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Area Man Wins 'Battle of Saratoga' Handicapping Challenge

By John Scheinman | 08/08/2013 08:05 PM ET
Dennis Gort
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

With his final bet of the tournament, Dennis Gort of Delmar, N.Y., won the "Battle of Saratoga" handicapping challenge Thursday, earning a $100,000 first prize and an automatic berth in the 2014 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship next January at Treasure Island in Las Vegas.

Gort, a pulmonary critical care physician in Albany and Troy, saved his single $40 wager for English Council in the ninth race at Arlington Park and watched the horse kick home to victory, paying $21.20 for a $2 win wager.

The score vaulted Gort into first place, where he finished with a winning bankroll of $1,376, beating out runner-up Paul Shurman ($1,105) of Dix Hills, N.Y. and third-place finisher Henry Damgaard ($1,076) of Charlottesville, Va.

The "Battle of Saratoga" was part of the 2013 New York Handicapping Series presented by NYRA Rewards.

For finishing second, Shurman earned $30,000 while Damgaard took home $20,000. Both earned seats at the DRF/NTRA tournament.

Joseph Appelbaum of New York, N.Y., the top-finishing NYRA Rewards member in the tournament, automatically qualified for a seat at the tournament, courtesy of NYRA Rewards.

Along with his $100,000 prize, Gort took home an $3,250 bonus for being the leader of the tournament after the first day of play.

"I've hit the board a few times but never won one," Gort said of his handicapping tournament play. "It's very exciting. I consider handicapping to be one of the highest intellectual pursuits. It's a fascinating game."

Gort said he was waiting for the final race at Arlington Park to make his largest wager.

"I liked that horse because of the connections," he said. "It was a Calumet horse that as coming into softer company. I thought the horse fit very nicely in that race."

The "Battle of Saratoga" drew 207 entries. Each player had to make 10 selections a day across the two-day tournament, nine $20 plays and a single $40 play. 

A video crew chronicled the tournament for the new docuseries "Horseplayers." Set to air on the Esquire Network, "Horseplayers" will feature successful handicappers on their quest to reach the DRF/NTRA championship.

Click here to View "Battle of Saratoga" handicapping challenge final standings.