09/15/2016 1:54PM

McIntyre feels at home at Woodbine

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Tepin, the Queen of the Turf, makes her return to the races at Woodbine on Saturday. But it’s another dominant force who the eyes of the contest world will be on: Cheryl McIntyre of Massillon, Ohio.

McIntyre, 64, is having a phenomenal year by any standard. She has won four seats to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (she’ll have to transfer two of them), and currently sits fifth on the National Handicapping Championship Tour. Woodbine is the scene of two of her recent triumphs. She has won a summer contest there two years running, and projects to be one of the player’s to watch in this weekend’s $3,500 Canadian live-bank event, the first of its kind at Woodbine.

“I really like that track,” McIntyre said. “When the weather cooperates I do well on turf. I actually did better on the old synthetic surface before the Tapeta, I’m still trying to figure this one out.”

Generally speaking, McIntyre does best in turf racing. “I look at breeding and pay attention to the jockeys who do well on turf, and I give extra credit to horses that have proven themselves,” she said.

Her last Woodbine appearance, a victory, was secured by a turf horse, albeit one from Saratoga. “Castellano was riding Procurement and I bet it all,” she said of the smaller money live-bank contest. “That’s what got me there.”

This time around, Woodbine is the only contest track and the stakes are higher, but she’s not worried one bit. “Obviously I’ll make bigger wagers but I’m not usually the kind of person who goes all-in on one horse,” she explained. “I’m a grinder and I don’t want to be done early.”

Will Tepin be a key part of her strategy on Saturday? After all, live-bank contests allow favorites to potentially come into play as exotic betting vehicles.

“I’m always trying to beat a prohibitive favorite just because I’ve gotten burned so many times,” she said, citing a recent example from a Canterbury Park contest.

“In that contest you have to bet half your bankroll every race. In the first race there was a 1-9 shot who looked great and I was nervous but I used him. He ended up dead last and I was so mad at myself because I knew it wasn’t a good bet.”

McIntyre is part of a well-known contest family that includes her husband, Mike, her son Kevin, and their friend Gary Johnson. Note to the conspiracy theorists: They do not play collusively. The Ohio crew root for each other and do their own work and have their own processes.

“Gary is a former trainer and some of the stuff he looks at drives me crazy,” she said. “All day long he’ll be looking at the Form. Well, that’s good for him, not good for me. I’m lucky if I get five minutes to really study each race.”

In that time she focuses on the Racing Form plus a little something extra. “A lot of times the horse I bet leaps right up at me,” she said. “I have my own little system, a combination of three or four things that work for me.”

McIntyre plays an awful lot already. She travels to various contests and plays online every weekend. As a result, she’s not going to do anything special to chase the Tour. “I don’t search around for everything NHC because if I did that I’d be crazy and I want to have a life,” she said, “It’s not all about handicapping for me.”

Still, her regular schedule means a couple more well-timed victories could have her drawing live for the $75,000 and potential $2 million bonus given to the NHC Tour winner should she go on to win the NHC.

The Ohio crew will be driving to Toronto. More than once they’ve had variations on the following exchange at the border:

“Where are you going?”

“Woodbine”

“What are you going for?”

“A handicapping contest?”

“What’s a handicapping contest?”

“It’s a competition to determine the best horseplayer.”

“Are you owners?”

“No, we just like to pick winners.”

In 2016, no contest player has picked more winners than Cheryl McIntyre.