08/30/2017 11:20AM

Whisman's DQ luck turning around

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Tyler Whisman’s contest career started with a memorable disqualification. He was playing in a live-bank event at Churchill Downs in 2014 and was in good position. He backed A Little Bit Sassy in the Regret Stakes and was looking like he was going to be in a favorable position when the mare crossed the line first – until the stewards placed her number fourth.

“You never know what other people would have played,” the 35-year-old pharmacist from Union, Ky., said, “but I certainly would have been in a much more favorable position had the result stood.”

As it happened, Whisman finished one spot out of the money that day, but his love of contests remained. Earlier this year, a win on DRF Tournaments sent him to the Santa Anita Preakness contests, where he ended up in the money by virtue of a fourth-place finish, and just this Sunday, on his birthday, he repeated the feat, winning a seat to the Santa Anita Autumn Challenge via tournaments.drf.com. Once again, a DQ was involved, but this time the stewards ruled in his favor, taking down Zapperkat for Munny Spunt ($52.80 win-place combined) in the Torrey Pines. Funny enough, two races earlier, Whisman received much-needed points through another DQ, after Significant Form was taken down in the Spa nightcap for Cool Beans ($15.10), another horse he’d backed.

For Whisman, there was poetic justice. As horseplayers, sometimes we live by the DQ and sometimes we die by the DQ. On Sunday, he was on the right side of the line in a format where he doesn’t typically excel.

“I usually don’t do very well in mythical-money tournaments,” he said. “I much prefer the live-bankroll events.”

When he does play online, he prefers tournaments like the ones on DRFT where the ratio of prizes to players is lower – that is, a smaller group of players are competing for each award. “I seem to be more susceptible to people finding cap horses in the mythical setting and scrambling for them,” he said. “I’m usually not that good at finding cap horses or anything close to that, and you can worry about those less with a player-friendly ratio.”

His philosophy is simple. “I’d rather focus on picking winners,” he said.

Whisman is the father of a 4-year old, and he and his wife have another child on the way, which sometimes makes it tricky to find time to be a horseplayer. But he’s tried to incorporate his contest play into his family life.

“I took my family to Santa Anita in May and I’ve been back two times since, once as a part of a work trip and once for a Disneyland/Santa Anita trip,” he said.

In addition to Sunday being his birthday, he was scheduled to attend a volleyball tournament that day, causing him to play the Santa Anita qualifier as if it were an all-in event, even though it was a live format where picks could be changed throughout.

After he saw online that Munny Spunt had won, he decided to check in on the tournament. He was $5 in front. In a smart moment of strategy, he decided to play the big Bob Baffert favorite Nero in the second-to-last race, his logic being that the extra $5 from Nero would put him far enough ahead that he’d automatically have the protection of the favorite (Bird Is the Word) in the anchor leg. In other words, if his nearest opponent played the chalk in the last and the horse won, Whisman would still win the contest.

Halfway through the stretch the plan looked brilliant. Then whatever happened with Nero happened, and he finished second at odds-on. Luckily for Whisman, no one had the winner, Beautiful Shot, and he still got place points for Nero.

Heading to the last race he was up $7. No one in range played Bird Is the Word – possibly fearing they’d be blocked by Whisman if they did.

“I didn’t really like the horse, but I sure ended up rooting for him,” Whisman said of Bird Is the Word.

Whisman’s selection, Conscripted, had a bit of a bad trip, but Bird Is the Word got the job done for him and Whisman is headed back to Santa Anita.

“It’s a beautiful place and they really take care of you,” he said.