Ryan Steigmeier, a longtime professional horseplayer who only recently migrated into the handicapping contest world, took advantage of one aggressive play early in the day to win Sunday’s Keeneland BCBC Challenge. Turning a starting bankroll of $2,000 into $13,870, the 38-year-old native of North Royalton, Ohio, received a $12,500 first-place prize on top of his winnings, as well as seats to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) and the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping contest, the $2.8 million (estimated) Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) presented by Racetrack Television Network and Treasure Island Las Vegas, set for Jan. 27-29, 2017, at Treasure Island.
Can you walk us through how you managed to win the prestigious Keeneland contest?
“I had a very strong opinion on the Barclay Tagg horse (Verve’s Tale in Keeneland’s third race) and my gambling partner
“In the race where I had to bet half my bankroll – which was $7,500 – we just did the math and figured out how to bet so we just had the takeout. We were in a very good spot – still a few thousand ahead even after betting that $7,500 – and it would have been foolish to do anything else. I was just trying to mitigate losses so we ‘dutched’ the field and bet every horse an amount that would pay us $7,000 to win. A few of the guys around us were nice enough to help with the math.”
So you essentially won the contest off of one race?
“It’s nothing for me to bet a few thousand into a race but I’ve noticed a lot of these guys are very conservative. A lot of them are just hanging out. Even when I’m at the track on a regular day I’m really trying to crank something and make something happen. I may bet only one race all day but I bet it like I mean it. I think we have an advantage that way, especially in live money contests, because a lot of the competition is just playing to keep their bankroll until the end and then make one stab.”
How long have you been a contest player?
“I just got into these contests in the last two months. We’ve picked up more than $20,000 in those high-stakes Derby Wars contests. Jackie had already won a seat to the BCBC and he was the one that said I should try to find some of the contests where there might be a soft spot. We’ve been doing really well.”
I understand you’ve been a serious horseplayer for many years, though, long before you tried contests?
“I’ve filed my taxes for the last 10 years as a professional gambler, all derived from horseracing. I turn a very steady profit with the horses. I met Jackie when I bought some horses for his uncle and we struck up a friendship and have been playing together sporadically for a while.”
You also worked on the backside for many years. How do those contacts and that education help your horseplaying?
“I worked for Mike Maker for about a decade in every capacity. I can tell you with absolute certainty that inside information never gets anyone anywhere. Mike’s a very dear friend but the last thing I want to hear from him is that he’s going to win a race because it never happens that way.
“Through my experience of buying and claiming horses I put a lot of weight on the physicality of horses when I’m looking at them in the paddock. I learned a lot being around Mike and trying to see some of the things that he sees. I feel like I have a huge edge over the majority of people I play against because I have a good idea of what I’m looking at. I bet a lot of money into baby races based on pedigree and have had a lot of success doing that but unfortunately they don’t use a lot of maiden races in these contests because most players don’t like them.”
What was the genesis of your interest in horse racing?
“My mom had always owned horses, I guess for tax write-off purposes more than anything, and I got a bug for it. When I got out of school it just manifested into what it is now, which is a full-time job.”
But you do have a traditional full-time job, correct? As an insurance executive?
“I do have a full-time, nine-to-five kind of job, but I put just as much into my gambling. I had an extreme IRS audit because of all the money I move around and my accountant – he’s the best, he won a big tournament at Churchill Downs this year – he suggested I get a job to offset some of the other stuff we had going on. But we’re all squared away with the IRS now.”