09/14/2016 12:16PM

Michigan man hopes to ride free entry to BCBC jackpot


It’s the mantra for a lot of horseplayers: Bet a little to win a lot. Dennis Gates, 52, is trying to take this idea one step further: Risk nothing to win everything.

Gates, who works as the administrative director of pharmacy at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, is no stranger to contests, but he had never played in an online qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge before last weekend. As a result, he was invited to play in an invitation-only contest on DRF Tournaments. He finished in the top 10 percent, winning an entry into Sunday’s Round 1 qualifier, where he finished in the top 10 percent once again. Now, he’s poised to win his $10,000 BCBC entry with another good finish in Round 2 later this month.

Gates has been a racing fan since college, mostly focused on the big days.

“In 2008, I read Noel Michaels’s contest book and started to follow horse racing all year long,” the Grosse Ile, Mich., resident said. “I saw that a former Michigan person, Jamie Michelson, had won the National Handicapping Championship, and I thought if he could win maybe so could I.”

Like many players, the social aspect of live contests appeals to him.

“My first live contest was the Aqueduct Fall Challenge, and I sat at a table with Ken Seeman,” he said, citing a prominent contest player. “Ken won an entry that weekend, and we still keep in touch. He is a great handicapper and person.”

Gates is now a two-time NHC qualifier and has played in the BCBC once before as well. He looks forward to winning his way back to each of the contest world’s marquee events.

“Attending the big contests is awesome,” he said. “Great atmosphere and people.”

His approach to handicapping is classic – he takes a comprehensive approach to looking for value.

“I look for horses doing something for the first time because changes often ensure the right odds on the tote board,” he said.

He’ll look at a horse trying a new distance or surface, or look for a key equipment change.

“Then I try to tie that together with pedigree, workouts, and trainer intent,” he explained.

From here, he’ll look to grab another entry in Round 2 through feeders the next couple of weekends. The end goal, of course, is to get himself back to the BCBC.

Gulfstream event for ladies

There is a cool opportunity for female contest players this Saturday at Gulfstream Park – the latest in its series of GirlsGotGame betting challenges. This is the third installment of what has become a semi-annual event.

Saturday’s contest, to be held in Gulfstream’s Sport of Kings Theatre, will include a buffet lunch, prizes, free health screenings, and a live cooking demonstration by award-winning celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein.

February’s winner was local horseplayer Marilyn Fox, who finished best with a score of 54.80. She and 11 of her friends are signed up for Saturday.

Each participant will receive $2 win-and-place vouchers on six races from Gulfstream and Laurel Park. Winners will receive prizes, including a weekend spa package. All participants also will receive a Gulfstream Park swag bag.

Pre-registration is $50, or $60 on the day of the event. For more information or to register, contact Nancy Berry at (954) 457-6284 or go to www.gulfstreampark.com/events-and-entertainment.