07/21/2016 1:16PM

Live format suits NHC Tour rookie Zaretsky

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Last weekend, National Handicapping Championship Tour rookie Dan Zaretsky won an entry in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge via DRF Tournaments. As an NHC Tour first-year player, Zaretsky is competing for a share of the $15,000 that will be distributed among the top five rookies. The BCBC will be an excellent place for him to try to get tour points, not to mention the winner’s share of the expected $1 million purse.

Zaretsky is a 53-year-old technology consultant who has been a racing fan for decades. “I have loved horse racing since the 1970s, when my parents [Pat and Sandra Hooven, of Chino, Calif.] used to spend some weekends with us kids at the Santa Anita racetrack infield,” he said. “My favorite jockey back then was Jerry Lambert, and my favorite horse to this day is Vigors, the white tornado.”

Inspired by Vigors’s thrilling come-from-behind wins, Zaretsky has loved racing ever since. It took Zaretsky a while, but he eventually discovered the handicapping-contest world through the Daily Racing Form website. “It was the perfect venue for me because I don’t have a lot of free time to go and spend the days in the infield anymore, though I wish I did,” he said.

The appeal of contests is wide-ranging. “I can have a great challenge that is focused, time-bound, and provides a good value,” he said. “I especially like the all-in format because I think it gives a small advantage to pure Racing Form-type handicappers like myself.”

Despite that stated preference, it was in the live format – where picks can be changed up until post time of each race – where he won his BCBC seat. “The live format is actually what ended up getting me the win, and I thank the racing gods for that.”

Zaretsky changed to the winner in the last two minutes before post time twice during the contest. “The real key was a last-minute change in the 10th contest event,” he said. “I had originally selected the 9 horse but changed to the 7 [Cindys Secret] as the horses entered the gates.”

Shortly thereafter, Cindys Secret broke out of the gate like a rocket and didn’t look back. Zaretsky was headed to the Breeders’ Cup contest for the first time. “I am looking forward to the BCBC,” he said. “It will only be my second-ever live-money contest.”

Zaretsky previously won an entry in a Santa Anita tournament through DRF Tournaments. “What I learned in this first live-money experience is that the difference between live-money and mythical events is huge,” he said. “It’s a totally different approach, and hopefully I learned some valuable tactics in my first try because I will need a significant improvement from that performance to do well at the BCBC.”

For Zaretsky, there are a lot of aspects of the BCBC that appeal to him, but none more than the racing itself. “I love the big days,” he said. “Racing has really turned these big-race days into great events. Whereas some people don’t care whether the race is Grade 3 or a $12,500 claimer, I appreciate the better-quality racing on many levels.”

Saturday contests

The headline event on DRF Tournaments on Saturday is a qualifier for the BCBC. The buy-in is $190, and up to two $10,000 BCBC seats will be awarded.

There is also a qualifier for the Aug. 10-11 Battle of Saratoga contests on Saturday. Entries cost $109, and two winners will receive $1,000 Saratoga entries and $500 for travel.

DRF Tournaments also will be hosting a $2,500-guaranteed credit builder. Players put up $50 per entry, and the prize money will be split among the top five players, with $1,000 in credit going to first, down to $200 for fifth. The credit builder will accept up to 56 entries.

Additionally, check the site for more credit builders and feeders to major contests like the NHC and Santa Anita Autumn Championship. For more information, go to DRF Tournaments at tournaments.drf.com.