09/13/2017 12:50PM

Larmey due for some luck in big Woodbine tournament

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Chris Larmey is a man with a plan. Three times this year, he’s used an inexpensive qualifier to win into a major handicapping tournament. He won into the Belmont Betting Challenge, then the Saratoga contests, and, most recently, this weekend’s Woodbine Mile Handicapping Tournament via DRF Tournaments.

The Woodbine tourney is a great deal for horseplayers, with a very favorable ratio of prizes to players. The prize pool consists of cash, National Handicapping Championship seats, and Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge spots, with a $500,000 bonus should the winner go on to win the BCBC.

Larmey is excited to take his shot at the big prizes. “I’ve been a little unlucky this year, so I’m hoping I can turn things around north of the border,” he said. “At Saratoga, I thought I crushed the last race, but then I got DQ’d, so I went from being near the top of the leaderboard to having zero, so hopefully that will come back around.”

Larmey has a reason for optimism beyond his hope that the wheel of karma will spin his way. He’s an avid record-keeper and knows from those stats that Woodbine is one of his best tracks in terms of return on investment. “Maybe Canadian players look at things a little differently,” he said, “but I generally find that there’s better value there than at USA tracks.”

This year’s travel itinerary shows why Larmey is such a fan of contests. “It’s been great to get to make all these trips for not that much money,” he said. “If it wasn’t for contests, I never would have gotten a chance to get VIP treatment at one of the premier tracks in North America.”

One challenge that Larmey and the other Woodbine players will face is dealing with European shippers. For Larmey, whose play is rooted in numbers, evaluating horses for whom there is less data can be tricky.

“I used to purchase the Timeform cards online and use those for help with shippers, but these days, it’s nice to be able to use TimeformUS, which has ratings that compare U.S. and European runners on the same scale. It’s an invaluable tool to assess the relative abilities of the horses.”

A lot of players use replays to evaluate foreign runners, but that approach hasn’t been helpful for Larmey. “Some players do a great job with those, but for me, I have found that the human eye can be easily deceived,” he said. “I’d much rather trust data than my eyes, but when they tell the same story, it reinforces my opinion.”

Along those lines, Larmey often finds himself betting against horses whom racing analysts have identified as possible plays because of trip handicapping. “A lot of analysts do a great job with that stuff, and watching races definitely matters, especially with lightly raced horses,” he said. “But sometimes what happens is that so many people end up betting on these horses coming off of bad trips that the pendulum swings so far that they can become negative ROI.”

He took great pains to praise the work of handicapping analysts, beyond their specific picks. “I love to listen to an analyst like Andy Serling, not necessarily to hear who he picks, but to hear why he made that pick,” he said. “That’s a great way for a horseplayer to get additional information to inform decision making.”

Later in the week, after the past performances are up, Larmey will begin to plan a strategy for Saturday. “I’ll look to build a specific strategy from there, depending on what the races look like,” he said, “but my basic strategy in live-bankroll contests is to hope I have a few strong opinions and really go for it and hit those.”

Players looking to join Larmey at Woodbine on Saturday can contact Sue Clark at (416) 675-3993, ext. 2513, or at sck@woodbineentertainment.com.