in, and in the other races I will just try to pick the winner," he said.

"I categorize the races as low-priced, mid-priced, or longshot legs. Then, I will try to ferret out the juicy-priced horses in the longshot legs. Generally, a longshot will pop up in races where the Beyer figures of the horses involved are low or lower than average."

In last Saturday's contest, David was targeting the contest's first and last legs as fertile breeding ground for bombs. His hunch was correct, but no one -- including him -- hit the cap horse in the first, even though DRF's Kenny Peck pegged 75-1 winner Rokeby Baby on top in his selections. In the anchor leg, David did come up with the winner. "I picked Baronet because she possessed speed in a relatively paceless race," he said. "After all, any horse that can get the lead can win. In the end, I try to remember what Chris Skotz, a contest mentor, once told me: 'Either go for it or go home.' "

Shadron Walton, 44, resides in Austin, Tex., where he works in strategic sales operations at a semiconductor company. He attributes his love of racing to geography. "I grew up going to Del Mar each summer," he said. "How can you beat summers at Del Mar, the beach, fish tacos at the Brigantine?"

He got into contests kind of sideways -- he was in Vegas for the World Series of Poker seven or eight years ago and happened to notice there was a handicapping contest coming up at the Wynn. He learned about online qualifiers and has been playing in tournaments since. This is his second year in a row qualifying for the BCBC online. "The Breeders' Cup is the best two days of racing in the world," he said. "We went to Lexington for the whole week and there was great live music for everyone at night, horse farm tours, sales before and after BC, great food, and the track did a great job all around."

Steve Dittmann, 58, is in the automotive consulting field. He started playing horses in the early 80s, and got involved with contests around 18 months ago. Once before, Dittmann managed to get two entries in the BCQ finals but flamed out, so this win means a lot to him. As a fan of maiden turf routes in general, Baronet was a logical choice for him.

"Morning-line odds are a mere sticker price to me," he said. "I look for horses [whose] morning line seem out of whack. I watch replays on some horses that look like they had traffic trouble although it may not be in the comments. I also look for comeback winners from top three finishers from past races at that level."

Mike Ferrozzo, 58, started playing horses 30 years ago when Canterbury Park first opened in 1986. He's worked in software for 35 years, first as a programmer on IBM mainframes and gradually becoming a software project director.

As for contests, he earned his first NHC qualification 10 years ago via Canterbury and has remained very active on the scene, both online and at events around the country. He defines his play simply. "I'm a longshot player," he said. "That's the basic premise, but I will play short price horses if the situation calls for it. "

Baronet on Saturday was a good example of his longshot-picking prowess. "I use pace numbers to get a feel for the way the race sets up," he said, adding that he looks at the running styles in the field and surface changes to hunt for potential lone speeds. "[Baronet] was a sprinter trying a routes on turf for first time in a paceless race."

Contests appeal to him for many reasons. "I play contests because I'm competitive and I'm a game player that likes to work at cerebral type challenges," he said, "and I've got an ego like the rest of the tournament crowd, so it's fun to have bragging rights ... at least until the next contest starts up."