11/19/2002 12:00AM

Lang's a winner in more ways than one


NEW YORK - Rick Lang, a well-known turf writer and handicapper based in the Northeast, defeated a field of 203 entrants to win the $60,900 Aqueduct Fall Handicapping Challenge Nov. 16-17 at Aqueduct in New York.

Lang earned first prize of $26,300 and also qualified for the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship to be held at Bally's-Las Vegas on Jan. 17-18.

In addition to being a public handicapper, Lang is also a handicapping tournament veteran with two third-place finishes in the World Series of Handicapping at Penn National and a win in the Sports Haven Handicapping Challenge to his credit.

The fact that Lang was even at the Aqueduct tournament is a minor miracle. In late 2000, Lang was diagnosed with cancer after falling seriously ill at that year's Saratoga meet. In the months that followed, his weight fell from 205 to 150 pounds.

"I had cancer of the lungs, intestines, everywhere. I went to all of the major cancer centers and they all basically told me 'You've got no shot,' " said Lang. "I ended up having tumors removed from my head, my back, my neck, my intestines. The only thing they couldn't get was my lungs."

Since then, Lang considers himself very lucky that the cancer on his lungs has "totally disappeared." He claims he currently feels better now than he has felt in years.

"I haven't been to Vegas since 1975," said Lang. "But I feel great. I'm still here, I won the handicapping contest at Aqueduct, and I'm going to Vegas. What more can I ask for?"

In the Aqueduct contest, Lang compiled a winning total of $984 based on 10 mythical win, place, or show bets on each day of the contest, including nine $20 bets and one $40 best bet.

The top four finishers at Aqueduct earned qualifying berths to the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. Peter Parella of New York pocketed second prize of $8,000 with a bankroll of $925.

Third- and fourth-place finishers Sebastian Diaz ($918) of Malverne, N.Y., and David Gutfreund of Chicago, who earned $5,000 and $4,000, respectively, rounded out the qualifiers.

Gutfreund, a racing analyst also known as the Thoroughbred Maven, is a multiple tournament winner and will be making his second trip to the National Handicapping Championship after qualifying for the finals last year at Turf Paradise.

Out-of-state players rule Hoosier

Players from Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio swept the top four spots in the Hoosier Park Qualifying Tournament held at the Anderson, Indiana track on Nov. 16.

Tom Koliboski of Crete, Ill., earned first prize of $5,000 and also qualified for the National Handicapping Championship.

The one-day event drew a larger-than-expected field of about 100 players who accounted for 169 entries at $100 apiece.

Koliboski won with a final bankroll of $178.60 based on 20 mythical $2 win and $2 place wagers on selected races from Calder and Churchill Downs.

Also qualifying for the national finals were second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers Phillip Doggett of Mt. Sterling, Ohio, ($1,000 prize), John Madden of Grove City, Ohio, ($500), and Paul Navratil of Savage, Minn., ($250).

New Englanders qualify at Suffolk

Mary Connolly of Revere, Mass., defeated a field of 203 entrants to earn first prize of $2,512.50 in the Suffolk Downs handicapping contest on Nov. 9. Connolly also qualified for the National Handicapping Championship.

Connolly won the contest by building a final total of $12,120 from an original bankroll of $3,000. Wagers were win only, and were made in increments of $500, $400, $300, $200, or $100 on five races from Suffolk Downs plus five simulcasts.

Tom Robins of Reading, Mass., earned second prize of $1,005 after finishing with a contest bankroll of $12,010.

Connolly and Robins join Thomas Galla of North Providence, R.I., and Gerald Bourne of East Boston, Mass., as members of Suffolk Downs's four-person team headed to the National Handicapping Championship. Galla and Bourne were the winners of Suffolk Downs's $2 handicapping contest held on Nov. 2.