08/24/2005 12:00AM

DQ keys victory in Monmouth contest


NEW YORK - Michael Levine, a retired postal worker from Ocean Township, N.J., parlayed a win via disqualification in Monmouth's sixth race into a victory over 272 players in the Monmouth Park Handicap-ping Challenge last Sunday.

Levine, 58, earned the $13,650 grand prize, plus he got to keep his $1,540.50 real-money bankroll and qualified for the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association Handicapping Challenge on Jan. 27-28, 2006, at Bally's Las Vegas. Jim Degnan, from Old Bridge, N.J., finished second, earning $5,460, plus his $1,287.90 bankroll, and also qualified for the NHC.

Players in the Monmouth Park Handicapping Challenge paid a $100 entry fee and started with a $200 live-money bankroll. They were required to bet at least $20 on 10 races from Monmouth and Saratoga. With his original bankroll depleted to $116.50, Levine wagered $36 to win on Victory Song ($21), whom the stewards placed first in the sixth race after he was repeatedly bumped in the stretch by Adjust, who finished first.

"If it wasn't for that DQ, I knew I would have been dead," Levine said. "I was wondering why my horse didn't go by the winner. When I saw the head on, I could see why, and I thought he would be coming down."

Levine took much of the proceeds from that win and fired $200 to win on A.P. Slew in the 10th at Monmouth. A.P. Slew's $15.40 win mutuel returned Levine $1,540 and vaulted him to the lead for good with $1,640.50. He made a losing $100 bet in the 10th at Saratoga, but still had enough to hold comfortably over Degnan. Degnan, 45, had gotten into contention with a $200 win bet on I'mtoogoodtobetrue ($13.40) in Monmouth's ninth, the Girl Powder Handicap, which returned him $1,340.

Levine says he has been going to Monmouth for at least 40 years and handicaps for class, which is how he came up with A.P. Slew.

"He was claimed from [D. Wayne] Lukas, he had a bullet workout at Penn National, and the new trainer brought him right back," Levine said.

Churchill winner returning to NHC

After finishing 21st in the NHC earlier this year and narrowly missing a prize check, Richard Grose of St. Charles, Mo., has earned a return trip to Bally's next year after winning the Trackside at Churchill Downs Handicapping Challenge last Saturday.

Next January, Grose will be playing for a $1.25 million payday because of the $1 million bonus offered by Churchill Downs to anyone who wins one of its qualifying events and goes on to win the NHC.

Grose topped 184 players last Saturday and earned the $10,000 first prize and lone NHC berth in the Churchill contest. He compiled a bankroll of $134.40 based on mythical $2 win-and-place wagers on 10 races from Arlington, Ellis Park, Monmouth, and Saratoga.

Grose, who uses a computer handicapping program that he wrote, was in second place with one bet remaining and shot to the lead when his pick, Miss Matched ($14.20, $7.80), won the Arlington Oaks.

Grose, 48, who is self-employed in the asphalt business, beat out four-time NHC qualifier Tony Taylor of Independence, Ky., who finished second with $124.70 and earned $5,000.

Playing as part of team Keeneland No. 1 in the NHC this past January, Grose says he sat next to eventual winner Jamie Michelson Jr. and missed 20th place and a $2,000 prize by just $2.60.