03/29/2017 10:57AM

Wolfson maintains fervor for contest play


Just because Steve Wolfson Sr. is in the Horseplayer Hall of Fame doesn’t mean he’s resting on his laurels. He’s been on a run in online contests, winning seats online to both Keeneland’s Grade One Gamble and the Horse Player World Series, the latter on Sunday in a DRF Tournaments event.

Funny enough, Wolfson won’t be able to attend the HPWS. He didn’t realize upon signing up that the contest started this Thursday.

“Unlike many contest players, I don’t think I’m going to win every time I play,” he admitted. “I just love playing in contests and I don’t always do the best job in reading all the rules beforehand.”

Fortunately for him, all the grand prizes on DRF Tournaments right now are transferable. Given his many contacts in the contest world, he won’t have much trouble finding someone to either purchase his seat or play it for him, even on short notice. Keep in mind, the HPWS allows unlimited purchase of entries.

Sunday’s contest was an all-in event, but often Wolfson plays live contests exactly as if they were all-in anyway, rarely changing picks until maybe the very end. His natural way of playing the horses is suited to contest play. He doesn’t strategize to reach a certain score, he just picks the horses he likes. He does follow a few ground rules.

“I just always look for value,” he said. “Other players will play an 8-5 but I’d never do that, I’m always interested in horses I think will be 5-1 or higher. I’ll typically throw in a real outsider in one of the last couple of races in case I’m way behind.”

He’s a big fan of weekday feeders. “I love the competition and if I do well during the week I can play in the bigger qualifiers on the weekends,” he said.

His Keeneland qualification came because a friend was late to play gin rummy on a weekday afternoon.

“I had a few minutes so I put in some picks and got lucky and advanced to a weekend qualifier,” he said. “That got me an entry to Keeneland on April 23.”

In the contest world, Wolfson is known as a breeding expert, partially because of his time working with both his familys Harbor View Farm and Happy Valley Racing. His biggest winner on Sunday was Extravagant Kid ($44.40). Asked a few days after the event if it was a breeding angle that led him to the horse he said, “Ninety-eight percent of the time you could say that about one of my picks and you’d be right.”

Prodded to give advice to players looking to improve their knowledge of breeding, he demurred.

“Anybody can look up pedigrees,” he said, “but what I have that others don’t is a memory of a horse that might have been good enough to be a stakes winner but never got there. That’s the only edge I still have.”

Wolfson has several claims to fame in the contest world, not the least of which is that his son Steve Wolfson Jr. has had a great record of success at the National Handicapping Championship. He won the event in 2003 and was a strong second this year.

“I was so jealous,” Wolfson Sr. joked. “Actually I was incredibly proud and happy to be there and be among the people offering him advice. To his great credit, he listened, processed the information we gave him, and then went and he did what he wanted to do.”

Wolfson has been mildly critical of some of the big horses in recent years – out of loyalty to his father, who owned Affirmed, he went on record that he rooting against California Chrome and American Pharoah in their Triple Crown bids. He was blown away by what he saw last weekend from Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup.

“I was so impressed,” he said. “As they used to say, ‘He has the look of eagles.’ To miss the start and do what he did wrapped up – we are all blessed to have him around right now.”