Updated on 09/17/2011 10:46AM

Junior a bit better than Dad

Steve Wolfson Jr. took the lead on the next-to-last race to earn Handicapper of the Year honors and the $100,000 first prize. His father, Steve Wolfson Sr., took fourth prize of $5,000.

LAS VEGAS - Steve Wolfson Jr. of Ormond Beach, Fla., certainly had the pedigree to go the distance and win the , Friday and Saturday at the Bally's Las Vegas race book.

History has been kind to the Wolfson family, and it continues to be. Louis and Patrice Wolfson founded Harbor View Farm and owned Affirmed, who won the Triple Crown 25 years ago this spring. Louis Wolfson's son Marty is a successful trainer in Florida.

Another son, Steve Sr., 61, owned horses for 20 years, from the 1970's until the early 1990's, and also ran some handicapping tournaments. He now owns the Happy Valley Stable in which his 35-year-old son, Steve Jr., is a minority partner. They made history of their own as they put the family stamp on the DRF/NTRA tournament, which is in its fourth year.

Wolfson Sr., who qualified for the tournament by finishing fourth at Autotote's $68,000 Bradley Teletheater Handicapping Challenge back on July 13, was the leader after the first day of competition with a bankroll of $162.40 based on 15 mythical $2 win-and-place bets on eight mandatory races and seven of his own choosing. Photographers were snapping his picture and writers were preparing his biography. Meanwhile, a few seats away, Wolfson Jr., or simply "Junior," as he came to be called by the media last week, was stalking his father.

Junior considered himself fortunate to even be playing in the finals. He tried qualifying for this event all last year. He hadn't qualified by October, and was running out of chances but then he won an Autotote On the Wire phone account contest.

"There weren't many chances left," he said.

Last weekend, Junior was sixth after the first day, but lost his first eight plays on Saturday. He hit four late winners, however, the biggest of which was Offlee Wild in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream. Offlee Wild paid $56.80 to win, which was capped at $42 for the contest, and $21.60 to place. Las Vegas resident Angela Daniels also had Offlee Wild and was the leader most of Saturday afternoon, but Junior took the lead in the next-to-last contest race, the ninth at Santa Anita, with Discernment, who paid $20.20 to win and $8.20 to place.

That put him $20.40 ahead of Daniels, who had one more bullet to fire. In the ninth at Golden Gate, she used Moscow Mac, who at 9-1 would have given her the title. Moscow Mac was running last early but closed with a rush to finish fourth by 1 1/2 lengths.

Junior's overall score of $279.60 is the highest since the DRF/NTRA went to its current format in 2001. Daniels, the wife of tournament veteran and "Thoroughbred Hotline" radio show co-host Ken Daniels and now a well-known handicapper in her own right, was second at $259.20 and earned $30,000.

Tim Holland of Midway, Ky., finished third with a bankroll of $225.30 and earned $10,000. Wolfson Sr. held on for fourth with a score of $219.60 to pick up a check for $5,000. Rick Palm of Boise, Idaho, was fifth at $217.60 and won $3,000.

Sixth through 10th paid $2,000 apiece to Ed Dixon of Willow Springs, N.C.; Jody Ortego of Ville Platte, La.; Josh Silverstein of Manorhaven, N.Y.; Gail Searing of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; and George Seiman of Woodside, N.Y.

With his victory, Wolfson, a high school teacher, nearly tripled his $35,500 yearly salary by winning the $100,000 first-place prize and the title of Handicapper of the Year.

"This couldn't have come at a better time," said Wolfson, who is planning a wedding. "We were going to make a CD with our favorite songs, but I think we can afford to get a deejay now."

Even though he was competing against his father, Wolfson said they worked as a team.

"I couldn't have done it without him and Paul Shurman" - a player on the Autotote On the Wire team - Junior said. "Me and my dad are pretty comprehensive handicappers, we try to take everything into account. Their help was essential. And we had a pre-arranged split of any winnings."

Wolfson Sr. pointed out one difference in their approach to playing the ponies. "He is a last-minute kind of guy," Wolfson said. "It'll be two minutes to post and he's still deciding who he is going to play. I tell him 'Can't we plan ahead?' He takes after his mother that way. But I couldn't be prouder of him."

Even though he doesn't work full-time in the horse racing business - he teaches social studies, specializing in government and history - Wolfson also trains runners as a cross-country coach. In fact, while he was still in Las Vegas, the Orlando Sentinel named one of his students, Keith Moody, as the county cross-country runner of the year.

Wolfson said the biggest bonus for him is that he doesn't have to qualify for next year's event since he also receives an automatic berth as the defending champion.

Wolfson had to ditch a few days of school last week to play in the tournament, and will also play hooky next week when he is honored at the Eclipse Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Monday.