Black-Eyed Susan Day “combo” qualifier champ Jeff Joffrion of Baton Rouge is the second straight Louisiana resident to be featured in this space, following the last free online contest winner, Chris Williams of Bossier City. As with Hall of Fame jockeys, the Bayou State has a proud tradition of producing an outsized number of top handicapping tournament players. For example, Judy Wagner, the first woman to win the NHC; Michael Beychok, the first horseplayer to take down a $1 million grand prize in a handicapping contest; Bryan Wagner, the 2009 NHC Tour winner; and Patrick McGoey, the only two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. With his unexpected triumph Friday on HorsePlayers.com, relative newcomer Joffrion now has a chance to write history of his own in both of the world’s leading handicapping contests – the $2.5 million (estimated) NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) presented by Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens™ and Treasure Island Las Vegas, set for Feb. 9-11, 2018, at Treasure Island, and the $1 million (estimated) Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC), held in conjunction with the 2017 Breeders’ Cup, Nov. 3-4, at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club near San Diego.
Joffrion, 49, managed to win the “combo” qualifier with just two winners from 10 races. Along with his Place payoffs he amassed a cumulative bankroll of $111.60. Both of the winners, as you might guess, were generously priced longshots. The field he beat included contest veterans and industry heavyweights like George Chute (second, $97.30), pro wrestling executive Basil DeVito, pro clocker Bruno DeJulio, Bill Shurman, Joe Pettit, TwinSpires.com executive Ed DeRosa, 2014 NHC Tour hero Eric Moomey, NBC Sports and Daily Racing Form handicapper Matt Bernier, NHC Hall of Fame member Steve Wolfson Sr., and the aforementioned Red Stick rampager Beychok.
HorsePlayers.com is the official online qualifying site of both the NHC and the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and is the exclusive host site for all five annual free qualifiers presented by the NTRA.
Joffrion took time out from his day job as a partner in an employee benefits health insurance company to tell us more about his winning picks, his methods, and his background.
This is the first time most of our readers will have heard your name. How long have you been playing in handicapping contests?
“This tournament thing is very new to me. I just kind of heard about it in December of last year. Somebody told me about it and I said, ‘Man, this is right up my alley.’ I don’t play a bunch of them, just a few, but I’ve been lucky. I qualified for the Grade One Gamble and I’ve always wanted to visit Keeneland but I didn’t go because I was busy with the kids that weekend.”
How long have you been a horseplayer?
“I started in 1988 when off-track betting first came to Louisiana. I was in college and I started working at the off-track betting parlor and I worked there all throughout college with a bunch of my friends. So that’s when I became familiar with it. And I’ve always enjoyed it since then.”
What do you think of the new HorsePlayers.com site now that you’ve had the chance to use it a few times?
“I think it’s an excellent site, very user-friendly, very easy to use. You can check where you stand and you can find the results. It’s a good website, man. I like it.”
Have you spent much time in either Del Mar or Las Vegas?
“I’ve never been to Del Mar. I’ve been to Vegas a couple of times. I’ve heard a lot about those big handicapping contests, because everybody over here talks and says they’re fun.”
How did you win the big “combo” qualifier on HorsePlayers.com?
“To be honest with you, I had two winners. On the first winner (Just too Much, $51.40, Pimlico Race 12), I was between two horses. The 11 went off at 24-1 and had shown some speed. Of course I went with the long shot. It ran 11-2 and that got me back in the game. “Then, in the next race, I loved the 10 horse (Charged, $36.60, Pimlico Race 14). She was 17 to 1, and she closed to win easy. “The problem with the next race was that it was a ‘live’ contest and after they crossed the wire from the previous race I could see the horses from Santa Anita walking to the gate. It was the last race of the contest. I thought I was going to be in the lead but I didn’t know by how much. Right as they’re walking to the gate they updated the standings and I could see I had a $14 lead. I liked three different horses and the eight was a big favorite. I went to the one. The favorite won (Quality Line, $5.40, Santa Anita 6) but there was a 67-1 shot in second and I thought, well, I’m done. But I was able to hold on.”
What tools or angles or methods do you like to employ in your handicapping?
“I use just the basic past performances. I know a lot of people use a lot of different things but that’s all I need to just analyze the race – the speed, the closers – and see how the race is going to develop and go from there. “For these tournaments, I don’t prepare. I just look at the race, evaluate it, and it’s just like a day at the track – you just got to pick winners. “My philosophy is I just try to pick the winner and let it fall like it may. If you can pick the winners, you’ll be good.”