09/01/2016 10:48AM

Guzzi ready for next leap in class


On Sunday, a maiden won a Grade 1.

Bernard Guzzi, a 55-year-old supermarket maintenance man from North Plainfield N.J., won his first-ever one-day handicapping contest, the free roll into the $10,000 buy-in Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge with its expected purse of $1 million.

“I’m new to the tournament scene and I’m still learning,” said Guzzi, who picked winners in five of the seven races and managed a place in another to get a nearly perfect score.

Guzzi is used to the ups and downs of being a horseplayer. “I’m a streaky player,” he said. “Travers Day I didn’t pick any winners or cash any tickets and then Sunday – boom!”

“I had no idea how big of a deal it is,” he said of the free roll contest for the BCBC, which he entered more or less on a whim. “This is a whole new thing to me. I’m on the DRF Public Handicapper site. My dad has played on there for awhile and I’m just getting into it.”

It’s been a big summer for PH players. Last month founder Scott Carson won the Thursday Battle of Saratoga contest. This weekend it was proved once again what a great training ground PH is for contest players.

In a contest with 5,000 entries, any little thing going wrong could have spelled defeat. For Guzzi, one nose stood out in particular.

“If I didn’t get the head bob from Castellano’s horse, that would have been it,” he said, referring to the ride on Wild About Harry in Saratoga’s ninth on Sunday.

Like many players, Guzzi tries to envision how races will be run from the past performances and on Sunday he was practically clairvoyant. “All the races set up how I thought they would,” he explained. “I liked Wild About Harry’s running style and thought it fit the race perfectly.”

Guzzi has been a fan since the late 80s and was hooked by the SundaySilence-Easy Goer rivalry. Guzzi’s dad, who also played Sunday, liked Easy Goer, but he went the other way.

“I’ll tell you what, I was a Sunday Silence guy,” he said. “I was impressed by his guttiness and his will to win -- putting away Easy Goer is no easy task and he did it three times.”

Guzzi attended the rain-soaked Breeders' Cup at Monmouth BC back in 2007 and is a big fan of the event in general. “It’s great because all the best horses are there,” he said. “It’s really the cream of the crop.”

He looks forward to better weather out at Santa Anita this time around but faces a couple of challenges. For one thing, he typically prefers claiming races to stakes for betting purposes.

“They are a little bit easier because when you have a race like the Travers or the Breeders’ Cup races those are the best horses and sometimes they all start looking like winners.”

But he feels if he starts working on his BC handicapping now that he can be competitive. “I’m going to be watching all the prep races and be really prepared and take that approach,” he said.

He also knows it will be a different world from what he’s used to out there in terms of betting.

“The amounts you have to bet are a little daunting,” he explained, referring to the $600 required bets Friday and $900 required bets Saturday, “If I’m putting $20 on a horse to win, that’s a big deal for me.”

He remains quietly confident. “I’m not going there to lose,” he said. “I’m going to have fun and I’m going to do my best to try to win some money.”

First time against winners or not, if he picks like he did on Sunday, the rest of the field better look out.