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Benes Wins Inaugural Horseplayers Invitational

Contact: Jim Miller (708) 780-3700

For Immediate Release


Benes Wins Inaugural Horseplayers Invitational at Hawthorne


STICKNEY, IL – An event that started in a marketing brainstorming session last fall became reality as the inaugural Hawthorne Horseplayers Invitational took place on Saturday at Hawthorne.  The concept of the event started simple, bring together a group of top handicappers in the country, have them handicap amongst one another, and open up to the fans about their wagering strategy.  From there the event grew as television cameras were introduced, hours of interviews were conducted and a pair of television shows recapping the event will be aired on NBCSports Chicago at 10:30 AM on April 21 and 28.

                The rules of the contest were simple.  Every player put up a bankroll of $1,500.  The players were given five mandatory races of which they had to play $200 exactly on the first four mandatory events and a minimum of $500 on the final race of the contest.  Additionally, each player was allowed one optional play where they could wager $200 on a race not included in the mandatory events.

                The field for the contest included four past NHC champions; Judy Wagner (2001), Steve Wolfson (2003), Stanley Bavlish (2007), and Jim Benes (2013).  Additionally, 2009 NHC Tour champion Bryan Wagner was in the field, along with 2017 NHC tour champion Mike Ferrozzo, NHC Player’s Committee Chairman and NTRA Horseplayers Hall of Fame member Chris Larmey, and 2017 Belmont Betting Challenge and 2018 NHC third-place finisher Garett Skiba.  Matt Carothers of TVG flew in for the contest as did Peter Rotondo, Jr. and Peter Rotondo, Sr. of Horseplayers on Esquire Network.

                A mix of races were chosen for the mandatory events as maidens down the hill on the turf at Santa Anita kicked off the contest.  With the favorite winning followed by a 30-1 shot in second, Chris Larmey moved atop the early leaderboard, followed by Stanley Bavlish, Eric Barlund, and Peter Rotondo, Sr.  Between the first two mandatory races, Paul Hoffman made a move with his optional play, moving past the $2,000 mark early in the competition.

                Mandatory contest race two left little movement on the leaderboard, as the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct was the third mandatory.  In the Carter, the youngest player in the field, 30-year-old Kyle King vaulted to the lead, hitting a large trifecta to bring his bankroll over $3,200.  Prior to mandatory race number four, Judy Wagner cashed on her optional race, moving into sixth place. 

                The biggest movement came in mandatory race four, the Madison at Keeneland, when 5-1 shot Finley’sluckycharm won a blanket photo over Miss Sunset and Lewis Bay.  Playing aggressively on the race, Jim Benes cashed on a $100 Exacta, vaulting into the lead with over $6,000.  Also cashing nicely on the race was Steve Schwerb, as he moved into second with nearly $4,500. 

                With many swings and misses on optional races following the Madison, the field gathered together to watch the final race of the event, the Blue Grass from Keeneland.  While Good Magic won the race, it was clear that numerous players were hoping for Sporting Chance to get up for second as a collective groan came over the field when he bolted late in the stretch and was disqualified.

                The favorite winning the Blue Grass over Flameaway meant that Jim Benes held on to win, with $5,444 in his final bankroll.  Chris Larmey made a move in the Blue Grass to finish second with $3,900 while Steve Schwerb held on for third with $3,655.  Rounding out the top ten were Kyle King, Judy Wagner, Stanley Bavlish, Josh Thorpe, Mike Ferrozzo, Anthony Garafalo, and Leonard Peterson.

                With the contest victory, Benes not only keeps his winning bankroll but earned an additional $10,000 along with seats in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and the 2019 NHC.  For second, Larmey received an additional $2,500 and a 2019 NHC seat.  Should Benes or Larmey win the NHC or should Benes win the BCBC, they will receive an additional $1 million bonus.

                Following the contest Benes stated, “I’ve had a lot of success recently, but being able to win this contest at my home track was truly special.  This was a very good field of players and I was fortunate to make the right play at the right time.”

                Larmey was pleased with his late move as well, “Being able to qualify early for the 2019 NHC was very important to me.  This contest had a great format, a great comradery amongst the players, and to bring the player in front of the cameras for a television show is an innovation the sport is truly in need of and I know many of the players cannot wait to see the final product.”

                The contest season at Hawthorne is just beginning though as 16 more NHC seats will be up for grabs during 2018.  On July 27 and 28, two seats will be played for each day.  Another two seats are on the line on November 23 while six seats are up for grabs November 24.  On December 28 and 29, two more seats each day will be out there as players look to make the 2019 NHC.  For details on all contests at Hawthorne, visit

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