If the name Kirk Tesar is unfamiliar to most tournament players, it is with good reason.
“Somehow I just wasn’t aware until last year—around Derby or Preakness time—that tournaments even existed,” said the 34-year-old manufacturing plant production manager from Plymouth, Indiana.
Tesar is clearly making up for lost time. About a month after “discovering” tournament play, Kirk won his first NHC seat on HorseTourneys. And last Saturday, he enjoyed his biggest score ever–$30,000—by finishing first of 132 in HorseTourneys’ $75,000 Guaranteed game.
A diehard Chicago White Sox fan, Tesar is well acquainted with pain and suffering. But he endured remarkably little of either en route to his $30,000 score. He never went more than two consecutive races without a collection. And once Penjade captured the 8th race at Saratoga (the 5th race of the 13-race competition), Tesar’s “running line” looked like that of a strong horse whose victory was never in doubt: 11th, 9th, 6th, 3rd, 1st.
His best bet of the day came even before Penjade’s race—it was Running Stride ($17.40 to win, $6.20 to place) in the second contest race, the 7th at Ellis Park.
“I really liked him,” Tesar said. “I use a combination of the past performances and my own notes that I keep on various horses. I had followed that horse, and that was a good one to see pop up in the contest.”
After the Penjade hit at 7-1, Tesar liked his position, but he figured he was in trouble following the 9th and 10th races at Saratoga when he switched his pick in the 9th from the eventual longshot winner Firenze Fire to runner up Free Drop Billy; and then in the 10th from runner up Quidura to third-place finisher Antonoe.
“I don’t like to change my picks—even in live-format contests—and when that happened, I really started to get bogged down. I said to myself, ‘Man, I’m going to blow this now.’”
With four races left, Tesar caught a modest but critical 3-1 winner in the 4th at Del Mar that moved him all the way up to third place. He whiffed in the nightcap at Saratoga, and that left the 5th and 6th races at Del Mar to separate what was a very tight leaderboard.
So what did Tesar do in the 5th at Del Mar? He changed his pick!
“I went against my gut on that one,” he admitted. “Actually the corner of my papers had folded up and only a few minutes before the race went off did I see all the notes I had on Decarchy Dawn. So I went against the grain and switched my pick to that horse.”
This time it was a good move. Tesar’s original pick wound up finishing off the board, and Decarchy Dawn managed to grab second at a nice place return of $10.40—enough to move Tesar in front by 60 cents.
That left one more race, Del Mar Race 6, and one more decision to make.
“My top pick was the 10, Fashion Business,” Tesar said. “But I also really liked the 4 [5-2 shot Sorry Erik]. I went back and forth for a while, and even called my dad, told him about the contest and asked him which number he liked better—4 or 10. He said he liked 10 better, just because it is a bigger number. Between that, and just not wanting to change my mind again, I stuck with 10 and, before I knew it, the race was closing, so I watched it without checking who everyone behind me had picked. When the 4 held off the 10 at the wire, I was certain I had lost. I knew I’d get something, but I thought for sure that one of the others would have the 4 and move past me.”
To Tesar’s great surprise–and relief–no one did. At least no one in contention. And the $5.00 place price for Fashion Business only extended Tesar’s margin of victory over runner up Gary Machiz to a still-slim-but-now-unalterable $5.60.
His biggest-ever score now realized, Tesar will search the handicapping calendar for other tournaments he might enjoy. He has tentatively noted upcoming competitions at Hawthorne and Indiana Grand—both a reasonable drive from his home, which is 30 miles south of South Bend and an hour and a half south of Chicago.
“I want to branch out more, but I work quite a bit—usually six days a week,” he says.
What about the $100,000 Guaranteed contest at HorseTourneys on Travers Day, August 26?
Tesar chuckled. “I just bought in to that one today!”