08/03/2005 12:00AM

Sticking to value plays pays off


Eric Schweiger of Kent, Wash., topped a field of 400 players in Emerald Downs's Ultimate Qualifying Tournament last Saturday and will lead a group of nine qualifers the track will send to the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Champion-ship in January in Las Vegas.

Sticking to his strategy of playing no horse at less than 4-1 odds, Schweiger compiled a mythical bankroll of $147.40 - almost $20 ahead of his nearest competitor - based on $2 win-and-place wagers on all 10 Emerald Downs races and five optional races from around the country. Schweiger, a longtime racing fan who has owned racehorses, earned the $10,000 grand prize.

In addition to the $200,000 first prize offered at the NHC, Schweiger and the eight other qualifiers become eligible for a $300,000 bonus offered for the first time by Emerald Downs to any of its team members who go on to win the championship, which will be held Jan. 27-28, 2006, at Bally's Las Vegas.

The Ultimate Qualifying Tournament was free to enter and attracted players from 22 states and Canadian provinces. Half of the field was composed of invited handicappers and veteran tournament players from around the country, plus the top 100 bettors in Emerald Downs' player-rewards program. The other half of the field was determined by a random drawing. Forty-one of the players had competed in previous national championships, including former champions Steve Walker (2000) and Steve Wolfson Jr. (2003).

Emerald Downs will send three teams of three players to the NHC. The other qualifiers, with final bankrolls, are Marty Smith of Auburn, Wash. ($127.80); Al Martineau of Maple Valley, Wash. ($127.40); Don Sullivan of Houston ($126.80); Robin Carleson of Sedro Wooley, Wash. ($124.20); Peter Defotis of Tacoma, Wash. ($123.80); Scott Sinclair of Coquitlam, British Columbia ($114.50); Donald Fischer of Bloomfield, N.J. ($113.60); and Don Cook of Seattle ($111.50).

Sullivan is the only qualifier with previous NHC experience. He finished ninth in January as part of Team Sam Houston/Valley Race Park.

Del Mar

George Dowling, of Walnut Creek, Calif., clobbered a field of 50 players who put up the required $6,000 real-money bankroll to enter the Del Mar Handicapping Challenge last Saturday and Sunday.

Dowling jumped out to the lead on day one and multiplied his original bankroll almost nine times overall, bringing his total to $52,538 for the two-day tournament and winning the challenge by a $28,988 margin. He also earned the winner-take-all grand prize of $25,000, giving him total winnings of $46,563 and a berth into the NHC.

Players had to wager at least $300 on each of 20 Del Mar races over the two days. All bet types were allowed except for multi-race wagers.

The rest of the top five finishers also qualified for spots in the national championship: runner-up Jay Clark of Pasadena, Calif. ($28,988); Steve Pollack of La Mesa, Calif. ($13,344); Brett Kelly of Orlando, Fla. ($12,579); and Richard Murray of North Hills, Calif. ($10,896)

Canterbury Park

Canterbury Park will offer two berths into the NHC in its Dog Days of Summer Handicapping Tournament on Aug. 13-14.

The entry fee is $100, plus players must put up a $400 real-money bankroll. Players will wager at least $200 each day on any simulcast signal Canterbury takes from 10 a.m. on Saturday through the last race at Del Mar on Sunday. Winnings may be reinvested throughout the contest.

The minimum prize money will total $5,000, with $2,500 going to the winner, based on 50 entries. Two entries per person are allowed.

For more information, call Jeff Maday at (952) 496-6437 or visit canterburypark.com.