Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest Winds Back Into Action

In early March things were moving along smoothly. It appeared Bob Baffert had again stacked the Derby deck in his favor. The major Kentucky Derby preps such as the Louisiana Derby, Arkansas Derby and Florida Derby awaited horseplayers as they sorted out the top 3-year-olds. Canterbury’s Road to Kentucky contest was hotly contested. Prize money paid. Bragging rights earned.

Then it stopped.

We all retreated to our bunkers, losing contact with those at the track that we call friends. Mostly just within the context of the racetrack, but friends nonetheless.  It is now time to open the hatch and crawl out from seclusion and renew those friendships. The Canterbury Park Racebook is open daily and the Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest is firing up this Saturday with first leg of the 2020 Triple Crown  – The Belmont Stakes.

Post time and thus contest entry deadline is 10:45am, the first race at Belmont. While we are under capacity restrictions there is plenty of room in the grandstand and we have implemented cleaning and safety protocols. Gates open at 9am. We do ask that you let us know you are coming by clicking here and providing your name.  You will need to check in for the time being so letting us know in advance simplifies your life.

You will receive your free contest entry card at check in on track level. Contest entry boxes will be available on both mezzanine and clubhouse levels. Don’t lose your entry card as replacements will not be offered.

You can get details on the Road to Kentucky webpage but here is a brief look at what is the same and what has changed.

–          12 consecutive Saturdays of contest play.

–          The mythical $20 mythical WPS scoring system remains the same.

–          Weekly prize money pays the top four scores

–          Accumulated prize money stays the same as it was but determining those scores has changed. We held nine contests prior to the shutdown. Those scores will be totaled, the lowest of the nine subtracted, and that will be the starting point for each player.

–          From the 12 contests remaining, the two lowest scores will also be dropped from the total.

–          The wagering minimum to receive full prize money remains in place.

If you have questions, please ask any of the staff.

Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest begins Saturday

$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.

Kentucky Derby Future Wager this Weekend

24 Wagering Interests Include Six Newcomers In March 31-April 2 Derby Futures Pool

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Two veterans of this year’s Road to the Kentucky Derby – Whitham Thoroughbreds LLC’s unbeaten McCraken (#15, 6-1) and Peacock Racing Stables LLC’s Gunnevera (#10, 6-1) – are the morning line co-favorites for the fourth and final pool of Churchill Downs Racetrack’s 2017 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”), which launches its three-day run on Friday, March 31.

The Ian Wilkes-trained Sam F. Davis (GIII) winner McCraken and Fountain of Youth (GII) winner Gunnevera, trained by Antonio Sano, are listed at odds of 6-1 in Churchill Downs’ handicapper Mike Battaglia’s morning line for Pool 4. There’s a fourway tie for third choice at 10-1 between KDFW newcomer J Boys Echo (#13), unbeaten Southwest (GIII) winner One Liner (#17), Tampa Bay Derby (GII) winner Tapwrit (#21) and the always-popular Mutuel Field (#24). The latter includes all 3-year-old Thoroughbreds other than the 23 individual horses listed on the Pool 4 betting roster, including notable horses such as American Anthem, Blueridge Traveler, Fast and Accurate, Hence, Local Hero, Lookin At Lee, Patch, Petrov, Silver Dust, Sonneteer and Wild Shot to name a few.

The co-favorites have been wagering interests in each of three previous KDFW pools. McCraken’s closing odds in the previous pools were 12-1 (P1), 9-1 (P2) and 6-1 (P3), while Gunnevera’s final odds were 22-1 (P1), 24-1 (P2) and 22-1 (P3). The “All Others” interest closed as the favorite in each of the previous 2017 pools.

Betting in the final KDFW pool of 2017 is set to open at 11 am central on Friday and continue through Sunday, April 2 at 5 p.m. The wager, which has been offered annually to Kentucky Derby fans since 1999, will be available at Canterbury Park.

The KDFW provides racing fans with the opportunity to wager on contenders for the Kentucky Derby at odds that could be more attractive than those available on the day of America’s greatest race. Payouts in the win and exacta wagering in Pool 4 will be determined by the odds in place at Sunday’s conclusion of wagering.

The KDFW offers $2 minimum win wagering on 24 betting interests that include 23 individual horses and the Mutuel Field, which includes all 3-year-old Thoroughbreds other than the individual wagering interests in a respective pool. Each pool also offers $2 exacta wagering on the 24 wagering interests, with the latter also available in $1 minimum increments in boxes and other multiple number configurations. Total betting in the three 2017 KDFW pools – including both win and exacta pools – stands at $925,197.

The 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), America’s oldest continuously-held sports event, is set for Saturday, May 6 at Churchill Downs and will be simulcast at Canterbury Park. Live racing begins at Canterbury on May 5.

Find live odds at 

Here are the betting interests and morning lines for Pool 4. 

Road to Kentucky Contest continues Saturday

Canterbury’s free-to-enter handicapping contest continues Saturday with the races from Gulfstream Park plus the Fair Ground Derby prep, the Louisiana Derby.

Congrats to last week’s winners:

David Johnson 2,852 points
Bruce Meyer 2,812
Heather Andreason 2,610
April Pfeiffer 2,531
Tony Spano 2,405

Horse Player World Series this week

Four Canterbury Park horse players won their way to The Orleans Casino Hotel in Las Vegas to compete in the annual Horse Player World Series held this weekend. Best of luck to those four, who were victorious in qualifying contests held at Canterbury in 2016:  Bob Moore, Steve Laurent, Kelly Frost, and Mike Ferrozzo, who last week had a big score in a contest held at Hawthorne Race Course. Ferrozzo turned his $400 live bankroll into $40,000 by hitting the Rainbow at Gulfstream, earning himself the $40k plus entries to the 2018 NHC and 2017 BCBC. See those results here.

