08/10/2017 12:26PM

Fazzolari's window of opportunity in contests

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Nick Fazzolari is a lifelong racing fan. Then again, he didn’t really have a choice.

“My father’s idea of a vacation has always been to take the family to Lake George and drag me to the races every day,” said the 56-year-old financial adviser from Colts Neck, N.J. “When you start doing that at the age of 5, you get hooked.”

Last weekend at the Wynn Handicapping Challenge, he put his lifetime of knowledge to good use, netting $154,000 in the two-day, mythical-money event that used only races from Saratoga and Del Mar. He had a solid Day 1 but really moved up on Day 2, catching big place points on With Exultation ($17.80) in Saratoga’s opener. Then he connected with Trumpi, who paid $47.40 and $20.20 when just hanging on in the fourth race.

At that point, Fazzolari knew he was in a great spot, especially given the unique rule at the Wynn contest: There is no continuously updated leaderboard.

“Around a year ago, I heard [contest director] John Avello interviewed on TVG, and Matt Carothers asked him about strategy in this tournament,” Fazzolari said. “He said that it wasn’t all about hitting longshots, and that if you were able to string together winners, you could open up a lead and be safer than in a contest with a leaderboard because no one else knows what score you have.”

:: Just reduced! Save on Clocker Reports for Del Mar and Saratoga

With that in mind, Fazzolari switched his focus to picking winners regardless of price. “I was still looking for prices if they were there, but with the Del Mar card looking a little spotty, I figured my main focus should be on winners,” he said. “I ended up picking up four or five winners at Del Mar.”

Fazzolari never had a lot of success through parimutuel wagering, but several years back he discovered contests, and they’ve kept him involved in the game. “I’ve gotten better and better at them as time has gone on, and it’s evolved to the point where I only play in contests,” he said.

This contrasts with most contest players, for whom tournament play complements their cash play, but it has clearly worked well for Fazzolari. “This is by far my biggest win playing the horses,” he said, “and I didn’t make a bet at the windows all weekend.”

He insists that as great as the competition and money are in contests, there is nothing better than the social aspect. “The best part of tournament play is all the great friends you meet along the way,” he said.

Fazzolari is a devoted family man who promised $24,000 of his score to the college savings plan of his daughters and their cousins. Next week, he’ll be back up at Lake George with his father and the rest of his family. This time around, he may or may not be seen at the Spa.

“It’s still my dad’s idea of a family vacation to drag me to the races every day,” he said, “but now that I have kids of my own, I occasionally have to turn him down.”

Santa Anita qualifiers on DRFT

DRF Tournaments will be running qualifiers for Santa Anita’s Autumn Championship, to be held Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 7-8, at the Great Race Place. The Autumn Championship will consist of two back-to-back live-bankroll contests. The Oct. 7 event has a buy-in of $3,000, and the Oct. 8 contest will cost $2,000 to play. As part of the prize packages on DRFT, qualifiers will win an entry for each day plus two nights in a local hotel.

The first qualifier is slated for Sunday, Aug. 27. That contest costs $230, and one in 26 entries will win prize packages. Feeders for the Aug. 27 qualifier start immediately. There are three levels of feeders. The cheapest is a $10 feeder that sends one in 27 entries forward. There’s also a $27 feeder where the standard one in 10 advance, as well as a $54 feeder that rewards one in five entries with a qualifier berth.

Players can also start their journey to the $1 million, no-takeout World Championship of Handicapping this weekend. There will be first-round events for the WCH every operating day on DRFT. Players put up $95, and one in seven entries will win into the next Grade 1 qualifier on Alabama Stakes Day, Aug. 19. From there, one in 10 will win their full $5,000 entries to the WCH.

For a list of all the action on DRFT, go to tournaments.drf.com.