Terence Cook hit a $700 win bet on last race winner Fairybrook ($8.80) to move ahead of Tony Zhou and collect the top prize of $17,550–plus live bankroll winnings of $6,170–in today’s first day of the Saratoga Challenge.
Cook also won a $10,000 entry to the 2018 Belmont Stakes Betting Challenge, which he chose over a berth in the 2018 National Horseplayers Championship. (The second and third place finishers earned NHC seats as a result.)
The Challenge is run as two separate one-day contests. Players will congregate again on the second floor of the Saratoga Clubhouse for tomorrow’s competition.
Cook, a Baltimore resident, spent much of the day discussing his plays on the phone with three fellow Charm City horseplayers: Mark Komen, Marc Saperstein, and Bob Schmidt. “We play a lot together, and I was the only one who could be here today,” said Cook, a HorseTourneys regular who some have dubbed “TGIF” Cook due to his proficiency in Friday cash tourneys.
“I guess I showed today that I can win on Wednesdays,” Cook laughed. “I’m going to come back tomorrow and see if I can win on Thursdays!”
The Saratoga Challenge started all players with a $500 bankroll and required them to make five plays of at least $100 on the Saratoga card. Cook and company moved into contention when they hit a $100 win bet on 5th race first-time starter Evaluator ($20.00). “I like the trainer [Michael Dilger] and his workout reports were good,” Cook said.
Cook stepped things up in the 7th race, putting $1,000 to win on Verdant Pastures who wired the field and paid $9.80. “She was the only true speed in the race,” said Cook.
As Cook was building his bankroll, so was the formidable tournament player Tony Zhou. The second half of the day was a figurative seesaw battle between the two. Heading into the 10th and final race of the day. Zhou led Cook $6,170 to $4,910.
Cook noticed that there was a $2,003 gap between himself and third-place, so he decided to bet a total of $1,100 in the race–$700 on Fairybrook and $400 on #1 Ouro Verde–figuring that it might not cost him second even if neither horse won.
Zhou opted to pass the race and make someone come get him, and that’s exactly what Cook did.
It was hardly a bad day for Zhou, though. He won $8,775 plus his final bankroll of $6,170 for a total of $14,945–plus an NHC seat.
Christopher Dewey finished third, taking the day’s other available NHC seat plus a total of $9,727 ($7,020 plus bankroll winnings of $2,707.
Frank Grybsoki Jr., Eugene Davenport, 2016 Saratoga Day 2 winner Scott Carson, Ken Jordan, Joe Calvo, John Gorzki and Kevin Cox rounded out the top 10 in the field of 155, and each took home prize pool amounts ranging from $5,850 to $2,340 in addition to their live bankroll earnings.