07/19/2017 11:40AM

Newby hopes to see green on the other side of the fence

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Nate Newby is already well known in the contest world for the job he does at Santa Anita running their popular series of live-bankroll contests. On his brief summer vacation, he is making his name in the contest world in a new way – as a tournament player.

Newby, 39, holds the official title of vice president of marketing at Santa Anita and lives in Pasadena, Calif. Last weekend, Newby qualified for the Wynn Handicapping Challenge on DRF Tournaments. Of course, he is an avowed contest fan.

“Horse racing is already a thinking-man’s game as opposed to a gambling activity like slot machines,” he said, “and contests involve so much strategy and skill that they take that idea to a whole new level.”

Playing in tournaments has extra benefits for him.

“Mostly I play in contests because I enjoy them,” he said, “but they also give me good insight into the player experience and let me see things from that side of the fence.”

Saturday’s contest was an all-in event, a format Newby prefers when it comes to online play.

“I definitely prefer live-bankroll play in general,” he said, “but if I’m going to play in a mythical $2 win-place, I definitely like [all-ins] because you can’t change your picks based on what you need; you have to play what you like.”

One interesting aspect of the Wynn contest is that players only see two leaderboards the whole tournament – at the end of Day 1 and the end of the tournament. This is another way players are encouraged to play horses they like as opposed to what they need. While it’s an interesting quirk, Newby would still generally rather see a leaderboard, especially in live-bankroll play.

“Not having a leaderboard adds some interesting aspects of strategy,” he said, “but I don’t see it working in live bankroll where we want players to be able to see exactly what the value is for the risks they’re taking.”

Part of that value these days comes from potentially valuable bonuses. Santa Anita have been the market leader in this area, offering $1 million bonuses to any player who wins one of their contests and goes on to win the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. Santa Anita also added a new bonus for their weekend series of three contests in late June. If a player won two of the three, he or she got a $50,000 bonus, and a player who swept all three would get $250,000. Contest vet “Jazzy” James Henry nearly took down the $50,000 – he won Friday and was second Saturday. A similar bonus structure is expected for Santa Anita’s series of October contests. Qualifying for those events is expected to start soon on DRF Tournaments.

“I think it’s only a matter of time before one of these bonuses gets hit,” said Newby, “and I really hope it’s a million-dollar bonus for all the attention that it will get for the contest world, especially if it’s a life-changing score for a player who qualified inexpensively.”

Newby has spent his life around horses. When he was growing up, his dad always had horses in Colorado and New Mexico.

“I grew up around it,” he said. “In college I worked training a small stable of horses at Arapahoe and the purse money wasn’t great, so I had to learn how to bet. It was a fun way to spend the summers.”

As for the rest of this summer, before the Wynn, Newby will be travelling to Santa Anita’s sister facility in Tokyo, TCK Racetrack.

“We’re eventually hoping to have Japanese trainers and horses spend a meet at Santa Anita,” he said.

He’ll also be pressed into service, presenting the trophy for the Santa Anita Stakes. If things go well at the Wynn, he may be on the receiving end of a trophy in a few weeks’ time. But Newby is realistic about his chances.

“I’m excited to be competing against a deep field and I definitely want to do well,” he said, “but my number one goal is to have fun.”