07/21/2017 11:26AM

Labordo qualifies for two big finals on DRFT


Thomas Labordo has a busy week coming up next month. After hitting a double on DRF Tournaments last weekend, he will be playing in the Wynn Handicapping Challenge on Aug. 4-5 and then will come right back in the Saratoga Betting Challenge on Aug. 9-10.

Both qualifiers used the all-in format, and Labordo, 34, was simply lights-out on the day. Between his two contest cards, he failed to collect points in only two races. His approach was simple. “When I play in an all-in format, I just go with the horse that has the best chance,” said Labordo, a San Gabriel Valley, Calif., resident.

In his day job, Labordo is responsible for TV distribution strategy and operations for a major motion picture studio. But his hobby is betting horses, especially in contests. Last weekend, he initially signed up for the Saratoga qualifier, and when reviewing his selections, he felt very confident about them.

This is a great reason to multi-table – playing in more than one contest at once. “I texted a fellow contest player who is playing in the Wynn for the first time and said, ‘I’m going to join a Wynn qualifier and join you next month,’ ” he said, tongue in cheek. “I primarily favor class and form, and my selections just seemed so logical I knew I had a fair shot if form held true over the weekend.”

Two of the winners Saturday who helped him along were Princess La Quinta in Arlington’s eighth race and Lover’s Key in Belmont’s 10th. “Their recent form was so impressive,” Labordo said. “I think Princess was in the money in her last five starts and just recently missed against a similar group. Lover’s Key, since breaking her maiden, was always in the money, including a statebred stake one back.”

Labordo got into racing and contests through his family. His father, Darwin, has finished in the money in major tournaments, and his mother, Yolanda, also has played in tournaments at the highest level. Like many tournament players, Thomas Labordo got his start in the Santa Anita low-roller events. “For $40 and a whole day of fun, what more can you ask for?” he said.

He also likes playing in feeders and qualifiers on DRFT, winning his way into the most important events around the country. “It’s a great opportunity for me and my dad to travel all across the country and enjoy tracks that we’ve only seen on streaming services or on national broadcasts,” he said.

Of course, traveling to tournaments can come with complications, as evidenced by a recent trip to Chicago. “On an airline that rhymes with ‘Sighted,’ they had accidentally overbooked our first-class seats, but instead of dragging us down the aisle to get us off the plane, they offered us travel vouchers, so our upcoming trips are basically parlayed from the Chicago trip,” he said. “Hopefully, we arrive in Las Vegas and Albany in one piece still in our purchased seats.”

Growing up near Santa Anita, Labordo was destined to become a racing fan. “As a kid, my family would spend a Saturday afternoon in the infield picnicking,” he said. “In the area, it was not uncommon to see Kent Desormeaux around town in a local restaurant run by his wife called Cajun Way. Mike Smith was often at Sunday morning service at a local church. [Laffit] Pincay could be seen picking up groceries at a local store. I even went to high school with Chris McCarron’s daughter.”

Like so many horseplayers, Labordo got hooked on the game after an early score. “When I turned 18 and won my first pick four, it was quite an experience,” he said. “It was Friday nighttime racing at Hollywood Park. I studied up and submitted my ticket – a modest $20 – and I was alive to the last leg with a single. I was so excited, and I told my dad, and someone overheard and actually offered to sell me what was sure to be a fake Rolex from a paper bag!”

The watch might have been fake, but the thrill was real. Corey Nakatani led Labordo’s single to a runaway win. “It wasn’t a signer, but I’ve been hooked since then,” he said. “I went to a machine in anticipation to cash my first ticket.”

For this promising young player with a strong pedigree, it was the first of many.