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A dark horse in his mind, but then a winner in reality

A Bayonet Point man thinks his chances are shot. Instead, he wins the No. 2 spot and $100,000in a horse racing handicapping competition.

Published February 1, 2006

[Times photo: Janel Schroeder-Norton]
Mark C. Lowe of Bayonet Point won second place in the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas on Saturday. His total winnings in the competition, which airs Feb. 19 on ESPN2, were $104,000.

Mark C. Lowe thought he'd finished out of the big money.

After missing one the competition's mandatory races, the 58-year-old retiree had fallen to 10th place Saturday at a national horse racing handicapping competition in Las Vegas.

One of the day's races had already begun, and it was too late for Lowe to pick a horse. And he was competing against top handicappers from racetracks and casinos from the United States and Canada in the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association Handicapping Championship.

So, because of his mixup, Lowe wasn't expecting much. He figured he'd get ready for the event's awards banquet, then make his way home to Bayonet Point.

"I was heading for the elevator, and a lady from ESPN yells out, "Come back, you can't leave.' I said, "I didn't win.' And she said, "No, but you came in second.' I was stunned."

Lowe knew first place meant $250,000, but had no idea how much the second-place finisher received.

"They told me (how much),' and I said, "That is sweet.' "

When he returned home Sunday, Lowe didn't tell anyone about his big payday except his mother, whom he takes care of.

"I don't want third cousins I've never met calling me up," he said. This year's winner, 61-year-old Ron Rippey, handicapper for the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger newspaper, won $250,000, and is guaranteed a spot in next year's competition.

For finishing second, Lowe received $100,000. He won $4,000 in a earlier contest.

Mel Moser, 56, of Lexington, Ky., won third place and $50,000.

There were 226 handicappers, 75 teams of three people. Lowe was paired with two other people who qualified at Tampa Bay Downs. Handicap is a term used to describe which horse or horses are best in a race.

The competition is based on mythical $2 bets picking the first- and second-place finishers in 15 races held each day of the two-day event. Rippey finished with an imaginary bankroll of $237.20. Lowe finished with $228.60 and Moser had $227.60.

ESPN2 will air the seventh annual competition at 6 p.m. Feb. 19.

"I might compare it to the U.S. Open of horse racing and handicapping in that you've got competitors from around the country," said NTRA spokesman Eric Wing. Meanwhile, Lowe has sensible plans for his winnings. No new cars or fancy shopping trips.

"I'll invest it in a Roth IRA, and hold a few thousand back for incidentals."

[Last modified February 1, 2006, 01:04:14]

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