08/11/2016 9:09PM

Scott Carson breaks through in Saratoga contest


Scott Carson is a bridesmaid no more. Carson, the 51-year-old founder of PublicHandicapper.com, had previously finished second twice NYRA events. This year NYRA switched to the live-bankroll format and in Thursday’s event, Carson got over the hump posting a total of $14,930.50, besting a field of 211 entries.  

“I felt like I was due,” he said, “and it feels great to do it in a live-bankroll event because I really enjoy betting huge amounts of money on horses that I like.”

In addition to keeping his bankroll, Carson ended up collecting $25,320 in prize money, plus seats to both the National Handicapping Championship and the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. This is the second NHC seat for 2017 for Carson, who will be appearing in his ninth NHC. He has played in the BCBC four times previously, but this is the first time he has won his way in. He’s pumped at the chance to play in the BCBC on a free roll this time around. “This is like hitting the jackpot,” he said. “The Breeders’ Cup offers the best value of any racing in the country.  

He pushed all-in in Saratoga’s nightcap and ended up connecting with a $500 exacta. Ironically, the bet, which allowed him to kill the race and collect for $14,875, was originally intended as a hedge. He bet $1,000 on Seize to win, a $200 exacta Seize-Light the Night, and a $200 tri Seize over Light the Night and another horse. “Then I said to myself, ‘what if Seize doesn’t win?’” Carson explained. “I decided to play the remaining $500 Light the Night over Seize and that’s the way it came in."

Carson hit the win, exacta, and trifecta in Saratoga’s ninth race to really get in the game, keying on the winner, Free N Clear. “She had just run a small top [on Ragozin Sheets] and I thought she was improving and I loved how she closed,” he said. “That trainer [Patrick Quick] had not had a horse even finish in the money in the last five years according to Formulator, but I just felt like it was his day.” 

Formulator was also helpful to Carson in the nightcap. “I always merge the workouts into the PPs and Light the Night’s gate workout really stood out to me so I decided to include him,” he said, “and my key horse, Seize, also showed three nice works since the last race.”

Additionally, trainer Michael Trombetta’s positive off-the-layoff stats encouraged Carson to cover Light the Night.

Carson, in addition to owning a computer training business and running PublicHandicapper, is also a frequent guest on the DRF Players’ Podcast. “I’m happy to have earned my place on the pod,” he said. “It’s rewarding to prove that I belong among the top guys.” 

Speaking of top guys and the podcast, Paul Shurman, a 61-year-old workers’ comp attorney from Melville, N.Y., ran second to his friend Carson, whom he has mentored in contests. Shurman, a self-professed “nut for preparation,” was a little off his game yesterday in the first day of a back-to-back doubleheader of contests. “I had a little issue at work and my head wasn’t in the game,” he said.

He woke up early this morning and got his act together, preparing thoroughly with all his potential plays handicapped. “I meant to go big in the eighth race at Gulfstream, but the price was too short so I only bet half instead of betting it all,” he said. 

This was fortuitous as his selection there had a horror trip and lost. He came back with a trifecta in Saratoga’s eighth, hit the 10th at Gulfstream keying the eight horse to get him up to $900. From there, he took a shot in the last going all in with a win bet and an exacta, but it was not enough to catch Carson. Because he is already double-qualified, the NHC seat he would have won will go to another familiar name, Christian Hellmers, but Shurman was not disappointed by the result. “Two things always happen when I do well,” he said. “I’m always shocked and I’m always happy. I would have liked a little more money or a Breeders’ Cup spot, but how can I complain? It’s Saratoga.”

Shurman maintains his status as the premier bridesmaid on the New York contest circuit. Incredibly this is fifth second in a NYRA event. What will it take to finally get him in a NYRA contest winner’s circle?

“It would help to not have Carson here playing $500 cold exactas.”

Here is a look at the unofficial top 10 with prizes listed in parentheses:

Scott Carson $14, 930 ($25,320 + NHC seat + BCBC seat)

Paul Shurman $6,380.25 ($12,660)

Christian Hellmers $6,077.50 ($10,128 + NHC seat)

David Nelson $5,971.00 ($8,440)

Joseph Appelbaum $5,680.50 ($6,752)

Randy Gallo $5,491.00 ($5,908)

Mark D’Amato $4,420.00 ($5,064)

Steven Duffield $4,006.75 ($3,376)

Anthony Kite $3,300.00 ($3,376)

Ken Hopkins $3,160.00 ($3,376)