If you want to play the ponies, but do not want to sacrifice any of your hard earned cash, one of the best places to play is at a site called PublicHandicapper.com. It is presented by the Daily Racing Form and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
PublicHandicapper.com (PH) hosts three contests throughout the year. From December and January is the contest called “Winter of Our Discontent.” Then, starting in February and running through April is the “Public Handicapper Prep.” The final contest, the big one, is the “Publichandicapper Challenge” and it runs from the Kentucky Oaks (the Friday before the Kentucky Derby) through the Breeders Cup (November). This one is the largest and has the biggest prizes.
In each of these contests, you are offered four races per weekend to pick from. Most are on Saturday, but some run on Sunday/Monday. You pick your top three finishers and once you make your selection and save it, you cannot change it. If your first selection scratches, your second is used. You do not have to run each race but during each of the contests you are required to enter a minimum number of races to qualify for the prizes. In “Winter” it is 12, “Prep” is 28 and “Challenge” is 60.
This means that in the case of “Winter,” I started on January 13 2007 by entering four races and as long as I enter four this weekend and four the following (the final weekend) I will meet my requirements and I am eligible to win. By the way I am currently ranked 191 out of 3183 players. Not bad for one week. My score is $20.80 and I very easily could have been in the top 30 if I would have gone with my No. 2 choice in the fourth race (Awesome Gem) instead of my actual choice (A.P. Xcellent), but that is how it goes.
Each week you are given four races to bet. The bet amount is $2.00. As with most fantasy sports, this is a fictitious bet and no real money is gambled. If you win, the winnings are added to your score. If you lose, the $2.00 is deducted from your score. In my case last Saturday I won the first two races. The first one, “Purim,” paid $7.60. I now have to subtract the $2.00 and that leaves me with $5.60. The second race I won with “Venomous,” That paid $19.20. I subtract my $2.00 and have $17.20.This gives me $24.80.
My last two races, I lost some from my $24.80 and I now have my score of $20.80. Now all I have to do is out perform the leader who has a total of $74.00. What do I win if I take it all? $100 cash, a three month subscription to the DRF online and a PH T-shirt! Not bad for a free contest.
For the PublicHandicapper Prep, it is $500, the subscription, and the T-shirt. And for the Challenge, it is a trip for two to the 2007 Breeders Cup World thoroughbred Championships at Monmouth Park (airfare, hotel and tickets), a one-year subscription (720 cards), and a trophy proclaiming that you are “America’s finest Handicapper.” Plus, a trip to the 2007 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas (actually this goes to the top 3 finishers) including Airfare and hotel expenses. And last, but certainly not least, a PH T-shirt!
Prizes for the entire contest go through the top 20 (mostly T-shirts), but in the big contest there are many more. Beyond winning the big prizes, the main reason that I will continue to frequent this site is that each year around February they offer a special that, at least in 2006, was 100 DRF cards for $100.00. That is over a 60 percent savings over regular price. The cards run through the Breeders cup in November and will help tremendously in your education as a handicapper.