Updated on 09/17/2011 10:35PM

Miami man tops in South Dakota

Royal River Racing OTB
Ira Schwartz (left) beat an all-star field to win the Royal River Racing OTB Midwest Classic in Flandreau, S.D. Third-place finisher Harold Lee (center) and runner-up Richard Prozanski also qualified for NHC VII.

An all-star field of tournament players, including three Daily Racing Form/NTRA handicapping champions, descended on the remote town of Flandreau, S.D., for the Royal River Racing OTB Midwest Classic on June 4. But veteran tournament player Ira Schwartz of Miami Beach, Fla., turned it into a runaway, jumping out to the lead after his first contest bet and rolling to victory in the field of 69 players (111 entries) in the contest.

Schwartz earned $13,320 for winning the tournament, held in the Royal River Indian casino, 40 miles north of Sioux Falls. The victory also qualified Schwartz for the seventh annual at Bally's Las Vegas on Jan. 27-28, 2006. The championship will have a record $500,000 purse.

It is the second year in a row Schwartz has qualified for the national finals. He finished 184th in NHC VI last year after qualifying with a win in the rich Bally's Summer Stakes.

Schwartz's final bankroll of $140.60 at Royal River OTB was $33 better than that of runner-up Richard Prozanski, who was another $18 clear of Harold Lee in third with $89.60. Prozanski, of Huntington Beach, Calif., qualified for his third consecutive NHC. Lee, from Kokomo, Ind., held third to earn a qualifying berth over tough-luck fourth- and fifth-place finishers Meyer Kanter and Tommy Castillo, whose final bankrolls fell 40 cents and $1.20 short, respectively.

Among the players putting up the $250 entry fee were 38 past DRF/NTRA qualifiers, including champions Judy Wagner (2001), Kent Meyer (2004), and Jamie Michelson Jr. (2005).

"I was thinking that going out to the middle of nowhere that it would be easy pickings," Schwartz said. "But I was dismayed at the star-studded field of tournament players."

The Royal River tournament was based on 12 mythical $2 win-and-place bets on races at Arlington, Belmont, Calder, Churchill, and half the card at Hollywood Park.

Schwartz started fast, hitting his first play in the first race at Churchill Downs, Beachblanket Bingo ($25.20 win, $7.60 place).

Schwartz, joking, said: "She fit all the criteria of my strategy. She has a whimsical name and she went off at 10-1 or more."

Schwartz also nailed two key longshots at Calder. Supersonic Sun ($20.40, $5.60) in race 5 rallied to win by a head. Bird of Paradise scored in race 7, returning $22 and $8.20. They were two of the four winners on Calder's June 4 card not ridden by Eddie Castro, who booted home a record nine winners.

Schwartz saved his biggest win for last. When he noticed first-time starter Fly Me Now warming up well on the track, he played the colt, who lost the lead in the stretch but re-rallied to win and pay $31.40 and $9.80.

"I'm not very good on the lead and I don't like betting on horses on the lead," Schwartz said. "I like to come from behind."

Stampede Park: Chan's the man

Ivan Chan of Calgary, Alberta, topped a field of 72 players to win the Stampede Park qualifying tournament on May 28 and 29. Chan pocketed $4,050 in purse money and qualified for his first DRF/NTRA championship.

Chan compiled a two-day mythical bankroll of $185.10 based on $2 win-and-place wagers on 30 races, including 20 mandatory races. Five Stampede Park races were mandatory each day.

Mel Moser of Lexington, Ky., finished second with a bankroll of $178 and qualified for his second DRF/NTRA championship. Linda Young of Sewickley, Pa., finished third with $172.40 to round out Team Stampede Park.