02/28/2005 1:00AM

Dave Feldman Stakes decides Turf-Vivor

Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO
Frank Evans of Lake Hiawatha, N.J. displays the Turfvivor IV trophy after winning the $100,000 first place prize in the Gulfstream Park handicapping contest on Sunday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Frank Evans, a professional handicapper and card player from Lake Hiawatha, N. J., outplayed, outsmarted, and outlasted a field of 125 players to take home first prize of $100,000 at the conclusion of the three-day Turf-Vivor handicapping contest at Gulfstream Park on Sunday. Evans's win qualified him for the seventh Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship next January in Las Vegas.

Turf-Vivor, now in its fourth year, is one of the most prestigious, high profile handicapping contests on the annual tournament schedule. The event cost $1,000 to enter and offered a total purse of $132,000. The field hailed from all over the country, as evidenced by its top three finishers, which included Evans, from New Jersey, and second and third-place finishers Lisa Kaufman from Hacienda Heights, Calif., and Pat Heneghan from Chicago. Like Evans, Kaufman and Heneghan both qualified for the National Handicapping Championship based on their finishes. They, however, had to settle for relatively small $10,000 and $5,000 prizes compared to the winner's six-figure payday.

Players began the three-day contest attempting to build the highest bankroll by betting on a total of 10 pre-selected Gulfstream races on Friday and Saturday Gulfstream (five per day). The top 16 players bankrolls based on the 10 mythical $2 across the board wagers advanced to Sunday's final round where they faced-off head-to-head in tournament-bracket-style competition until the field was paired down to the elite eight, the final four, the top two, and then to the one ultimate "Turf-Vivor."

Evans was the third-seeded player at the start of the final round with a bankroll of $109.10 on Friday and Saturday. He then retained the hot hand on Sunday while advancing through the brackets with victories over the 14th seed, former DRF/NTRA Handicapper of the Year Steve Wolfson Jr., the sixth seed Allan Dobrowski, and the 10th seed Mayer Kanter of Sioux City, Iowa, in order to advance into the two-race championship match-up against the fifth seeded Kaufman.

The title came down to Sunday's featured after both Evans' and Kaufman's selections finished off the board in race nine. Evans, the higher seeded player of the two finalists, essentially got his first pick of horses in the deciding race and selected 8-5 favorite Dubleo. Kaufman, took the fourth favorite in the race, Crown Point at 5-1.

With a difference in prize money of $90,000 separating first and second place in Turf-Vivor, there was actually more money on the line in the contest than there was on the track in the $60,000 stakes race as Dubleo took charge in the stretch and held on for a half-length victory to win the race and at the same time win the contest for Evans.

Evans, Kaufman, and the remainder of the top 16 all pocketed $500 in prize money and Caribbean cruises for two aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line thanks to tournament sponsor Casinos at Sea. The top 16 players also included Arthur Lindower, Myles Richards,, Jerry Barash, Edward De'Ath, Sam Schlessinger, Peter Wankmiller, James Nace, Ross Gallo, former national Handicapper of the Year Kent Meyer, and Mark Richards.