07/12/2016 10:24AM

Fornatale: Maryland man overcomes technical problems


You would think than an IT specialist would have an extra mouse lying around, but in Shawn Turner’s case, he did not. Turner, a 51-year-old from Middletown, Md., was having problems with his computer mouse on Sunday, but eventually he got everything working properly and won his way back to the National Handicapping Championship via DRF Tournaments for the fifth time.

Turner got involved in contest play through the Public Handicapper website, where he’s played for more than a decade. His biggest contest win came last year via The Big One handicapping contest at Laurel, where he parlayed a $24 online entry into $70,000 in cash plus a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seat.

Like many players, Turner handicaps contest cards backward, from the last race to the first.

“Looking at the last race with a full field of lightly raced horses from Woodbine, I knew this was going to be a separator,” he said regarding Sunday's contest. “I had my reservations about playing Show Shape because she had never raced on turf and had a below-par Tomlinson Figure, but her recent running lines showed she was a game filly.”

It wasn’t the smoothest of journeys for Show Shape, an overlay at 8-1 off her 5-1 morning line. She was blocked and ran erratically through the stretch, but Luis Contreras got her clear and up. Turner was a little worried as they crossed the wire.

“My heart was pounding because I have been DQ'd before, costing me an NHC spot on one occasion and several big scores,” he said.

In the end, there was nothing to fret, not even an inquiry. Show Shape and Turner were home free.

Rookie success

In the same NHCQualify event that Turner won on Sunday, Pete Dressens finished third. Dressens, a tournament rookie, is already double-qualified as a result of a hot run early in the year.

“I had slipped to second in the NHC Rookie standings,” he said. “I got a slow second quarter after flying out of the gate.”

Sunday’s result will put Dressens back atop the Rookie Tour standings. The first-year NHC player who earns the most points in NHCQ events in 2016 will win $10,000.

“I’ve been plugging away with DRF Tournaments feeders and gaining valuable experience in the mythical $2 win-place format,” he said. “No doubt playing more often is a tremendous learning tool. It’s a tremendous kick to see one’s name near the top on a more regular basis.”

Last-minute heroics

Another story from the weekend involved 2015 NHC champion John O’Neil at the New York Racing Association contest. He once again showed why he’s one of the most respected players in the game. With two races left on Saturday, Bill Shurman was in second place, $50 out of first, and no one else was within $1,000 of him and the leader. Shurman played $100 to place on the 2-1 favorite, looking to leapfrog into the top spot. Meanwhile, O’Neil decided to go all-in on the same horse, betting $900. O'Neil cashed and vaulted to the lead by $500.

“That 75 year old has guts,” said Paul Shurman, who was also playing in the contest. “I was talking to [O’Neil’s friend] Rob Ramirez afterwards. He knew John had played the horse but didn't know it was for his entire bankroll. All of a sudden he looked up at the leaderboard and saw John's name. He had no clue, even though he was sitting with him.”

DRF Tournaments feeder contests

Go to DRF Tournaments for a full list of feeders to the National Handicapping Championship, Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, Battle of Saratoga, and Santa Anita Autumn Championship. You’ll also find Credit Builder contests as well. Contests run from Wednesday to Sunday and cost as little as $12 to enter.