06/21/2005 11:00PM

Speed pans out for Delaware winner

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Michael Mazzio, a florist from Wilmington, Del., turned a starting real-money bankroll of $200 into $3,008 and defeated a deep field of 433 horseplayers to win the rich Delaware Park Handicapping Tournament on June 18.

Mazzio, 48, pocketed the tournament's $21,500 first prize and also got to keep his contest bankroll, making his total earnings for the one-day contest $24,508. He also qualified for the $500,000 Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship at Bally's Las Vegas on Jan. 27-28, 2006.

Greg Knepper of West Lawn, Penn., led going into the last race of the contest, but lost his final wager and finished with a $2,879.30 bankroll. Knepper still earned $7,500 in prize money and also qualified for the national finals.

Joe Scanio of Brooklyn, N.Y., who earlier this year qualified for his second straight NHC with a victory at Arlington, finished third with $2,360. Scanio earned a berth into the Horseplayer World Series at the Orleans in Las Vegas on Jan. 19-21, 2006. Bill Handleman, the 1995 World Series of Handicapping winner and sports columnist for the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, finished fourth with $1,958.60 and also earned a spot in the Horseplayer World Series.

The key to Mazzio's victory was Monmouth Park's race four, where he bet almost all of his $670 real-money bankroll at the time. He wagered $400 to win and $200 to place on Sonawho, who set the pace and held on to win by a neck, returning $10.20 and $6.60.

"I like to bet speed," said Mazzio, who learned to handicap from his father. "I like to bet short races, and the main thing I look for is speed horses dropping in class."

The large wager returned $2,700 for Mazzio and put him in the lead until late in the contest, when he was passed by Knepper. Mazzio reclaimed the lead after a $200 across-the-board bet on runner-up G P Fleet in Churchill's Opening Verse Stakes returned him $520. Despite losing $80 on the race, it was good enough to put him in front after Knepper's final losing bet.

Contestants in the Delaware contest paid $100 to enter and provided their own $200 starting real-money bankrolls. Players tried to build the highest dollar total using only win, place, and show bets on races from Delaware, Belmont, Churchill, Colonial Downs, Monmouth, and Philadelphia Park.

The total purse for the event came to $43,400 since Delaware returned all entry fees as prize money. The top 10 players all earned prize money, with the rest of the top 50 winning back their original $100 buy-in.

Delaware Park will host two more similar DRF/NTRA qualifying tournaments in 2005, on Oct. 1. and Dec. 10.

Postal worker delivers a victory

Dennis Desenberg, a U.S. postal worker from Norwalk, Iowa, topped 99 other players to win the Prairie Meadows DRF/NTRA Qualifying Tournament on June 18.

Desenberg compiled a mythical bankroll of $90.20, based on $2 win-and-place bets on 15 races, including five simulcast races and the entire Prairie Meadows live card. He earned $2,500 for his victory and a berth into NHC VII.

Bill Downes, the track announcer at Beulah Park, finished second, earning $2,000 and qualifying for his second trip to the national finals. Downes finished 240th in NHC V after qualifying at Hoosier Park. Ted Whitley of St. Louis finished third, earning $1,500 and rounding out a three-person team that will represent Prairie Meadows in the championship.

The Prairie Meadows tournament had a $100 entry fee and returned 100 percent of all fees to the top 10 finishers. With a sell-out field of 100 players, the total purse was $10,000. Prairie Meadows will host another tournament Sept. 10.