Earl Grantham won last Saturday's Player's Choice handicapping tournament by turning his bankroll into $101.60 with a combination of “divine intervention” and hard work, to win $1,000, bragging rights, and a trophy.
Geoffrey Metcalf finished second with a total of $85.30 followed by Ralph Gelardi ($82.30), James Werry ($73.10) and Eve Tilston-Jones ($68.80), and while $16.30 may not seem like much to win by, it's actually a huge amount based on past tournament scores, where the top players were often within $5 of each other.
The 69-year-old certified financial planner said his win was a combination of luck and "divine intervention" but also mentioned that he spent many hours pouring over the past performances, all of which he printed out two days before the contest.
"It's too hard to do it all on the computer," said Grantham. "You can't put any marks on the past performances that way."
The common thread, which makes the local handicapping contest so tough, is that Grantham did extensive amounts of homework, as many other players do. Grantham has won the tourney three times now and had a number of seconds and thirds along the way.
What’s his secret?
“Divine intervention,” repeated Grantham. “Because nothing works all the time. No matter what angle you use, whether it's dropping speed or jockey/trainer combos or whatever. Anything can happen. You might handicap all night and get the right horse and then he stumbles at the break. I think luck plays a big part in it and it was just my turn to be lucky, or like I said, by the grace of God.”
Grantham has been handicapping the races for less than 10 years and has only been going to the track for about 15, so three wins in the handicapping tournament would have to be considered overachieving, right?
“I was pretty green when I started,” said Grantham, who does hope to rise higher in the Handicapper of the Year standings at some point.
“Really what it boiled down to this time is that I bet on the horses that my neighbour's dog told me to bet on,” laughed Grantham, who learned how to handicap by listening to other players and participating in the I Won Bigg group on Saturday mornings. He also learned from some handicapping books, but admits he never read any of them from start to finish.
His favourite angles?
“I look for like 9/2 shots or better with good jockeys on them,” said Grantham. “The horse has to have a good jockey, but like I said, nothing works all the time. I also look at jockey/trainer combos, and every now and then I just get a feeling for a longshot and it seems to work out. I also look for horses that have had trouble in their last race."
“I just go off the comments,” continued Grantham. "I don't watch replays. And I like horses that have run a good race three or four starts back."
The latter is one of the most underutilized angles in handicapping, as most bettors don’t look past a horse’s last race, or at the most two races. There’s gold hidden here, "especially when a horse is returning to a distance that he has won at three or four races back,” said Grantham.
“I think there's some really good handicappers here,” said Grantham. "So it’s always tough to win. And they’re very consistent. You have to do your homework. And a lot of it. It probably doesn’t pay very well by the hour for the amount of time you spend. But it’s fun and it keeps your brain sharp.”
Grantham recounts his best scores ever as being a Pick 6 and Pick 4 at Santa Anita that paid $900 and $2,000 respectively. His tickets for each bet were less than $20.