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Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Racecourse (10/18/12)

Contact: Ron Uchman
(708) 780-3700


I was able to sit down with Jim Benes on Friday. You might have read a bit about him on Sundayís cover or you might have read about him before. He just won the Hawthorne Gold Cup Challenge. The first prize for that contest was paid entry into both the Breedersí Cup Challenge at Santa Anita over Breedersí Cup weekend as well as entry into the 2013 DRF/NTRA Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas. With travel and hotels thrown in, that prize was worth an estimated $20,000.

Jim has won quite a few tournaments in the past and we wrote about a bad beat he had here last spring. I wanted to pick his brain about tournament play and why he was so successful.

I know that Benes watches replays carefully right after the race and again after the races. Good trip handicapping seems to be an essential element of a successful horseplayer and Jim is successful.

ďI only play Chicago racing. These are the horses that Iím familiar with and Iím better able to predict what they are going to do. But, itís not only picking the right horse. You also have to pick the right spot. I look for value. I really donít have a preferred wager. Iím just looking to score and get the highest possible return for my wager. I suppose that if it were possible to win a tournament with nine straight show bets, I might even consider that.

ďThese out of town contests are going to be interesting because they wonít be using Chicago tracks in the format. I donít have the time in my life to spend weeks watching replays to prepare for the contests in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Iíll just buy the Racing Form and handicap. For the local tracks I do my own figures and trip notes which gives me an advantage. I wonít be able to do that in those contest formats.

Looking over his bets for the contest, Jim did use a variety of wagers to get into first place. I saw win bets, Exactas, Superfectas and a variety of boxes.

ďIím realistic when I wager, both on my own and in contests. I know Iím not going to win every day but I do expect to win over 33 percent of the time and, because I play for value, that should provide a pretty nice profit. In a way you have to have a short memory. Whether you win or lose on any particular day, you have to forget about it. I can probably tell you if I won or lost yesterday but probably not the day before and probably not the amount of the wins or losses.

ďI was never a big fan of handicapping tournaments until they went to the live money format. It doesnít make a lot of sense to cap somebodyís win payoff. Plus, when you are playing with real cash, people arenít as willing to chase Hail Mary longshots like they do when they play with imaginary money.

ďContests involve a lot of luck. They take place in such a short window of time. You could be on a great roll all week before and after but if you arenít on over that brief time, you donít cash. I win a lot of contests because I play a lot of contests. But, Iíve had plenty of contests where I didnít cash.

ďIt amazes me that there arenít far more people involved in these tournaments, especially the contests with the low buy in. Itís pretty typical that a horseplayer will have a $100 or so bankroll on any given day. If you are here and you are playing anyway, why not get into the contest and have a chance to really capitalize on your investment?

ďI probably play a little differently when Iím in a contest. If Iím chasing, I might try to catch up with wagers I wouldnít normally play. If Iím leading, Iíll probably try to play it a little safe to maintain my position.

ďI wasnít surprised that so many people finished the contest with no money. Thatís whatís supposed to happen. If you finish one of these contests with any money left in your account and there are still races left to play, you havenít done your job. You have to go for it.

Live racing returns to Hawthorne on Friday, October 5 and concludes Sunday, December 30. Live racing will be conducted every Wednesday-Sunday. First post daily is 2:10 pm. Hawthorne Race Course is located in Stickney IL at 3501 S. Laramie Ave. For information on live racing or groups at Hawthorne Race Course, contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700 or visit Hawthorne online at

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