Name: Douglas Draper

Hometown: Covington, La.   

A lifelong horseplayer, Douglas Draper started entering handicapping contests three years ago as a new way to bond with his aging father, Robert Draper, over their shared passion for racing. Douglas and his brother, Alan, would arrange weekly conference calls with the eldest Draper to discuss strategies for online tournaments, as each man handicapped different tracks and shared his suggested plays with the entire family. With help from his dad and brother, Douglas qualified for the NHC finals in each of his first two years on the NHC Tour via yearlong accrued points. Last weekend, four months since Robert Draper passed at the age of 93, Douglas earned his first berth to next year’s 18th Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship presented by Racetrack Television Network and Treasure Island Las Vegas, with a runner-up finish on 

Draper, 65, is a lawyer specializing in corporate bankruptcy and has worked on high-profile cases for clients including Fair Grounds Race Course, which was purchased out of bankruptcy by Churchill Downs Inc. in 2004. With three strong finishes on this year, Draper is 28th on the NHC Tour entering this weekend.

How long have you been following horse racing and participating in NHC qualifiers?

“The reason I got into this was my father was a handicapper. I’m originally from New York and grew up near Aqueduct and Belmont. When I was 14 I left Aqueduct one day with $2,100 from hitting a double and I was hooked.

“About three or four years ago Dad got sick and his ability to go to the races wasn’t that great anymore. In order to keep him involved I started entering handicapping contests and he did, too. He won a HorseTourneys contest when he was 91!

“We’d have a family conference call every Saturday to go over the contest races. It was a way of keeping touch. My brother, who’s a professor at St. Lawrence College, would look at Gulfstream and Tampa Bay; I would look at California and the Midwest tracks; and Dad would look at New York. The hardest day for me now is Saturday because we don’t have our calls in the mornings.”

How often do you play?

“I usually play any NHCQualify contests, and I’ve also been playing HorseTourneys and HPQ during the week, so I’m a regular player. It gives me something to do during the course of a day to break the boredom. And then Saturdays and Sundays I go to the Fair Grounds OTB here in Covington where I sit with the same group of guys and we pool money to play a Pick Four. The contests serve as my additional plays on the side for those days.”

How did you earn your NHC 18 berth last weekend?

“I qualified Saturday, finishing second on Last year there was a contest that came down to the last race and I had two horses I liked. One had the name ‘Rose’ in it. My wife loves roses and always tells me to play the Rose horses. I didn’t play it and that horse would have won the contest for me. So this year I was in nearly the same situation and I thought, ‘I’ve learned my lesson and I’m not even going to handicap the race; I’ll just play the Rose horse (Hint of Roses at Keeneland).’ He finished second and the $5 he paid to place got me to second.”

How do you like to handicap and what tools do you use?

“I started many years ago using the Sartin methodology

[of evaluating speed in terms of energy expended]. Lately I’ve been using a great deal more statistics and looking for things that aren’t obvious but are available online. For example, little things like jockey-trainer combo stats. There are plenty of places to get jockey-trainer stats but I like them broken down even further to, say, turf sprints versus dirt sprints. There was an Arnaud Delacour horse Saturday at Keeneland named Exaggerated who paid $22. But if you looked at the underlying statistics for the horse it was a good play.”

Now that you’re not handicapping with your father what keeps you playing in contests?

“When I started this [2009 NHC Tour winner and fellow South Louisiana-based horseplayer] Bryan Wagner told me something very poignant, which was, ‘You will meet people that will end up becoming friends for life.’ And that’s happened. The people that do this are special. They all have great stories and are a joy to be around. It’s enlarged the world I deal with and expanded my friendship group.”