08/05/2016 11:54AM

Engelhard, meticulous, conservative in approach


Kevin Engelhard accomplished a lot in the First Half of the National Handicapping Championship Tour. For the first several months, he was leading the Tour overall despite not yet having qualified for the National Handicapping Championship. That changed last month at Monmouth, when he finally got his seat.

This past weekend, in the free NTRA/NHCQualify contest on DRF Tournaments he got enough points to narrowly reclaim the overall Tour points lead and to finish in the top five of the First Half, winning a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seat in the process.

Engelhard, a 63-year old resident of Franklin Park, N.J., works as a workers’ compensation manager for a law firm. He’s been a racing fan since his parents took him to Monmouth in the mid-1970s. Affirmed was the horse who really stuck a hook in him, and he honors the great champion to this day with his current email address, which begins affirmed13.

He’s played in contests since the early aughts, going all the way back to the last of the old Penn National “World Series” event. “I love contests because of the competition and the chance to make a bigger score,” he said.

His first NHC qualification came in 2005, and he’s now qualified the last eight years as well. For the past five years he has sat with a group of friends including Pete Manzo, John Strichek, and Kevin’s brother Bob (who moneyed at last year’s NHC and currently sits in 38th on the Tour).

Despite their shared genetic material, the two brothers couldn’t approach contests more differently. “I’ll spend four hours studying before tomorrow’s contest and he’ll spend four minutes before and than do it race by race,” he said. “I don’t understand that and I guess he doesn’t understand my approach.”

Engelhard is an interesting case when it comes to his preferred contest format. “I like the live-bankroll best but I do better in the mythical tournaments,” he said, adding that he likes live-bank events for the chance to go to the track and the chance to bet real money.

So why the relative lack of success? “My brother says I’m too conservative,” he continued, “and being conservative doesn’t help you in live-bankroll tournaments, but in online tournaments it’s better.”

By conservative, he does not mean price-averse. “I’m not afraid to go for a longshot in the right spot but I’m also focused on being consistent and picking winners,” he said. “You can talk about math or game theory, but in the end you have to pick winners.”

It was indeed a longshot winner, Laoban, who put him over the top last weekend. Laoban was a great example of how Engelhard, a Ragozin sheets customer, uses a blended approach to his handicapping. “A lot of sheet players don’t think pace is important, but I think pace is very important,” he explained. “I use Formulator and the Moss Pace Figures also and a horse like Laoban, who didn’t look good at all on sheets, had such a pace edge to me that I had to use him at that price.”

Engelhard is at a bit of a disadvantage in chasing the Tour because he can’t even classify as a Weekend Warrior. He is a Saturday Warrior. “I mostly play on Saturdays because every Sunday I go to visit my in-laws and see my beautiful 7-year-old niece Lena,” he said.

So Engelhard will play every Saturday and at Monmouth live event, plus make his appearance at the BCBC via Belmont’s simulcast location. Engelhard has an interesting idea for the latter. His conservative nature makes winning it outright unrealistic, and he already has two NHC seats. He might just look to run in the top 15 or so and grab the abundant Tour points that would come would come with a high finish against a huge field. The BCBC prize pool might not pay down to 15th, but a 15th could still win Engelhard $75,000 for the Tour and a shot at a $2 million bonus at the NHC.