Truro Raceway track photographer Kyle Burton captured Sunday's USHWA Canada #BetTruroChallenge, beating six other harness handicappers on the track's 2021 opening day.
"I thought I was going to win going into the 7th race, the feature of the day," he said. "I liked Imalookertoo, a lot. His lines in Ontario didn't show much, but just being fit and tight with only a 28-day layoff was a huge advantage for him. Everyone else hadn't raced since December. Garnet Barnsdale, who had the lead through race six, had #4 Dont Ask Logan and I was turned off by how he looked in last week's qualifier. I figured I had him beat before the wings opened and Imalookertoo delivered, big time."
The top handicapper's total return on investment for hypothetical $2 win/place/show bets on each race of eight races was $53.90 (five winners). Barnsdale, a top handicapper for Ontario Racing, finished second with $43.30 (four winners). In a tight battle for show, Manitoba race caller Trey Colbeck ($36.80; three winners) beat out former Yonkers Raceway publicity director Frank Drucker ($35.70, two winners).
Burton said there's no substitute for watching how horses train and qualify.
"My biggest strategy was watching the qualifiers closely. I took a lot of mental notes about when and how much drivers were urging in the qualifiers. I wanted to see how fit to race each were and if they were going easy during their first charted line of 2021. That gave me a sense of who was at 100% for the first program. Another strategy was looking for horses who recently shipped in from Ontario. If they were tighter than the rest of the competition, then that was a big advantage. That's how I landed on Immalookertoo (race 7) and Cliff Drummond (race 2)."
His vantage point is a definite advantage.
"Being a track photographer helps in handicapping. Being able to pick up subtle differences in strides or maneuvers that most miss due to lack of image equipment is something that I incorporate into my handicapping strategy."
Besides bragging rights, Burton got to select a charity to receive donations on behalf of the USHWA Canada chapter. He opted for the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society (www.osas.ca), an organization that rehomes retired racehorses.
"OSAS was an easy choice. They do great work and I was really moved by the Rambinlingamblinman story [on the OSAS site]. We need better options for retired racehorses and OSAS does a tremendous job in giving horses a new lease on life," he said.
USHWA Canada Chapter President Ryan Clements and contest organizer Melissa Keith didn't play the contest ponies with Burton's or Barnsdale's success, but they ponied up for the winner's choice of charity on behalf of the chapter. Contest participant Mike Carter also made a donation to American racehorse adoption program New Vocations (www.horseadoption.com), to settle a friendly side bet with Barnsdale.
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