Updated on 09/15/2011 1:36PM

Bronx handicapper wins Belmont tourney


Frank D'Ambra, a 47-year-old salesman and aspiring writer/filmmaker from Bronx, N.Y., won first prize of $25,300 for his victory in the to be held in January 2002 in Las Vegas.

D'Ambra leaped to the lead at the end of the first day of the two-day tournament when he hit Little E ($39.40) with his double-points best bet in the 11th race at Monmouth Park on Saturday. The win, which was capped at 15-1 odds ($32), gave D'Ambra a day-one total of $875 based on nine mythical $20 bets and one $40 best bet on the races from Belmont and Monmouth. With a commanding lead of over $200 going into Sunday's final round action, D'Ambra bet conservatively throughout the day while building a total bankroll of $1,079. With a steady stream of favorites winning throughout the Sunday card, D'Ambra was never seriously threatened.

"When I was handicapping [Saturday] night it looked like a lot of favorites today," said D'Ambra. "I knew I was just going to have to grind it out and my strategy was to build up my total with a lot of place bets and watch the leaderboard."

The conservative approach paid off for the winner, who had no anxious moments until the final contest race when Climbeverymountain won Belmont's ninth race and paid a near-cap $31.40 to win.

"I thought someone was going to catch me, but I held on by my fingernails," D'Ambra said.

The late upset ended up having no effect on the winner, but did make a world of difference for the second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers, who all climbed to the top of the standings, thanks to $40 best bets on Climbeverymountain.

Runner-up Sydney Cohn of Roslyn, N.Y., went from $314 to $942, tripling his total with Climbeverymountain's win. Cohn won $8,000 and also qualified for the National Handicapping Championship.

Rounding out the four-person Belmont team heading to Las Vegas are Joe Girardi of Franklin Square, N.Y. ($865), and John Macklin from Brooklyn, N.Y. ($764), who earned $5,000 and $4,000, respectively, for third and fourth.

Girardi is the associate editor of American Turf Monthly Magazine and is a past winner of the Suffolk County (N.Y.) OTB Handicapping Challenge.

Macklin had $0 with just two contest plays remaining but then hit back-to-back double-digit-odds winners to climb into fourth. He will be making his second trip to the national finals after he qualified last year in a tournament at Aqueduct before going on to finish 32nd in the National Championship.

The was the sixth such contest held by the New York Racing Association at Belmont and Aqueduct over the past four years. The contest attracted a capacity field of 201 horseplayers representing 13 states.

Among those in attendance were past NYRA handicapping champions Steve Terelak, Gary Zweifach, and Thomas Lanzaro.