News - Videos - Blogs

Paul Hoffman Varies Approach, Wins First 2011 AHC Handicapping Contest

Arlington Park Communications | 06/11/2011 #

Jim Coffey, Mike Comstock, Rick Ochonicki, Frank Lech Round Out Top Five

On May 28 Arlington Park launched the Arlington Handicapping Challenge (AHC) for the 2011 live-meet racing season.  During the summer the AHC will award seven trips to Las Vegas for our contest winners to play in the February, 2012, Coast Casinos Horseplayer World Series (HWS) handicapping tournament where the first prize is estimated to be $300,000. 

Prize money is paid to the top five finishers in each AHC contest.  The coveted prize, of course, is the first-place prize of the Vegas trip.

The first contest produced some new names as well as familiar names in the top five.  The first two finishers, Paul Hoffman and Jim Coffey, have been in the top five in past Arlington Handicapping contests.  The next three finishers, Mike Comstock, Rick Ochonicki, and Frank Lech, are new to the top five.

For Paul Hoffman it was a slight change in style.  Hoffman has long been respected for his ability to win handicapping contests solely with win betting.  In fact, when I called Paul for this blog interview, his first statement was, “I know you want to hear about the win bets I made to win the contest, but for once I did it with exactas.

“Actually, my handicapping approach was the same,” continued Hoffman.  “I always start out by looking for one good race that sorts out more than any other on the card.  That doesn’t mean I only use one race, because sometimes I find more than one that sorts out.

“That was the case for this contest,” Hoffman revealed.  “I liked the fourth race and the ninth, the Arlington Classic.  In the fourth I liked Powerful Zen and Behr Fact, then I learned from your review that you also liked them.  So, instead of my usual one-horse-only win bet, I played a $6 exacta box which came in the long way (6-1 over 4-1) to pay $77 for $2.  They gave a nice boost to my bankroll to enable me to increase my bets later.

“In the Classic I liked your top horse, Suntracer (4-1), but I just felt he was vulnerable, although I couldn’t decide to whom, exactly,” admitted Hoffman.  “So I part-wheeled him in second to several horses in exactas, in varying amounts.  Since the favorite, Willcox Inn (3-2), won and Suntracer was second, the exacta was the lowest possible ($21), but it was also the biggest ticket I had, $100.  That boosted my bankroll over $1,000.”

That also propelled Hoffman to first place.  For his achievement he will go to Las Vegas, courtesy of Arlington Park, to contend in the HWS.  Arlington will pay his entry fee into the HWS ($1,500), his hotel room for the four days and nights of the tournament, provide a travel voucher, and cash of $175.  That’s a prize package of over $2,000, and that’s in addition to his $1,000 profit in the contest. 

“That’s a great return on a beginning bankroll of $100,” Hoffman understated.  “I’m thrilled to be going back to the HWS, and of course everyone tells you that.  But it’s true.  To be part of Team Arlington, this great group of handicappers that go out there, is an honor.  One feels special to have earned their way to participate.

“I’d feel even better if I won the HWS top prize, $300,000,” Hoffman chuckled.  “I’ll give it my best shot.  I go out there and spend all my waking hours handicapping in my room, or at the tournament, or taking nourishment.  That’s what one should do for four days.”  Sage advice from someone who has earned his way to the HWS for the third time.

“You can add me to the list of fans that really appreciate what you and Arlington do for the serious horseplayers,” stated Hoffman. 

Jim Coffey is another regular handicapping-contest player.  When told of his second-place finish in the first contest of the season, he was philosophical.  “I thought my total of over $500 might win it, but at least I’m in the lead for the consistency prize.” 

The consistency prize, the same prize package as each individual contest winner receives, will go to the contestant with the highest total money won over the course of the summer AHC’s seven contests.

“You helped me,” began Coffey.  “I attended your pre-race seminar and for the fourth race you explained the importance of considering trainer changes, saying that you liked Behr Fact because you thought he would improve due to going from an 0-for-65 trainer to Ingrid Mason.  He won at 6-1 but more importantly, I had him in two pick three’s, one paying $174 and the other paying $266.

“Working around Behr Fact made the bulk of my winnings for the day,” added Coffey.  “I had an interest in that horse before, but your comments solidified it for me.”

Coffey is a serious handicapper.  “I believe in handicapping ahead of time, preferably the day before,” he advised.  “I read your analysis every day, either on Arlington’s web site (click here) or in the Arlington program.  I like to combine your analysis with mine – two heads are better than one.”

Michael Comstock tried Arlington’s handicapping contest for the first time on May 28.  “Actually, my father encouraged me to get in,” he explained. 

“I’m from here originally but I just moved back after working in Philadelphia for a couple of years,” Comstock continued.  “I went to Philadelphia Park (Parx) a number of times and did well, which my dad knew.  So he encouraged me to try Arlington’s contest, and actually backed me.  My dad’s great!

“I had a number of hits for the contest,” Comstock said, “but the second race trifecta was the best one.  “I made a $1 tri box on 1-7-8 and it hit for about $380.  I continued to run my balance up and actually was in the high-500’s at one point.  Looking back, I should have quit there.”  We all have 20-20 hindsight.

“I’ll be back for your next seminar and the contest,” Comstock advised, “and for later ones, as well.  After finishing third in my first attempt, I got some confidence that I can do well at this.”

Your next chance to do well at this is Saturday, June 11.  Admission gates open and contest registration begins at 11:15 AM.  You are advised to arrive early and complete registration before noon when my free handicapping seminar begins.  Get there early to secure a seat at a table so you can spread out your work.  Register with me or Jake for our drawings and win a free-admission pass, or more. 

For complete handicapping seminar and contest information, including the complete summer schedule,  read my blog post on, “Arlington Will Pay You This Summer to Win $300,000 Next Winter,” by clicking here.  In that story is a link to the contest rules.  To see the complete order of finish for the May 28 contest, click here.  Still have questions?  Ask me at Arlington or email me at

You could be the next fan we send to Las Vegas, but you must get in it to win it.  The contest is free to enter, so you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.  See you June 11.


M. Scott McMannis

  • Handicapping Seminar and Contest Host, Arlington Park
  • Expert Selections Handicapper,
  • Midwest Correspondent, The HorsePlayer Magazine
  • Owner and Publisher, The McMannis Speed & Trip Service NewsletterAnd Arlington and Hawthorne Trainer Patterns