Younger players making mark
The youth movement in horseplayer contests is in full effect. For evidence, check out 22-year-old Grant LaGrange of New Orleans. On his recent trip to Saratoga for Labor Day weekend, LaGrange finished best in a field of nearly 300 entries in one of Saratoga’s low-roller contests, parlaying his $40 buy-in into more than $2,300.
“Getting taken down in a double DQ one day, then turning around the next day and having my strongest opinion win at 13-1 by a nose on contest day was a pretty good swing of racing luck,” said LaGrange, who has worked in the racing office at Fair Grounds and wants to continue to work in the racing industry.
LaGrange has been a racing fan since he was 13, brought into the game by his grandfather.
“He had always been a big racing fan and used to bring me, my brother, and my cousin to the track with him,” LaGrange said. “Back in 2014, we hit a pick six together at Del Mar that paid over $100,000.”
When it comes to his process, he starts by handicapping the races as a whole, as opposed to just the betting interests in each race.
“I always start the same way: I categorize a race as a ‘random’ or a ‘non-random,’ ” he said. “Once I’ve done that, I start looking at the numbers and making my decision on how many contenders I am willing to use and the prices I’ll accept on each horse.”
He’s a Daily Racing Form fan, but he looks at other sources, too, in the end making his own numbers.
“I use a few different things, including the Sheets and a velocity program that crunches numbers for me,” he said.
Contests have always held a special appeal.
“I got interested in the highroller life shown on the show ‘Horseplayers,’ ” he said, “and I found out more about contests just reading about them in articles in DRF.”
He’s played a lot online over the last three years in smaller stakes and is looking to take his game to the next level, slowly but surely. The Saratoga hit represents an important step in that direction. LaGrange also expressed interest in the World Horseplayers’ Tour, though he was unsuccessful in his attempts to qualify for the first WHT event.
“Showing the world how great betting horses can be on TV could bring in a whole new universe of fans – especially fans my age,” he said.
While he certainly sees the importance of bringing in new fans, when he looks at racing’s future he doesn’t see doom and gloom. He describes the “racing is dying” narrative as “getting old” and disputes its validity.
“I think that if you put in the time, you can make money – good money – playing this game,” he said.
“Then you add on top of that the camaraderie that comes along with going to the track with friends and playing cash or playing contests, and I think there’s a case to be made that racing will get stronger and stronger as more and more people realize what it’s really all about. It’s a big party where you can make money, that’s the way I see it.”
Look for Grant LaGrange’s name soon on top of a leaderboard near you.