Top handicapping tournament horseplayer Dennis Decauwer will be Tom Quigley’s special guest this Sunday for “Quigley’s Corner,” a free handicapping seminar in Santa Anita’s East Paddock Gardens, beginning at 11:20 a.m.
A winner of Santa Anita’s “Double Down” Handicapping Challenge March 2, Decauwer finished second in the 2009 National Handicapping Challenge (NHC) in Las Vegas (his fifth NHC appearance) and has been betting on Thoroughbreds for more than 45 years.
Born in Massachusetts and raised from age 10 in nearby Claremont, Decauwer is a graduate of Cal Poly Pomona and is a retired CPA.
Decauwer, 64, and his wife, Diane, have been married 43 years and have three grown children and 10 grandchildren. He currently volunteer-teaches on Monday and Wednesdays in Claremont.
The following is a brief question and answer interview with Decauwer:
Q. How did you first get involved with playing horses?
A. “I was in college about 45 years ago and I started sneaking out to Santa Anita whenever I could.”
Q. What is it that appeals the most to you about coming to the races?
A. “I think it’s the challenge of putting the puzzle together. Every single race is different, even if some of those horses have run against each other recently. Originally, for me, it was the exhilaration, the rush of going to the races and the action of playing every race. I discovered 25 years ago that I could make a profit by making selections where my opinions were strong.”
Q. What’s the biggest bet you’ve ever made?
A. “I bet $4,000 to win on Gio Ponti in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs. I was there playing in a handicapping tournament and he got through every step of the way and I thought he was home, but Goldikova came flying to beat him. It was her third Breeders’ Cup win in-a-row.”
Q. What’s your biggest-ever score?
A. “It was in 1996 at Golden Gate Fields. I was at Surfside (Race Place, Inter-Track Wagering at Del Mar) and I played a $36.00 ticket. It paid $60,000 and it was all me.”
Q. Are there certain types of races that you are more comfortable with, more inclined to make a significant wager in?
A. “Yes. Sprints are my strong point, whether they’re down the hill here at Santa Anita or on the main track. That said, I won that tournament (March 2) by making some key wagers in a one mile race. It was the eighth race that day and I really liked the one-two finishers, Dress Code and Run For Fun. Dress Code paid $15.80 and I keyed both horses in the exacta and trifecta. The exacta paid $74.80 and the tri paid over a thousand ($1,051.30).”
Q. You mentioned that you volunteer at your grandkids’ school. What else do you do?
A. “I also volunteer with the Claremont Rotary Club, but mainly, I’m a full-time horseplayer. I usually go to the Finish Line at Barretts (Pomona, satellite wagering) on Thursdays and Fridays and I’m at Santa Anita almost every weekend.”
Q. Do you think it’s an advantage to be at the live racing venue?
A. “Absolutely. I’m basically an old school guy. I read the Form, I watch video and I like to go down to the paddock and check out the body language of the horses. I watch races from the Box Seat area and I’d be at Santa Anita every day if the traffic on the 210 (Freeway) wasn’t so congested on weekdays. I’m not a software guy, although I don’t begrudge anyone that is. In fact, I think in some ways, those guys have caught up with people like me in terms of their approach to wagering.”
Q. Are you looking forward to being Tom’s guest on Sunday?
A. “I really am. I think I might’ve been his first guest when he started doing these seminars last year. I’m hoping I can come with a big priced horse and hopefully a big exacta. Handicapping is something I love and it should be fun.”
Tom Quigley serves as Santa Anita’s VIP Player Concierge and hosts “Quigley’s Corner” each Saturday and Sunday during live racing at The Great Race Place. He can be reached at [email protected], or on Twitter @Quigleys_Corner
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