02/09/2012 3:21PM

Q&A: Dave Flanzbaum, National Handicapping Championship runner-up


Finished second two weekends ago in the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas, missing first place by one dollar. He won $150,000, compared to $1 million for the victorious Michael Beychok.

Birthdate: Sept. 22, 1966, in Chicago, Ill.

Family: wife, Lisa; sons, Joe and John; daughter, Samantha

When did you realize you had lost the tournament, and by such a small margin? I left the contest room because I hate the fact that you don’t know anything for so long. I knew it would be an hour before I would know for sure whether I had won or lost. I had someone text me saying the guy behind me had the last winner at Golden Gate. I’m a horseplayer, so I’m generally pessimistic. But when I took the lead in the tournament, I never thought I was going to lose. I never got nervous, never got upset. I’ve been trying to get my head around that for days. I don’t know why I took it that way. But I thought he had beaten me.

On the scale of bad beats, that’s as bad as I’ve seen. How did you take it once you knew for sure you had lost? I go to the track every day. I don’t have to listen to one more bad beat story. It doesn’t matter. I’m done looking at other people’s losing tickets that they want to show me.

Can you wrap your head around the fact that it was an $850,000 difference between first and second? It’s funny, because, being a tournament regular, a few of us were taking about the purse structure before the tournament started, and we were talking about how crazy a disparity there was between first and second. I understand they want a million-dollar winner. But last year’s second-place finisher got the same $150,000, and third last year got more than this year, even with the bigger overall purse. I’ve owned horses my whole life. I didn’t think there was a bigger difference than first to second, 60 percent to 20 percent, but I found it.

You don’t sound angry, though. I’ve been around a long time. What are you going to do? It’s all part of it. It was exciting to be part of it.

Looking back, is there anything you wish you had done differently in that final race? When I bet the horse I bet, he was 20-1. I bet 20 minutes to post. But going into the day, that was the horse I wanted to save a bet for. I didn’t bet the favorite for two days. I haven’t bet a favorite for 10 years. I’m not upset with what I did. The whole weekend, I didn’t feel like I made any mistakes, like being down to two horses and taking the wrong one. I don’t feel like I screwed up on anything.

Other than the tournament, what’s your best score betting on the races? Not that much. When I was 19, I won $35,000 on a harness bet, the Superbet, at Sportsman’s Park. You had to hit an exacta, an exacta, and then a trifecta on three races, all on one ticket.

What are the things you believe are most essential when handicapping a race? I’m a big sheets guy. I believe in the sheets. And pace and old-time handicapping. I like to envision the way it will unfold. I like to put the puzzle together. I pretty much play grass races. I was a regular, full-time horse bettor for seven or eight years, but there are so few opportunities now for someone who likes to bet a little to win a lot. The pools are smaller. So I only play a few days a year now, the Breeders’ Cup and Triple Crown.

Who were your mentors as a handicapper? My dad passed away when I was 18. He was my mentor until then. After that, a group of guys I was friendly with made their own numbers, and taught me how to make figures. On time I was at Hawthorne with them and one friend said, “Go box the 7-8.” They were both 20-1. I made a $20 box. It was the first real Thoroughbred bet of my life. I got back $4,200.

How often do you go to the races? In the summer, I go to Arlington every day, because I own a bunch of horses, and probably have a runner three or four times a week. In the winter, I come down to Gulfstream. But I don’t go to the OTB’s like I used to.

Future ambitions? Just to keep plugging away. I play pretty regularly in on-line tournaments. I’m a racetrack guy. I enjoy going to the track, smoking a cigar, going to the paddock, and just enjoying the horses.

See Q&A with NHC champion Michael Beychok HERE