Contest Neophyte Turns to Gutfreund, Replays to Capture TwinSpires Online Handicapping Championship

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Ed DeRosa

December 1st, 2016

Paul Fishman used his experiences as a financial advisor and lifelong horseplayer to outlast 558 entrants and claim the 6th annual TwinSpires Online Handicapping Championship. He will be one of 15 players representing at the $2.5-million National Handicapping Championship on January 27-29 at Treasure Island in Las Vegas.

Fishman, 54, has been playing the horses his whole life but only recently got into tournaments. He played in just two $50 satellite tournaments, and turned that initial $100 into a $10,000 TSOHC grand prize with a chance for $750,000 more at the NHC. He credits a lot of his quick success to another tournament standout, David Gutfreund, who in the past year has finished sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and fifth in the NHC.

“I’ve known David for 40 years and he got me into playing tournaments a couple years ago,” Fishman said. “As a horseplayer, you don’t want to listen to too many opinions, but he’s one guy that I do listen to. He taught me to have patience and not to play favorites in tournaments.”

Gutfreund’s advice paid off immediately when 17-to-1 shot Wicked Freud rallied to win the first race of the Championship – the 7th at Aqueduct – by a nose, putting Fishman among 39 players tied for the lead. When he followed that winner up with Mo Town at $10.40 in the Remsen Stakes, he found himself tied for the lead with just eight other players.

“I can’t even remember what I liked about Wicked Freud, but it was one of the five horses I had a strong opinion on for the day,” Fishman said. “Another was Mo Town; I thought he was the lock of the day based on how he won his previous race. He just opened up in the stretch.”

Fishman credits watching race replays on TwinSpires for much of his success in preparing for the tournament.

“I must have watched 60 replays to get ready for this, and TwinSpires is the best site for replays,” Fishman said. “The way you can filter them by track and horse makes it easy.”

A pair of 10-to-1 winners—Farrell in the Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs and Punch Express in the sixth race at Fair Grounds—propelled Fishman to the top of the Leaderboard for good. His final winner of the day, Ring Weekend in the Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar, put him in a solid position with just the nightcap from Fair Grounds remaining (see below for all of Fishman's selections).

“I had a good feeling that if Ferrell could get to the lead, she’d win,” Fishman said. “Punch Express was a little bit of luck, getting up by a nose. You need to have some luck to win a tournament like this. And I bet Ring Weekend in the Breeders’ Cup, so he was a natural play in a Grade II race for me.”

Fishman finished with winnings of $162.30 from his 15 mythical $2 Win/Place bets, topping second place finisher, Robert Gianquitti by $7.00 with $155.30. Clint Littlejohn finished third with winnings of $153.60. The top 15 finishers will represent TwinSpires at the 2017 NHC in January, with the next 35 heading to the Horse Player World Series at The Orleans in late March.

“We enjoy giving players the opportunity to compete for big money in Las Vegas,” said Lucky Kalanges, TwinSpires’s Director of Track Marketing and Tournaments. “Whether it’s a Pick 6 or a handicapping tournament, everybody has that dream of having all the right horses on a given day or weekend, and taking home a big check. We want to make those dreams come true.”

That dream came true for Michael Beychok, who qualified through TwinSpires en route to winning a $1 million prize in the 2012 NHC and an Eclipse Award for Horseplayer of the Year. Now it’s Fishman’s turn.

“It was an exciting day,” said Fishman, reflecting on his TwinSpires victory and his chances in Las Vegas in January. “I wouldn’t say it gives you confidence, but when you beat out 558 other players (on TwinSpires), you realize winning a tournament like the NHC isn’t impossible.”

The TSOHS will return in 2017. In the meantime, for those looking for additional contests and promotions, click here.