07/09/2001 11:00PM

Contest vet Labriola wins Autotote tourney

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Past handicapping contest experience came in handy last weekend for Bradley Teletheater Handicapping Challenge winner Mike Labriola, who saved two wagers for the end of the contest - and then cashed both - to win first prize of $20,000 in the $68,000 Autotote-sponsored event in Windsor Locks, Conn.

In addition to prize money, Labriola also earned a second straight trip

to the Daily Racing Form / NTRA National Handicapping Championship, to be held in Jan. 2002 in Las Vegas. This is the fourth major handicapping contest win for Labriola, who works for the defense department and also is a contributor of handicapping articles for Horseplayer Magazine.

Labriola, 49, of Richmond, Calif., entered the final round of the two-day contest in 13th-place, $2,580 behind his brother, Richard Labriola of Flushing, N.Y., who led at the time with $7,140. The eventual winner then made a big move into contention by cashing $200 win bets on Thermopylae ($42-cap) in the fifth race at Churchill, and Fairway Foe ($12.40) in the fourth race at Hollywood.

Labriola's tournament savvy came into play late in the game when he saved two "bullets" for the final two races of the contest. Knowing how much money he needed to make up, Labriola nailed Sugar Free ($5.40) in the seventh race at Hollywood to move within $260 of tourney leader Peter Van Zandt of Binghamton, N.Y., and then won the contest with a winning $200 place wager on Red Eye ($4.80 to place) at Hollywood Park in the tournament's final race.

Labriola's final two-day contest-winning bankroll was $10,720 based on a total of 20 mythical $200 wagers. Van Zandt finished second with $10,500 to earn $10,000 as well as a roster spot in the National Handicapping Championship.

Also qualifying for the DRF/NTRA national finals were third and fourth-place finishers Robert Schintzius of Williamsville, N.Y., who earned $6,500 with a bankroll of $9,230, and John Iannone, Jr. of Carteret, N.J., who won $4,500 for finishing with a total of $9,100.