News - Videos - Blogs

Rich Mandra Wins Villa Park Handicapping Contest

Arlington Park Communications | 03/24/2014 #

Ed Synowiecki, Ken Lieske, Paul Taillon, Steve Ginder Round Out VP Five

 It was a unique handicapping seminar/contest in more than one way. 

 First, it was on a Thursday afternoon. 

Second, it was added late, and therefore could not be part of the Arlington Handicapping Challenge (AHC) series for the current, 2011, race meet.

It was a familiar contest in more than one way.

First, it was a free, live-money contest with a $50 initial bankroll, same as all Arlington OTB contests.

Second, it offered the same top prize as offered in the AHC contests, an expense-paid trip to Las Vegas to play in the February, 2012, Coast Casinos Horse Player World Series (HWS).

For those reasons, starting with free to enter and ending with a free trip to Las Vegas, an impressive 44 loyal contestants played 66 entries in the contest, exceeding expectations.

The contest was scheduled as a feature of Grand Opening Week for Arlington’s newest addition to its stable of Off-Track Betting (OTB) facilities.  The facility is located on North Avenue in Villa Park and is operated in partnership with Salerno-Pincente, fine Italian restaurateurs, and is a near-duplicate of the partnership’s facility in Hodgkins.

For contest regular Rich Mandra, it was a very profitable lunch hour. 

“I play in every contest I can,” began Mandra.  “Why not?  It’s a free chance at a trip to Las Vegas where I could win a lot of money in the Horse Player World Series tournament.”

But Thursday was a challenge for Mandra, albeit a minor one.  “I did my handicapping ahead of time, as I always do, then dashed over from work to Villa Park on my lunch hour,” he described.  “I registered, put in my bets, and dashed back to work.”

Mandra’s winning was concentrated in the fifth race plus races eight-nine.  “I liked three horses in the fifth so I keyed Lost Forty (7-2) over Call To Glory (3-1) and Ship’s Cabin (12-1).  The $2 tri paid $349.

“Then, in the next-to-last daily double, I had a $5 ticket on Keep On Singing (3-1) to Top Surprize (4-5), which hit and paid $20 for $2,” continued Mandra.

“I didn’t know what I won until I got home and went on line to check results, and I didn’t know where I finished until I got your (this correspondent’s) email, but I can tell you, it’s great to be winning while working,” quipped Mandra.

For his successful foray to Villa Park on his lunch hour, Mandra wins the Las Vegas trip which means an expense-paid chance to win the estimated $300,000 first prize in the HWS.

But Mandra isn’t resting on his laurels.  “I’ll be back for the remaining summer contests, playing for prize money,” he assured.  “Why not?  If I’m going to be betting Arlington anyway, why not take a free chance at making a good day into a better day with some extra prize money?  Then, I’ll be playing in fall contests where I could win a second entry into the HWS.”  Well reasoned.

Ed Synowiecki also made the most of his foray to Villa Park.  “I started out with a small win early on the card to boost my bankroll,” began Synowiecki. 

“But things became aligned for me in the fifth race,” Synowiecki continued.  “I liked Lost Forty and Call To Glory based on their past performances, and they also had two of my favorite jocks aboard, Tanner Riggs and Tim Thornton.

“So, I made a $10 exacta box on those two, and the exacta paid $48 for $2.  That’s what got me into second place,” he concluded.

Ed Lieske (rhymes with risky) was the pacesetter, breaking from the gate into the lead with the first race trifecta. 

“I liked Vaults Last Sister (8-1) enough to key her over Raisinaboveonly (5-2) and Arrested By Duffy (16-1),” began Lieske.  “My 50-cent tri key returned $185 and I thought I might be on my way.

“I had a couple of small hits during the card but couldn’t add significantly to my total, so apparently the best I could do was hold on for third,” summarized Lieske.  “That’s OK, my in-the-money finishes tell me I’m doing something right so I plan to stick with it.  Someday I’ll wire the field…or come from behind to win.”

There was another handicapping seminar/contest two days later, on July 23, the fourth in the summer, 2011, Arlington Handicapping Challenge series.  Results of that contest are posted on and can be viewed by clicking here.  A story about the contest, like this one, will be posted on my blog (click here).   

Your next chance to win the coveted Las Vegas trip is August 20.  For more information, read my blog post by clicking here

We want to send you to Las Vegas, but you must get in it to win it! See you Saturday, August 20!


M. Scott McMannis

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