(By Jim Mulvihill of the NTRA and courtesy of Keeneland)
Tom Maloof, a 59-year-old project management consultant from Middleborough, Mass., cashed big on the first and last races of the card to amass a final bankroll of $13,004 and win Sunday’s BCBC/NHC Challenge, the richest handicapping contest of the meet. In addition to his bankroll winnings, Maloof took home a $21,000 first-place cash prize, plus an all-expenses-paid berth to the $2.9 million (est.) National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) and a paid entry to the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC).
Maloof got off to a fast start when he hit a $100 trifecta on the opener, which paid $8,680 thanks to the 13-1 winner, Boxer Boy. In the finale, he cashed with a $700 exacta (returning $8,120) and a $20 tri ($964).
“I bet with both hands when I get to the dirt sprints,” Maloof said. “I wouldn’t say they’re easier but I know I can’t figure out the rest of them. In the one-turn races I can see a little better how the pace will play out.”
The ninth-race score moved Maloof up from ninth to first.
“Because the last race was pretty chalky I figured I’d be in the top six but I really didn’t expect to leapfrog that many people,” he said.
The top 15 finishers earned cash from a $58,500 pool, with the prize amounts descending from first to 15th. After Maloof, the top 15 was rounded out by Jim Staub, Mike Maloney, Mark Deaton, Nick Tammaro, Paul Weizer, Sean Boarman, Jim Casey, Travis Stone, David Watts, Dan Slattery, Blake Jessee, Clay Sanders, Jack Jenkins, and Brian Johnson.
The top six earned BCBC entries and the top 10 won NHC berths. Two players in the top 10 already held the maximum of two NHC entries, allowing Slattery and Jessee to punch tickets to Las Vegas. There were 164 entries.
Tammaro capped off a big weekend that started with a win in Saturday’s Keeneland Fall Challenge contest.
“I’m usually a big exotics player but ironically my big hit today was $300 to win on the 12 in the fifth and that was the bug boy’s first win,” Tammaro said, referring to Star Dog’s upset with apprentice Edgar Morales aboard, paying $25.80 for $2.
For Stone, the track announcer at Churchill Downs and Aqueduct, his ninth-place finish will take him to Las Vegas for a first official NHC appearance.
“I don’t get to play in many of these because I’m always working,” Stone said. “But I always hear from my friends that go every year how much fun it is and I’m excited to be a part of it and have some fun with them.”
Final standings are available at http://www.keeneland.com/simulcast/contest-results (Note the published standings do not reflect the disqualification of two players who failed to bet either the minimum number of required races or half of their bankroll in one of the final two races.)