08/30/2005 11:00PM

Contest winner hits on 12 of 22 picks

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Nailing 12 winners in 22 contest races, Rick Kojdecki of Omaha, Neb. qualified for his second trip to the national handicapping finals with a victory over about 475 other players on Saturday in the Horsemen's Park Handicapping Contest.

Horsemen's Park's free contest required players to pick one horse in each race from Saratoga and Del Mar. Players were awarded 5 points for each winner and 2 points for each second-place finisher. Players also selected a best bet at each contest track, worth 5 bonus points.

Kojdecki's 12 winners, including both of his best bets, and five seconds netted him 80 points. He finished 2 points ahead of Ken Kasparek, who came up just short as his pick, Del Mar Ticket, finished second in the 10th race at Del Mar.

Kojdecki will try to improve on his 110th-place finish in 2001, also as a member of Team Horsemen's Park, in the seventh Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association Handicapping Championship, which will be held Jan. 27-28, 2006 at Bally's Las Vegas.

Steven Walker, who qualified at Horseman's Park in 1999 en route to becoming first NHC champion, finished third with 73 points. At one point, Walker hit seven winners in a row.

Horsemen's Park, in Omaha, will fill the final spot on its three-person NHC team on Oct. 8, using Belmont and Santa Anita as the contest tracks.

Louisiana: Repeat qualifier

Frank Mauberret of Baton Rouge, La. earned the $15,076 first prize and qualified for his second trip to the national finals in the Harrah's Louisiana Downs NTRA Qualifying Handicapping Tournament on Aug. 20.

Mauberret, who will be making his first appearance in the NHC since 2001, topped 125 players by compiling a live-money bankroll of $140, based on $2 win-and-place wagers on 15 races.

Ten wagers had to be made on the races at Louisiana Downs, in Bossier City, La. The other five could be made on Arlington or Saratoga. Each player put up a $250 entry fee, of which $60 went toward betting money.

Mike Schalewski of Bossier City finished second with $119.40 and earned $10,076 in prize money. Charlie Cooper of Irving, Texas, finished third with $117.40 and earned $5,008. Since Schalewski already qualified for NHC VII with a runner-up finished at Pimlico in March, fourth-place finisher Jack Bailey was awarded the final qualifying berth at Louisiana Downs.

Sam Houston offers $1 million bonus

In hopes of luring the top horseplayers from around the country, Sam Houston Race Park is offering a $1 million bonus to anyone who wins its NHC qualifying tournament on Oct. 15 and goes on to win the national championship in January.

The bonus would be paid in installments of $40,000 a year for 25 years. Sam Houston follows the lead of Emerald Downs, which is offering a $500,000 bonus to any of the nine qualifiers from its Ultimate tournament, and Churchill Downs Inc., which is offering a $1 million bonus to the winners of the qualifying events at its tracks and OTB's this year.

The entry fee for the Sam Houston tournament is $200 with a maximum of two entries per person. First prize will be $6,000, with cash prizes paid down to 15th place. The top three finishers earn NHC berths, but only the winner is eligible for the bonus. As of Wednesday, about half the 200 contest spots were filled.

Contestants will be required to make mythical $2 win-and-pace wagers on 20 races throughout the day. Half will be mandatory races chosen by contest officials.

Register at shrp.com or call Troy Lawrence at (281) 807-8801.