R2K Features Tampa Bay Downs Saturday

This week the Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest features the races from Tampa Bay Downs including the Tampa Bay Derby, which for contest purposes is a double-point race. Additionally, the San Felipe from Santa Anita will be used in the contest, also for double points. Post time at Tampa is 11 a.m.

Last week was a bonanza of racing with a 13-race program at Gulfstream plus the Gotham from Aqueduct. Long shot winners were not the norm that day at Gulfstream, in fact in a few cases the second-place horse was worth more contest points than the winner. Total points available were 2,903. The high score of 1,675 by Michael Stamp was in the expected range, and more than 200 points better than the second-place entrant, earning Stamp $350.

Week 1 R2K Success Elusive for Some

dart board

“I refer to him as a work in progress.  Today he made a big step forward, and I look for more of that in the future.” – Tom Amoss, trainer of Mo Tom who won the LeComte Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Opening week of the Road to Kentucky contest was Saturday, and Fair Grounds was the featured track.  With 17 weeks of contest action this year, the road will be long and winding for all players, including the leaders.  About 14,000 points would be a strong target score to achieve, as the contest rules allow dropping the three lowest scores for each player.  In other words, if you missed the opening week or were off target with your selections, there’s plenty of opportunity to make up for it in the coming weeks.

The key contest races turned out to be the first 3 races on the card, as the tote board was blown up each time with longshot runners:

In the opener, the 12 Timebobanna finished 2nd at 94-1, generating 600 contest points due to the 600-400-200 contest cap structure.  Timebobanna was making her second career start, but she had been beaten 25 lengths at 53-1 in her debut at this level.  Blinkers on was the only angle I could find with this runner.
The second race went to the 2 Prime Time Man at 18-1.  This winner generated 670 contest points and he had a few positives in his corner that made sense (after the fact, of course!).  Trainer D. Wayne Lukas had been trying to get this horse on the grass, as he had entered him in two turf races at Churchill Downs but both races were moved to the main track.  He hadn’t shown anything in those main track races, but the 3 workouts since his last start were much improved.  This race stayed on the grass and Lukas was proven correct as Prime Time Man got the money at 18-1.
The third race was won by the 5 Bello Amante at 33-1, a first time starter in a maiden claiming race trained by Brian House.  His win generated 938 points for his contest backers.  There wasn’t much on paper pointing to this one either, although House was 5/26 in maiden claiming races over the past year.  Tough one to find, but you got rewarded if you liked him, a true stabber special.
After three races there were already 2,208 contest points available and things were looking extremely volatile, but it calmed down after that as logical contenders dominated the remainder of the card.  The maximum contest points available for the week were 3,940, so a score around 2,000 is going to be a strong contender for the weekly high score.  You would likely need at least one of those top point horses from the first three races to have a chance at the top prize this week.

Mo Tom won the featured LeComte at 2-1 for trainer Tom Amoss.  Uncle Mo is his sire, and he would have been favored in the 2011 Kentucky Derby won by Animal Kingdom, but he was a late defection the day before the race.  He has a promising career as a stallion the way it looks so far!

I will always remember last year’s LeComte, as champion sprinter from 2015 Runhappy was entered in his second career start and I selected him in the contest.  It didn’t go well for Runhappy that day.  (It remains the lone defeat of Runhappy’s career as he exited the race with an injury).  This year I selected the #10 Pinnacle Peak, who did not threaten at 17-1 odds.  I only managed 210 points this week as the dartboard was a moving target, but this Saturday we fire away once again at Tampa Bay Downs.

Good luck and good racing!

The Oracle

(The Oracle is a three-time Canterbury Park Handicapper of the Year and regular contributor to .)


(Hugh) Robertson sold off his stock and went to try his luck at the Birmingham Turf Club when it opened in 1987 but didn’t really get around to training.

“Nobody who was betting there knew anything,” he said. “If you had any idea about racing, you couldn’t gamble and not make money.”

from a Daily Racing Form story published Jan. 13, 2016.

The Road to Kentucky 2015 – Preview


“You rarely win, but sometimes you do” – Harper Lee:  Author of To Kill a Mockingbird


The annual Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest starts on Saturday, January 17.  This year the contest has been expanded by two weeks, so it will be 16 weeks of contest action culminating with the Kentucky Derby on May 2.  The contest offers $30,000 in total prize money and is free to enter, so why not follow the horses as they try to qualify for the Kentucky Derby and maybe win some prizes along the way?

The contest format is “pick and pray”, meaning all selections are submitted prior to the first contest race.  Each week will feature one chosen contest track with a prominent Kentucky Derby prep race, and some weeks will also feature added bonus races.  The top 5 finishers each week are awarded weekly prizes, and the top 30 finishers in cumulative points are awarded overall prizes.  There are also points doled out along the way as part of the larger Canterbury Park Handicapper of the Year award.  This year, the weekly winners will also be entered in a bonus contest on May 9 for a chance to win a share of $800 in additional prize money!

As for contest strategy, I recommend taking a lot of chances.  It’s very difficult to beat 400 other people with a series of 3-1 shots.  There are several times per day where the favorite will look strong, but I encourage people to resist taking horses that have a 100 point ceiling and instead reach for something else.  Even if the favorite wins, the place finisher will often generate more points than the winner.  My belief is that the players using a higher risk-reward strategy, stabbing at longer-odds horses throughout the contest card will put themselves in better position to be successful in this format.

Good Luck in Road to Kentucky 2015. This Saturday the contest track is Fair Grounds.


The Oracle

(The author is the defending Canterbury Park Handicapper of the Year and has won the award three of the past four years. He will contribute a weekly recap throughout the Road to Kentucky contest.)