08/02/2017 12:20PM

Matazinsky goes from feeder to Spa final


Have you thought about playing in contests but just haven’t pulled the trigger? Let Brent Matazinsky be an example to you. Matazinsky, a 26-year-old technical writer from Troy, N.Y., just recently started playing in contests, and the early results have been very encouraging.

Matazinsky played in a $12 feeder on opening weekend at Saratoga and finished in the top 10 percent of the entries to win his way into last Sunday’s Saratoga Handicapping Challenge qualifier. From there, he won a $2,500 prize: two entries to next week’s Saratoga contests plus $500 in travel.

Growing up in the Saratoga area, Matazinsky has been going to the summertime races for a long time, but only recently has he become a full-fledged horseplayer.

“I went to the Derby last year, and I just loved the whole vibe,” he said. “When I got back, I started devouring every racing book I could get my hands on. Now I follow the NYRA circuit every day and whatever else I can.”

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As a player focusing on the New York Racing Association tracks, he’s in his element in the Saratoga contest, which consists entirely of races from the Spa this year.

“I’m not as comfortable with the other tracks,” he said. “I try to understand all the trainer moves and what they mean, and that’s obviously a lot harder to do on a circuit I’m not as familiar with.”

In addition to trainer angles, Matazinsky is inclined to weigh trips and pace most heavily in his handicapping. TimeformUS is at the center of his form study.

“I think Timeform gives a little edge because not that many people use it, and it cuts down a lot of the work,” he said. “The pace projector and the color-coded pace figures can give you a sense of what’s really going on in a race. I love to bet against favorites coming off of loose-on-the-lead wins with blue figures.”

His workflow is simple: He looks at the races in TimeformUS and then tries to watch at least one replay of each horse, usually the most recent race.

“I’m so new to the game that I don’t really consider myself a trip handicapper,” he said. “I read and listen to what other people have to say about trips, but I also use my own eyes, too.”

He said he’s working on his game plan for next week’s contest.

“I’ve never played in a live contest before, so it’s going to be interesting,” he said. “My normal style is to play exactas and tris, so hopefully I can get lucky with those.”

Online qualifiers remove the betting piece of the horseplaying equation, but that won’t be the case in next week’s live-bankroll event. “I’m going to have to be aggressive because that’s what it’s going to take to win,” he said. “But I’m playing with house money. If I go broke, it is what it is. And if things go my way, maybe I can make a run one of the days.”

To join Matazinsky in the Saratoga contests, next Wednesday and Thursday, check out the qualifiers on tournaments.drf.com.