11/02/2005 12:00AM

Pleasant Home key to contest victory


Instead of heading to nearby Belmont Park for the Breeders' Cup, Mitch Schuman left his hometown of Bay Shore, N.Y., to face 34 of the best tournament players in the country in the Ultimate Handicappers Invitational at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn.

He didn't get to see any live action, but it certainly was worth the trip.

Schuman, a criminal defense attorney, topped a deep field that included 23 current or past Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship qualifiers.

Schuman turned his starting real-money bankroll of $1,000 into $13,963, with most of his total coming from a $300 win-and-place bet on Pleasant Home ($63.50, $25.60), the blowout winner of the Distaff. He took home the tournament's $21,000 grand prize and also got to keep his parimutuel winnings. Throw in the late pick $1 four score for $8,651.50 that he made outside the tournament by singling Artie Schiller (owned by Bay Shore-based William Entenmann) in the Mile, and it was a $44,000 day for Schuman.

Created by prominent tournament player Ross Gallo to bring together some of best tournament players, the Ultimate Handicappers Invitational rules required players to bet at least six of the eight Breeders' Cup races. Players had to wager at least half their bankroll on each race bet, and only multiple-race wagers were excluded from the tournament. The entry fee was $1,000, plus the $1,000 live bankroll. This was the first time Canterbury hosted the tournament. Dover Downs in Delaware hosted it the first two years.

Schuman played conservatively early, cashing large show bets on Folklore in the Juvenile Fillies and First Samurai in the Juvenile. He hit the trifecta in the Filly and Mare Turf by keying Intercontinental, and after missing the Sprint, he bet Artie Schiller to win and place. But it was the large wager on Pleasant Home that vaulted him to the top of the leader board.

"I'll admit that Pleasant Home wasn't my first choice in the race," Schuman said. "But the price was just outrageous."

Having already wagered on the minimum six races, Schuman opted to sit out the final two, hoping his total would hold. He was plenty clear of Jerry Johnson of Cottage Grove, Minn., who finished second with $8,417. Dave Walczak of Minneapolis finished third with $8,018. Dan Hastings of Shoreview, Minn., had built a bankroll of $17,965 after a $1,300 across-the-board wager on Artie Schiller in the Mile, but faded to sixth because he didn't hit any of the remaining races and had to bet at least half his bankroll in each race.

Schuman qualified for the 2003 NHC when he won the Bettor Racing OTB Midwest Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D., in 2002. He has now mapped out a schedule - including stops at The Meadowlands, Aqueduct, and the Autotote Sports Haven - in hopes of qualifying for the next NHC, on Jan. 27-28. He said he hopes to join friends who have already qualified for the NHC, including his law school roommate, Bill Shurman, who introduced him to tournament play.

"I'm thrilled about this win, and it was a lot of fun," Schuman said. "But I'm still desperate to qualify."

Nassau OTB recap

Nassau Downs OTB held a tournament at its Race Palace teletheater in Plainview, N.Y., on the day after the Breeders' Cup. Charles Marshall took the $8,900 first prize and qualified for the Horseplayer World Series at The Orleans on Jan. 19-21.

Marshall, from Islip, N.Y., compiled a $153.40 bankroll based on mythical $2 win-and-place wagers on 10 races from Belmont, Churchill, and Santa Anita. Steve Farber of Seaford, N.Y., finished second with $141.50, earning $3,560 and a trip to The Orleans.

The contest attracted 81 players and 89 total entries.