02/09/2012 2:09PM

Q&A: Michael Beychok, National Handicapping Championship winner


Won the $1 million first prize two weekends ago at the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas.

Birthdate: Aug. 1, 1963, in Baton Rouge, La.

Family: wife, Rochelle; sons, Bradley, Matthew, daughter, Brooke

When did you know you had won the tournament? When they announced it, which was about 45 minutes after the last race. I wasn’t sure I had won. I was getting whispers from some people that Dave (Flanzbaum, the runner-up) didn’t have the last winner.

So did you celebrate when the race was over thinking you had won the tournament, or were you just happy you had that last winner? I was celebrating that I picked the winner, that I had done what I could. I knew 5-2 would not get it done. I knew I needed $11 [for win and place]. When they put the final odds up, and I saw he closed at 3-1, I thought I had won it. But that was pending Dave not having the first- or second-place horse. So there were a lot of bullets to dodge in those last 20 or 30 minutes.

Describe your thought process leading up to and during that final race. Knowing that I needed $11 I was looking, first, for the horse I thought was going to win. Who would I bet? I saw a horse who was 10-1, which was value, which is the way I play. I was talking out loud – 10-1 shots only win one out of 11 times, but 3-1 wins one out of four. This was not the time to fight the statistics. That’s how I talked myself into it. The 3-1 shot had the fastest Thoro-Graph figure. I didn’t want to get beat by the horse with the fastest Thoro-Graph figure. I only needed 3-1, so why talk myself into a grand slam when I only needed to hit a dink single? The 10-1 shot finished third.

You won the tournament by one dollar. What’s it like to win $1 million, especially by such a slim margin? I can’t really describe what it meant to win. The money’s not real yet. I haven’t deposited the check yet. I’m beginning to get my head around the drama of it all. Horse racing is decided a lot of times by inches, like Blame and Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. To inject yourself into a small portion of horse racing – I don’t want to call it history, but into the current events, and so dramatically – is pretty cool. It’s memorable to people. It’s a lifetime of work. I’m almost even.

Other than that, what’s your next-best score betting on the races? I hit the pick six at Santa Anita twice in the last three years, both times right around the new year. The first was for $60,000, the next was $105,000. My mom says my biorhythms must be really good in January. Politics is centered around one day, the first Tuesday in November. That’s your Breeders’ Cup Day. My mind is so cluttered I can’t focus on handicapping before then. It takes me a month to decompress. Then around the holidays, I’ve had my best times. I win more in December and January than any other time of the year. I make 90 percent of my salary in September and October. So in December and January, I’m not betting scared money. I’ve got money in the bank. And I’m not worried about work.

What are the things you believe are most essential when handicapping a race? I don’t rely on the Racing Form because everybody has it. If everybody has the same information, then it’s not valuable. There are things in Formulator that are valuable, like race replays. I try to use information that 90 percent of the people don’t have – Thoro-Graph figures, Ed Bain trainer stats, Gradeoneracing.com for workouts, and Horseplayernow.com for trips. I take those four things and throw them in my head and spit out something.

Who were your mentors as a handicapper? Steve Davidowitz’s “Betting Thoroughbreds” was the first racing book I ever read, and then Andy Beyer’s “My $50,000 Year at the Races” was a lightbulb, or a dark day, depending on how you want to categorize it. It made me want to do this.

Future ambitions? I want to qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. I’ll probably buy in anyway, but it’s something I want to qualify for. I want to go to Saratoga again. My dad took me there in 1981.

See Q&A with NHC runner-up Dave Flanzbaum HERE