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Andrew Durham of Carbondale, IL used his snow days to his advantage and handicapped his way to the top prize in Saturday's $10,000 DerbyWars Game! The 23-year-old Southern Illinois University student, who is known as "apdurh01" on the site, won his way into the big game in a $25 qualifier early in the week. An ice storm that hit the midwest last week kept him in his dorm room for two days, but he used the time to study horses instead of economics.
"Not many 23 year olds want to stay in on a Friday night and handicap a pick 5 carryover, but I do," said Durham. "Call me crazy, but it's more fun to study past performances, watch race replays, and study pedigrees than it is to go out and party with friends. Being a full time student and a horseplayer I know I have to be careful balancing my priorities. Obviously, getting my degree is number one, but the mobility of this game has made everything much easier."
His incredible run began in the third contest race, when he scored with Chitu at Hollywood Park. Then, in the fifth contest race, a last-minute change of plans put him on a 25-1 longshot, Woburn, in Aqueduct's finale.
"I completely forgot I had promised a girl in my buidling I would take her to the Saluki men's basketball game," he said, but remembering the DerbyWars mobile site, he could take the game along with him.
"The horse I really liked, a first time starter, was not taking any early money, but a horse I completely threw out was taking play," Durham said. "I didn't have time to ask questions so I went with the early money and selected the horse I couldn't believe was getting bet. By the time I arrived at the Saluki game and looked at my phone, I was in first place!"
Woburn prevailed by a length and a half and paid $50.50 to win. Durham was one of just 3 players to land on the New York bred gelding, but he was the only one to keep up the momentum to the end. He picked up another $15 with Metaxa in the Hollywood 4th, and in the penultimate contest race, his selection scratched at the last minute, putting him on the winning post time favorite. His final score of $91.00 was $10 ahead of the rest of the field and netted him the $5,000 first prize!
Robert Gallant (rhg1217) was second, with a final score of $81.50 and Samantha Cipriano (cippinwinners) was third with $75.70.
Durham has been a DerbyWars player since February 2013, and this is his first big game score.
"The experience you get playing in any game is priceless. Playing in a $250 or $10,000 cash game, win or lose, I'm coming out of each game a better handicapper."
He says money management is a key factor to successful players, and DerbyWars has helped him improve his skill at that aspect of handicapping as well.
"There is nothing worse than handicapping a card and losing your bankroll on races you didn't even plan to play. DerbyWars forces me to focus on one or three tracks at most. It also allows me to take chances on horses I would've never played with my own money. Losing one race with your own money is devastating. Losing one race on Derby Wars is normal. I know to be successful on DerbyWars I have to be sharp for sometimes 10+ races."
Durham was introduced to horse racing in 2009 as a student at the University of Louisville, less than a mile from Churchill Downs.
"In two years I went from never watching a horse race to falling asleep to TVG infomercials every night. Living on campus, less than a mile from the racetrack was no doubt my key into to horse racing. The first time I walked into Churchill I was instantly hooked. The atmosphere inside Churchill's simulcast center on Friday, Saturday and Sunday was exhilarating. When horses came around the final turn, whatever the track, the place exploded. I loved it and wanted to be part of the action."
The past two summers Durham has worked for United Tote at Arlington Park, where he has become even more enamoured with the sport.
"Rubbing shoulders with the country's top owners, trainers, jockeys and handicappers has been a learning experience I could've only dreamed," he said. "It has gotten to the point where my interest in the game is not fueled by the potential profits of gambling, but one day possibly owning a horse."
UPDATE: Check out Andrew on Hawthorne's pre-race show!
Your chance to follow in Andrew Durham's winning footsteps comes this Saturday in DerbyWars' $10,000 Game! Qualify TODAY for as low as $25!