In one of the great big-money handicapping tournament performances of all time, 59-year-old Pete Puhich of Renton, Wash., finished first and second with his two entries to win a total of $373,091.40 in the 2017 Horse Player World Series.
Third and seventh after Day 1, Puhich held the top two spots for most of Day 3, save for a brief period when he was first and third. He entered the same day 3 picks on each of his tickets, and after cashing on his first four of 15 Day 3 plays, Puhich then hit a rare (for the weekend) cold streak, thereby allowing Joseph Karabaich to briefly sneak into second place. But Puhich re-rallied to again gain the top two spots, finishing with 3,507 and 3,321 points. He wins $271,339.20 for the first-place effort and $101,752.20 for his runner up performance.
Joseph Karabaich was third at 3,272, Brent Sumja had a big final day to close for fourth with 2,938, and Day 1 leader Brett Wiener checked in fifth with $2,752.
Ken Seeman was the “Day 3 Only” leader with 1957.60 points.
Here’s a look at the Top 29 overall finishers:
And here’s the purse breakdown:
But the weekend belonged to Puhich who, when factoring in daily bonus money, brought in over half of the total prize pool of some $770,000.
“It was a total rush,” said Puhich, a retired Boeing line mechanic whose cousin Michael is a Southern California trainer and farm manager. “I couldn’t sleep last night, but I started out four-for-four today and from that point on, I knew I was going to do very well. I wanted to take the top two spots—purely for bragging rights. Originally, I was only going to buy one entry but [tournament director] Debbie Flaig convinced me to buy a second. I’m glad I did.”
What was looking like a rout early on Day 3 got much closer later as scores tightened, though.
“I was definitely getting nervous as the afternoon progressed. I was afraid the player behind me would pass me,” Puhich said. “But then with about three races left in the contest, Debbie came up to me and asked if I wanted my money in cash or check. I looked at her and asked if she was trying to tell me that the others were out of plays and that I was going to win. She didn’t answer, but that gave me a good feeling.”
Puhich comes from a gambling family. In addition to his cousin Michael—who Pete says taught him everything he knows about handicapping—Pete’s father was a ran a dry cleaning business which was a front for his bookmaking operation. It was a 67-year “family business”, though Pete is currently in the process of selling the dry cleaning building in Renton. Once the sale is completed, the recently-retired Boeing veteran plans to relocate to Las Vegas.
“In about two weeks, this will be my new home,” Puhich said. “This weekend’s tournament is a big part of all that. I’ve got the time, and now I’ve got the money.”
Though Puhich rarely plays tournaments, he enjoys the Horse Player World Series because the rules allow one to select his or her own races. “I’m going to have to play more tournaments, I guess. But I’ll concentrate on the ones where I can make my own plays.”
That’s bad news, perhaps, for fellow contest players. But good news for those interested in seeing what Puhich can possibly do for an encore after such a memorable performance.