Competing in his first-ever handicapping contest, Michael Emanuele surged into the lead on his final wager Sunday and defeated 248 contestants to win the grand prize of $40,000 in the 2012 Summer Handicapping Challenge at Belmont Park.

Emanuele, 47, of Huntington, N.Y., finished the two-day contest with a mythical bankroll of $1,512, topping Arjune Harripersaud of Bellerose, N.Y., and Eugene Spruck of Brooklyn, N.Y., who tied for second place with mythical bankroll of $1,404.

Harripersaud and Spruck each won $12,500, with Spruck winning an additional $1,500 for having the highest bankroll ($1,238) on Day 2 of the contest. Ken Kingsbury, who led after Day 1, won $1,500 for having the highest bankroll after the first day of competition.

Emanuele will head a three-man team representing Belmont Park in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association/Daily Racing Form National Handicapping Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas in January, 2013. In addition to their prize money, the trio will receive airfare reimbursement for the DRF/NTRA tournament, courtesy of The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA). The NTRA will provide a three-night stay at the official tournament hotel for the championship event.

The Belmont Summer Challenge format allowed players nine $20 win, place, or show mythical wagers and one $40 wager during both days of the weekend contest. Players could choose to wager on any race from Belmont, Monmouth Park and Churchill Downs, with at least five of each player’s 10 daily wagers made on Belmont races.

Emanuele, who was in 13th place going into the last race on Sunday, saved his $40 wager for the 12th race at Monmouth Park, placing it on longshot Black Ana Splash. The 3-year-old filly got up in the final yards to win by 1 ¾ lengths and returned $34 to vault Emanuele into the lead.

“It came to down two horses, and we made the right decision,” said Emanuele, who said he was talked into entering the contest by five friends who live in Huntington and nearby Farmingdale. “I got lucky.”

Final Standings