LAS VEGAS, Nevada (February 6, 2019) – As one of the ground-floor members of Little Red Feather Racing, Joe Rosen has become well versed with the unique experiences brought on by equine athletes. In 2004, the 49-year-old got to celebrate a Breeders’ Cup triumph when Little Red Feather’s Singletary scored his memorable upset in that year’s Mile. This week, Rosen seeks another peak achievement when he competes for the first time in the NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Presented by Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens™ and Treasure Island Las Vegas.
Rosen grew up in California along with Little Red Feather partners Billy Koch and Gary Fenton and was inspired to join the NHC Tour after the latter qualified for the 2018 NHC. After he won a HorseTourneys.com online contest in June, Rosen officially caught NHC fever and made a determined push to edge out his good friend Eric Adler for leading NHC Rookie Tour honors.
In advance of the 20th edition of the NHC, Rosen shared his thoughts on taking the Rookie title and how he plans to approach his first attempt at becoming an Eclipse Award winner for Horseplayer of the Year.
Q: What made you decide to play the Tour this year?
A: “I played the Tour because I’m a member of Little Red Feather racing. So I grew up with Gary and Billy and they had that special where if you win the tour this year there is a million-dollar bonus. I’ve probably handicapped races since I was 12 or 13 years old going to Hollywood Park. I saw how much fun Gary was having with it last year and decided to join the Tour. I joined early on and didn’t give it much thought until it was a rainy day in May, sometime around Preakness time, and there was a free tournament that day and I decided to join in on that day and I also played a money tournament that day. I ended up finishing in the top 25 I think in the free one, but I won the money one. And I was hooked from that point on.”
Q: How long have you been interested in racing? What got you involved?
A: “I grew up with Gary and Billy. There was a group of us from high school who used to go to Hollywood Park every other weekend and have breakfast out there and stay for the races. We were playing long before we were of age to play. But we always enjoyed it. Probably around 2002 I started purchasing horses with Billy and I owned part of Singletary. I’ve been with them from the start. I’ve probably owned a percentage of more horses with them than any other owner.”
Q: If I had told you at the start of the year that you not only would be top 30 on the Tour qualified for Vegas, what would you have thought?
A: “I would have said you were crazy as to winning the rookie of the year. The story there is a little different. Eric Adler who finished second is one of my best friends. I didn’t know he was playing and he didn’t know I was playing. And it so happened somewhere in June or July, we realized he was leading and I was in the top 5 and we decided to make it a little competition between ourselves. He was leading all the way through November and he probably would have won rookie of the year if it weren’t for him winning a second seat. He won his second seat I believe in October and I only had one seat and he lost the reason to keep playing where I still had a second seat to win. And I didn’t win my second seat until the live competition at Santa Anita in January. So I kept playing, I went on a very good streak in November and December where I think I scored in like five tournaments in three weeks. And he had no need to play those tournaments. He had a small lead at that point but after I had those top 20 finishes in those tournaments, he was in the rearview mirror at that point. But he was at a disadvantage because he really had no reason to play because most of those tournaments are all set up for the 2019 NHC and he already had those seats. So the $1,000 difference between the first and second place prize wasn’t worth playing the tournaments for at that point for him.”
Q: Are there any certain betting strategies you use in tournament play as opposed to a regular day at the races of handicapping?
A: “I don’t look at it too different. If I’m going to the racetrack I’m usually going to Santa Anita or Del Mar and I’ll usually just focus on that track and not play Aqueduct or Keeneland or whatever other tracks are open. Obviously, when you’re playing a tournament you’re looking at specific races that have been chosen and you have to focus on those. I’ve actually done much better in the Pick and Prays than the live tournaments. I’ve done decent in the beginning of live tournaments but then everyone who is way behind will start playing the long, longshots and horses you may not even consider in a Pick and Pray because you’re sitting there trying to consider better horses usually. When you’re so far behind, you’re thinking ‘If I don’t have a 15-1 shot, a 20-1 shot, I’m never going to get back into the top 10. I’ve tended to do better in the Pick and Prays were I’m sticking to my 5-1 shots, 7-1 shots, every so often taking a longer shot than a live tournament where I’m playing with those horses and someone might get lucky on a given day. You wouldn’t normally see 50 people in a 200 person tournament take 15 or 20-1 shots in a Pick and Pray on the last two races because they have no idea where they’re going to be in the tournament versus the live tournament where they are $60 behind and have no choice other than to take the longshot. I’ve been trying to concentrate these last few weeks on the live tournaments to get ready for the NHC.”
Q: What is your mindset going into Vegas?
A: “Well Eric Adler and I have been having our own private competitions as to who buys dinner on whatever night out there preparing for the NHC because we’ve never participated in the past. It’s interesting being told here are 8 races you have to play on this day, now go chose 10 more from these (eight) tracks. And having not done anything like that before, we’ve been preparing for the last three weeks by choosing a Saturday and saying okay these are the 8, now go chose ten more. So we’ve been having a competition among ourselves. We figured that’s the best way to try and simulate what we’re going to be in next week.”
Q: For someone who has never played the Tour and is thinking about it, what advice what you give them?
A: “It’s tremendous fun. I’ve very entertained by spending my Saturday mornings or Friday nights going over the next day’s races or that day’s races and choosing my 12 horses. If it’s Pick and Pray, I don’t have to really pay attention to it until later in the afternoon to see how I’m doing. If it’s live competition, I’m spending the day playing the ponies. It’s quite enjoyable and usually a lot cheaper than going to the track sometimes if you’re having a bad day. It keeps you very entertained and because you’re following horses from across the country you’re learning a lot more about other tracks and horses you would never hear of. Being on the West coast, I would never necessarily know about the New York-breds in a New York special race. And I’m starting to learn about those horses and it does make it more interesting when I’m looking at those tracks.”