11/16/2014 8:16PM

DRF's Bernier wins Aqueduct Betting Challenge

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Daily Racing Form’s own Matt Bernier won the Aqueduct Betting Challenge, a two-day handicapping contest with a  first prize worth $40,000. Because he is a DRF employee, Bernier is not eligible for any of the three seats to the National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas that were awarded out of the Aqueduct tournament. The next three finishers - Stephen Thompson, Joseph Muzio, and Joe Girardi – earned  NHC seats.

Bernier’s victory seems particularly deserved since just two weeks ago  he played in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge for a charity – the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Bernier finished sixth overall and made more than  $70,000 for the TAA at Santa Anita. He dismissed the idea that his win was a karmic reward for that performance.

“I don’t think there was necessarily a karma element.  I just got lucky this weekend and things worked out for me,” Bernier said.

Bernier had a rough Day 1 until Zee Bros got the job done for him in the De Francis Dash at 29-1.

“I feel like I was repaid for being loyal to Zee Bros,” he explained. “I’ve always thought the horse had talent and I wrote on DRF Live that I could excuse his last four losses. Six furlongs is his distance and I thought he’d get a good setup and put in a big run.”

Bernier’s  Sunday got off to a good start and he worked his way into the top 10. But then he made a major mistake.

“I’d initially liked a 27-1 shot,” Bernier said, “I had earmarked him as one to possibly to take a stab with if I was behind, but I was in contention so decided to let it go in favor of another, shorter-priced horse. It was a foolish play.”

Naturally, Chang’s Secret won and Bernier was frustrated.

“I was a mess,” he admitted. “But I sat back down with my friends Lee Davis and Anthony Acierno and they said, ‘Look, you’ve still got two bets left. All you’ve got to do is hit the double.’ ”

Bernier decompressed for a little bit and was able to turn the page. He came back out swinging. He had Save the Park ($32.60) in the 9th at Woodbine to get back in the top five. He still had his double bet left for the last race. He just needed to decide where to fire it.

“Coming into the finale I was $170 out of first,” Bernier said, “I sat with Lee, Anthony, and Kevin Cox and we figured out the lowest price I could take to get into first.”

It worked out great for Bernier as Colin’s Nightingale was his first choice in the race anyway.

 “I knew I had to play 9-2 or better,” Bernier explained, “Colin’s Nightingale was 6-1 and floated up from there.”

Bernier, familiar to many in the contest world from the Horseplayers TV show, was ecstatic about his first five-figure win, “This is my biggest win by far,” he said. “Tonight I’m going to kick back, watch the Patriots, and relax.”

He deserves it – and he has a couple of days to enjoy it. Bernier doesn’t have to be back to work at the DRF office until Wednesday.

Here’s a look at the final top 10:

Matt Bernier                      $1,586

Stephen Thompson        $1,419

Joseph Muzio                    $1,278

Joe Girardi                          $1,249

Scott Carson                       $1,206

George Bosch                    $1,150

Lynneth Harry                   $1,134

Joseph Esposito                $1,074

Kenneth King                    $1,030

Alan Bogatch                     $1,016