04/02/2017 10:00AM

Puhich's 'Go big' plan in HPWS pays off big

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Go big or go home.

It’s a mantra you’ll hear in the contest world uttered by players who understand that it’s usually better to take risks in an attempt to finish high up on the leaderboard than it is to middle along and avoid “embarrassment” by finishing low down in the standings.

The phrase took on a new meaning this weekend at the Horse Player World Series, where Pete Puhich achieved what can only be described as one of the greatest achievements in the history of handicapping tournaments: he completed his own personal exacta, finishing first and second and netting just over $373,000.

Puhich, a 59-year-old retired Boeing line mechanic from Renton, Wash., was third and seventh after the first day. Puhich is the cousin of California trainer and farm director Mike Puhich, whom he credited as his major handicapping influence. His favorite aspect of the HPWS as opposed to other contests is that the format is all optional, meaning players can choose which 15 races to play each day from the assorted contest tracks.

The second day also went great for Puhich. He had the second-best day score overall and finished up in first and second. In the past, other players have been in similar spots (John Connolly and Ken Jordan come to mind) and the typical path is to split the two high-up tickets at some point, in an effort to have more chances to win and improve the possibility of getting/keeping one entry on the top of the mountain. The HPWS has a top-heavy prize pool (see below) that encourages this type of strategy.

But that’s not the path Puhich chose. He was running hot and wanted to win it all, so he continued to play the same horses on both of his tickets.

He started the third day red hot, connecting on his first four plays. At some point, he briefly lost second, when Joe Karabaich made a move into second, but in the end he completed the impressive feat. His opponents had tightened the score late but his closest pursuers were out of bullets with three races to go. Puhich gets $271,339.20 for first and $101,752.20 for the place money. Not to mention a place in contest history.

In all, 571 entries competed for a total of $770,850 in purses. They paid down to 60th place. Here is a look at the top ten:

1. Pete Puhich ($271,339.20)
2. Pete Puhich ($101,752.20)
3. Joe Karabaich ($47,484.36)
4. Brent Sumja ($33,917.40)
5. Brett Wiener ($20,350.44)
6. Ed Peters ($6,783.48)
7. Bonnie Simmonds ($6,783.48)
8. Mike Wondka ($6,783.48)
9. Vincent Easley ($6,783.48)
10. Dave Curich ($6,783.48)