09/28/2016 12:53PM

Chung doubles up once again


Move over Ernie Powers, there’s a new dentist in town.

Don Chung, 52, of Clifton Park, was one of seven U.S.-based players to travel north two weeks back for the inaugural Woodbine Mile live-bankroll handicapping contest. By doing so, he achieved one of the great feats a contest player can achieve. He won outright, thereby securing a National Handicapping Championship seat and a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seat on the same day – the second straight year he’s managed that accomplishment.

Chung has been a racing fan for three decades. “My father in-law is a horse-racing fan,” he said. “When I was in college in the mid-1980s he used to take us to Los Alamitos and Santa Anita in California to watch the horses, and that is how it got started.”

He’s known about contests for a while, but his busy family life kept him from participating until recently. “Since my children are all grown and out of college recently,  I just started playing in contesst since last year,” he said.

He hit the ground running. “My first live-bankroll contest was at Santa Anita, May 2015,” he said. “I finished third in that contest and got qualified for NHC and BCBC. Not bad for a first-timer.”

While he’s hoping to hit it big in the major contests this year, so far his biggest success has come on the cash side of things. In 2013, he decided to take his wife to Seattle for vacation because she’d never been before. Their hotel wasn’t ready for them to check in, so on a whim, they decided to stop off at Emerald Downs. “When I got in there, I saw Del Mar had over a million dollar pick-six carryover,” he said. “So I put in an hour handicapping the last six races of Del Mar and bought a pick- six ticket.” 

The Chungs watched their horse win the first leg of the pick six, then headed to their hotel to check in. “When we came back to Emerald Downs, there were two races left,” Chung explained. “Lo and behold, I hit the pick six that night [for] over $450,000. Then the supervisor told me that it was the biggest hit in the history of Emerald Downs.”

There was definitely a learning curve for Chung at the BCBC last year. He had a poor day one and fell to 310th place out of 330 entries. “The next day, I regrouped and made my bets patiently,” he said. “With two races to go, I was able to bring myself up from 310th place to eighth.”

In the Classic, he thought Tonalist was too good of a price and he played him hard, dropping out of contention. But a valuable lesson was learned about live-bank play: As long as you have money in your bankroll, you still have a chance to be drawing live for the top prize.

Chung handicaps straight out of Daily Racing Form, and credits an ad in the Form with letting him know about the Woodbine contest and encouraging him to make the trip. Once there, though, all the credit belonged to him. He bet his opinions well and perfectly negotiated a tricky endgame situation. Now he’s poised to make an improved run in a few weeks’ time when he heads back to the BCBC.