Lannette Sheldon won the 2015 Canterbury Park Handicapper of the Year title, becoming the first woman to earn the prestigious honor in 14 years of the competition. Players accumulate points based on performance in various handicapping contests held throughout the year. Sheldon won several super satellite contests but her biggest scores were wins in the Hawthorne Challenge Satellite and the Dec. 19 Horse Player World Series Satellite, where she hit an 18-1 winner in the final contest race of the day. The three points earned there allowed her to leapfrog then leader Ron White and cement the title. In addition to the accolades came a $2,000 prize. White, who held a clear second, earned $500.
These were the top point-earners of 2015:
Lannette Sheldon 12 points
Ron White 11 points
Mike Ferrozzo 7 points
Shaun Rau 7 points
Bob Hawkinson 7 points
Pat Larson 7 points
The journey to the 2016 Handicapper of the Year title is underway already with HPWS Super Satellites being offered weekly through mid-February. The satellite that will send players to Vegas in March for the Horse Player World Series will be held Feb. 20. The annual Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest, which offers Handicapper of the Year points weekly to the top three players, gets underway Jan. 16.
While the title is open to all players, there are several names that make regular appearances on the leader board. A group of local handicappers compiled this list of potential 2016 winners and the accompanying odds line:
5-1 Bruce Meyer: three-time Handicapper of the Year steamed-rolled the field in 2014 with a record 24 points but had a disappointing 5-point performance in 2015. His three titles and determined play make him the favorite. he prefers the local tournament scene over national play.
8-1 Lannette Sheldon: the defending champ has been consistent the past few years and could repeat if the hot streak continues. She cashed in her first trip to the HPWS in 2015.
8-1 Ron White: finished second the past two years. He is known for selecting Giacomo in the 2005 Kentucky Derby and winning the Road to Kentucky Contest.
15-1 Bill Ender: player won the title in 2009. Always in the mix in the big contests. Known for taking the longshot quarter horses and playing the obscure tracks. Sneaky.
15-1 Pat Larson: persistent player looking for breakthrough year. Started hot in 2015 but tailed off.
15-1 Mike Ferrozzo: Claim to fame was a Final Table appearance in the 2015 National Handicapping Championship where he won $60,000. His travel to contests nationally have kept him out of the rotation here on a regular basis. Won the 2009 live-bankroll Dog Days contest by hitting a place pick all for $11,000.
20-1 Ron Hafner: winner in 2010 was chasing the title in 2015. Always a threat and specializes in Canterbury contests, of which there are many.
20-1 Ray Hassan: speed player catches the occasional bomb. Title winner in 2013.
25-1 Pamela Kight: this longshot player flies under the radar and just needs a few breaks to contend.
15-1 Young Guns : this group of relatively new contest players have flashed occasional brilliance. Any one of them is capable of going on a run.
30-1 Steve Leeper: Has not replicated his 2007 performance when he won the title. Enjoys the racing from the Hawkeye State.
50-1 Kalib Martin: finished off the board in 2015 after a strong run in 2014. Victim of numerous bad beats. He won the title in 2008.
50-1 Mark Frieberg: rounding into contest form. He plays all contests. Got hot in final quarter of 2014 and cashed in the Hawthorne Final.
99-1 Shaun Rau: appears on the leader board often but lacks a signature contest win. Odds-maker Eric Schmidt gives him a long shot chance in 2016. Began the new year winning the first super satellite and earning one point. If the contest ended today, he would be the champ.