$25k tournament runs through Kentucky Derby Day
The annual Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest kicks-off Saturday with races from the Fair Grounds including the Lecomte Stakes, an early Kentucky Derby prep race. The free-to-enter contest runs every Saturday through Kentucky Derby Day and awards $25,000 in cash and prizes including an entry to the $3 million 2021 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas.
The format is simple. Entrants must arrive before first post of that day’s contest track and submit an entry card to the third level Information Center with name and MVP Rewards number and a selection in each contest race. The weekly contests are comprised of the entire racing program from the designated track as well as other Derby prep races, should there be any that day.
Points are earned based on mutuel payouts of each selection. This Saturday is strictly Fair Grounds. The Lecomte awards double points as do all Derby prep races. The bigger the prices, the more points garnered. On Saturday, January 25 there are no Derby prep races but Gulfstream has the stakes-laden Pegasus card (look out for very early first post) and that will be used for the contest.
The players with the highest accumulated scores each week earn prize money. The top two earn an entry to the exclusive Grand Prize contest on May 30 where entrants square off for the NHC berth. Over the course of the contest, scores accumulate and those best scores are also awarded cash with the top eight also advancing to participate in the Grand Prize contest.
Strategies vary by player but weekly winners rarely get there by playing a steady diet of favorites. If there is a price horse, and especially in a bonus race, the weekly winner is almost certain to have it.
“It’s a bomb tossing affair,” said Bruce Meyer, six-time Canterbury Park Handicapper of the Year who has had modest success over the two decades of R2K winning weekly and overall money but never winning a week outright. His approach is to take horses that he believes will be long odds in every race.
Ron White won Road to Kentucky in 2005 when he tabbed Giacomo in the Kentucky Derby, a triple-point race, at 50 to 1 odds. White entered the final week of the 2005 Road in 38th place, having never won weekly money. Giacomo was on White’s radar from the beginning of the tournament as he tracked the colt’s progress throughout, using him as his selection in three Kentucky Derby prep races despite the horse’s inability to cross the wire in front. White’s approach in general is to take the horse he likes in each race regardless of price. When he has two contenders in a race he tries to get the bigger price. “If I know one horse will be bet down and the other will be seven or eight to one, it’s an easy choice,” he said. “I take the longer price.”
Fair Grounds first post on Saturday is scheduled for noon. The complete Road to Kentucky contest schedule and prize payouts can be found here.