02/04/2018 8:08PM

Polk first winner of no-takeout WCH finals

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Frank Polk is the first winner of the no-takeout finals of the World Championship of Handicapping.

Polk, who finished best of 111 entries over the two-day, three-round affair, takes home the winner’s share of $138,750 of the $555,000 total purse – both are records for an online contest.

“As a horseplayer, to win a contest like this validates what you do,” he said. “And it’s really fun.”

Polk’s final score of $208.60 was built over 11 collections in the 30-race contest. But his biggest successes came in the middle of round three when he connected back to back with Tapitha Bonita ($32.60 win-place combined) in Santa Anita’s seventh and Shoshone Brave ($64), a cap horse in Gulfstream’s 11th.

“Last time out Tabitha led all the way until the stretch, and her numbers put her in the mix, at least for me,” he said. “Turning for home I didn’t think she’d hang on, but she was fantastic.”

He admitted Shoshone Brave was his second choice. “I liked The Zip Zip Man more, but when they ran against each other last time they were separated less than a length,” he said. “Shoshone had good numbers, had won at the distance three races back, and I couldn’t believe how high the odds were.”

When Polk played in his first handicapping tournament in the mid 2000s in Vegas, one of the tellers asked him how he did. “I told him I did well,” Polk said. “I was proud of coming in 35th. He asked me, ‘What does that pay?’ I told him it didn’t pay anything. Then he asked me, ‘Well, what does last pay?’ ”

At the time, Polk was irritated by the cheeky remark, but over the next few years he came to see that the teller had a point. By focusing on “not embarrassing himself,” in his contest play, he was essentially just middling along, guaranteeing he’d never really do well.

“At first, I just wanted to prove I was as good a handicapper as everybody else, but I didn’t really care if I was better. I picked a lot of logical horses who were maybe 5-2 and 7-2, but that’s not the way to have success in tournaments. I changed my mindset to become more aggressive. It took time, but I was able to develop the confidence to play longer-odds horses.”

His play over this weekend could certainly be described as fitting in with that philosophy. “It was aggressive,” he said. “It was also a little desperate, but I really liked the long-priced horses I played.”

Polk, 63, is an Oklahoma City attorney specializing in aviation finance law, but much of his free time is spent playing the horses. It’s safe to say that his hobby – thanks to his new approach – is paying for itself.

“The game is very random,” he said. “I haven’t had much success this year in tournaments, but in the last two weeks I had a change in approach. I slowed down and worked on having a more positive attitude.”

Throughout 2017, he tried unsuccessfully to qualify for the WCH. “Every time I played it felt like I finished two spots away, but I kept trying,” he said.

In the end, he decided to buy in directly for $5,000, not something he usually does with tournaments as he prefers to qualify.

“I didn’t tell my wife I bought in and I didn’t tell her how much it cost,” he joked. “But I thought it was a good tournament format. I looked at the races the first day and had a good feeling about them. Plus, I liked the fact that the players got out of it what they put into it.”

The final prizes:
1st:  Frank Polk  208.60 ($138,750)
2nd:  Alan Hoffman  201.00 ($88,800)
3rd:  Justin Nicholson  195.90 ($66,600)
4th:  Robert Masiello  189.70 ($49,950)
5th:  Tim Darnell  178.40 ($41,625)
6th:  Tom Boyko  174.00 ($33,300)
7th:  Barbara Bowley  170.90 ($27,750)
8th:  Jeff Bussan  165.20 ($22,200)
9th:  McKay Smith  164.70 ($16,650)
10th:  Adam Thoutt  151.50 ($11,100)
11th:  Sean Anthony  150.10 ($9,435)
12th:  Vincent Miller  145.00 ($8,880)
13th:  Gregg Kingma  142.60 ($8,325)
14th:  Ken Seeman  142.30 ($7,215)
15th:  Trevor Tilston-Jones  139.40 ($6,660)
16th:  Edward Reidy  139.10 ($4,995)
17th:  Ken Seeman  136.40 ($3,885)
18th:  Samuel Decicco  135.60 ($3,330)
19th:  Mark Holmes  135.10 ($2,775)
20th:  Sammy Richman  133.70 ($2,775)