08/01/2016 11:38AM

Joe Johnson wins another BCBC seat


Joe Johnson, a 59-year-old gastroenterologist in San Antonio, Tex., had himself quite a day on DRF Tournaments on Saturday. Johnson, who had already won a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seat in a BCQualify tournament earlier this year, went one better, finishing first and second this time around. Contest rules only allow him to win his second full $10,000 seat, so the $2,500 BCBC entry fee that would usually go to the second-place finisher was awarded to fourth-place finisher Brian Chenvert instead. Third-place contestant Chris Savage also won a $2,500 BCBC buy-in.

Johnson’s winning ticket was blank heading to the contest’s second half, when he nailed four out of six races for a winning total of $122.30. His second card started with two small collections and had two of the same late winners, Laoban in the Jim Dandy ($59.20 win-place) and Conquest Cobra in Del Mar’s fourth ($32.60). The second entry ended up with $109. To see all of Johnson’s picks, check out the interactive leaderboard at https://tournaments.drf.com/tournaments/public-leaderboard/tournament/553.

Johnson is no stranger to big days in DRF-run tournaments. Last year he won a BCBC seat and an NHC seat in the same event. Johnson, a longtime cash player, has become very active on the contest scene.

"I did not really get into the contests until my son urged me to do so," Johnson said. "He had just graduated from Columbia University and had taken a job at the Metropolitan Opera, where he met some dedicated online contest players. These guys made it sound like great fun, and I got hooked. My son and one of his classmates have become huge racing fans to the point that he is now in law school with plans to go into equine law."

Johnson, who attends the Breeders’ Cup every year with a group of friends, uses a classic handicapping approach. “I grew up with Beyer numbers and use these to organize my analysis, then dig in with all sorts of other considerations, always keeping price and value in the front of the mind,” he said.

His also learned over the years is that sometimes a handicapper’s worst enemy can be his ears. “I've found that I do best when ignoring the experts whether they be friends, family, or whatever and go with that hard-to-define intuition instead,” he explained. “I like that handicapping is not simply a mathematical problem waiting to be solved.”

He finds joy in the intellectual challenge and the human interaction of tournaments, and that has led him to be very optimistic about the future. “The satisfaction of predicting the less-likely outcomes, the camaraderie of fellow horseplayers, and the potential to win a big dollar amount keep me coming back,” he said. “I look forward to keeping it up for years to come and am interested to see how big the contest business and the racing industry in general can become.”

Also on Saturday, four players won seats to the NHC via a free NHCQualify event that attracted a field of 1,946 players. Antonio Allen, Ruben Lopez, Christopher Rohner, and Brett Workman finished atop the leaderboard. Allen ($159.10) got off to a slow but steady start before catching fire late in the contest, cashing in four of the last five races. His biggest price was Laoban. The contest will likely affect the NHC Tour, in that the top five first half Tour players will each receive seats to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. The standings will be made final later this week.

Also this weekend, Ronald Odom and Russell Priola won two entries each to the Battle of Saratoga contests to be held next week, Aug. 10-11, at the Spa. This weekend there will be one more opportunity to win into the Saratoga contests with feeders Wednesday through Friday and a qualifier on Saturday.

Last but not least, Louis Constan won a seat to the Santa Anita Autumn Championship on Sunday, besting a full-field of 45 with a score of $70.10. He was consistent throughout the contest with seven collections and built a big enough lead that he was able to miss the last races and still hang on.

Los Alamitos qualifier

Lifelong horse racing fans Mike Rosenthal and George Duarte finished 1-2 in the inaugural Los Alamitos Race Course Quarter Horse Racing Qualifying Contest held on California Breeders Champions Night on Saturday, July 30. Both men earned seats to the NHC as a result.

The Los Alamitos qualifier featured a total of 71 entries with each entry playing with a live $200 bankroll.

“I don’t play a lot of tournaments,” 51-year old Las Vegas resident Rosenthal said, “but I’ve qualified a couple of times to the NHC.”

“My parents owned both Quarter Horses and harness horses,” he continued. “[As I got older] I started playing the horses. I’ve been playing the horses consistently now for the past 25 years.”

Duarte, 31, will be going to the NHC for the third year in a row. The Long Beach resident made his first visit to his home track at Los Alamitos when he was 10 years old and has been visiting the Orange County oval ever since.

Los Alamitos Race Course will host its next handicapping contest Saturday, Sept. 17 during its daytime fall Thoroughbred meet. Complete rules will be available soon at losalamitos.com. The track is also planning a second contest featuring Quarter Horse racing in late fall. For more info, call 714-820-2690.