12/08/2005 12:00AM

Lexington player tops Keeneland crowd

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Stephen Waller of Lexington, Ky., topped an overflow field of 524 entries in the $47,000 Keeneland Handicapping Challenge last Saturday.

Waller earned $14,000 for the victory and earned one of the final few qualifying berths into the $500,000 Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship, to be held at Bally's Las Vegas on Jan. 27-28.

Waller, 49, compiled a mythical bankroll of $147, based on $2 win-and-place bets on six mandatory races and six additional optional races.

Thomas Baugh of Warrenton, Va., finished just $3.60 behind in second with $143.40. Baugh also finished third with another entry with a $136.40 bankroll. In addition to $11,000 in total prizes, Baugh earned his first trip to the national finals.

Since a player can only earn one entry into the National Handicapping Championship, fourth-place finisher Mike Hulett of Frankfort, Ky., was awarded the final qualifying berth with his total of $132.60. A 57-year-old chief financial officer for the Kentucky State Police, Hulett earned $3,000 in prize money.

Turfway Park

With just a handful of national championship qualifying tournaments left on the calendar this year, many of the players in Keeneland's contest made the trip north to Turfway Park for its tournament on Sunday.

Robert Forbeck of Alexandria, Ky., a former marketing director at Turfway, topped the field and earned the $10,000 grand prize. The tournament attracted 180 players and 300 total entries.

Forbeck, 57, now a route driver for a food service company, earned his first trip to the championship. Forbeck vaulted to the lead when he nailed The Penguin ($35.20, $11.60) in the eighth race at Louisiana Downs. He finished with a mythical bankroll of $140, based on $40 worth of win-and-place wagers.

"I didn't even look at the placings through the day," Forbeck said. "I didn't want to know."

Andrew Wilnus of Whitmore Lake, Mich., a sales manager for a wholesale nursery, finished second with $126.60 and earned his second straight berth into the national championship, plus $2,500. His key hit was Countess Cadet ($46.20) in Turfway's first race. Wilnus, 37, finished 26th last January at Bally's after qualifying with a runner-up finish at Thistledown.

Jon Jazdzewski, an equine dentist from Paris, Ky., finished third with $126.10, earning $1,500 and a championship berth. Jazdzewski, 35, also nailed Countess Cadet and said he would have won the contest if he had listened to his brother-in-law.

"I was in second place with one race left, and he told me to bet a horse that eventually paid $39 to place," Jazdzewski said. "I picked the favorite instead."