‘You’ll burn through the cash, but you’ll always have the belt’
FRANKLIN, Ky.— Tom Rapps knows well that horse racing can be a game of inches. The 58-year-old from suburban Cleveland had to sweat out a pair of photo finishes determined by a nose, but luck fell his way to win the King of the Turf Handicapping Challenge with an aggregate total of $5,760.30 for the three-contest series on Kentucky Downs’ races
“I had 80 bucks left with four races to go, and I hit two daily doubles,” Rapps said by phone Wednesday. “A $482 double in race six and seven, and then I put it all in on a daily double for the last two races – got myself over the top.”
Rapps won the third of the three standalone, live-money online contests with a bankroll of $5,709. Players had to compete in all three contests to be eligible to be crowned National Turf Handicapping Champion. The champ gets a seat at the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) with its $10,000 buy-in as well as the instantly iconic Global Tote King of the Turf Championship Belt patterned after boxing’s world-championship belts.
Rapps will receive his Global Tote belt at the NHC awards dinner in Las Vegas. The 2023 NHC is set for March 10-12 at Horseshoe Las Vegas (formerly Bally’s).
“Needless to say, I was very excited and happy to get a win,” Rapps said. “I’m really looking forward to obviously the cash, but more importantly, the belt. I’m trying to figure out where to put that in a prominent spot. I think it’s fun. It’s a great idea. It’s a keepsake, right? You’ll burn through the cash, but you’ll aways have the belt.”
Rapps also received $11,550 as a cash prize and a berth in the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), along with hotel and airfare reimbursement up to $400, as the winner of the third tournament.
Jeff Bussan finished second at $5,319.37.
Rapps completely tapped out in the first contest, on opening day of the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs. He did only slightly better — $51.30 — in the second contest on Labor Day. But the photos started falling his way in the final competition, which started last Sunday and was carried over to Tuesday because of a weather postponement following the second race.
Even with his bankroll down to $80 after five of nine races Tuesday, Rapps said he felt he still had a shot.
“I wanted to give myself a chance,” he said. “I felt pretty good if I could hit that daily double and get $400 or $500, I thought, ‘All right, that’ll give me a chance to at least take a swing for the win.’ I was fortunate enough to hit. Then I really liked that 1 horse in the eighth race, and I then I figured out what I thought it would take to get to $5,500 — what I thought it would take to win the tournament. I put $275 on the 1-12 and had a couple of other plays as backups. My goal was to finish in the top five and get an NHC or BCBC seat. And it worked out.”
And was just a little nerve-racking along the way.
Danse Macabre won the sixth race, the $500,000 Ainsworth Untapable Stakes, by a nose over favored Alluring Angel. When Freedom Speaks won the $500,000 Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey Music City Stakes by a head over Happy Soul, Rapps had a $20 double that reaped $24.10 for a $1.
No. 1 Adventuring led all the way to take the eighth race, the $550,000 AGS Ladies Marathon by 1 1/2 lengths. But Rapps was back to sweating out a photo in the nightcap, with No. 12 Sabalenka nosing out Safeen with the $1 double paying $20.76. He had a $275 bet, netting $5,654.
“It seemed like it took forever to make that race official,” he said.
Rapps said he’d never competed in either the NHC or the BCBC.
“So I’m really pleased to get those things off my horseplayer’s bucket list,” he said.
Rapps, who is in building materials sale, said he’s “always liked horses” but re-engaged with online handicapping tournaments during the height of COVID.
“I really picked it up seriously the last couple of years,” he said.
It was the first time Rapps played in the King of the Turf Handicapping Challenge. “I thought I’d give it shot,” he said. “You have to be willing go all in. You can’t be worried about keeping a few hundred dollars. You have to give yourself a shot, and I was willing to do that. That was my goal: to have a shot going into the last race. For once it worked out.”
Rapps said his favorite track was Keeneland, but now it’s Kentucky Downs.
“Yes, it is,” he said with a laugh. “My new favorite track.”
Kentucky Downs Press Release
Main photo: Tom Rapps (Courtesy of Tom Rapps)