Not My First Rodeo


images O. K. , it’s my second. I started handicapping three years ago and qualified for my first NHC last year with a single ticket. Like 50 or so other players in this year’s NHC, I have two entries compared to last year’s single. But that’s not the real difference between this year and last year.

This year I am not afraid. Because over the course of a year, I’ve accomplished a lot in the contest world, done something no other woman has done by touring solo around the country full-time in tourneys for six months, and played in hundreds and hundreds of online tournaments. Does that mean I’ll win NHC17? Of course not.

But here’s what I’ve learned since last year:

Don’t be intimidated by the vibe when you walk into the ballroom. Yes… there will be legends… and TV stars… and BIG personalities… I mean LOUD personalities… I just put my headphones on to avoid distractacapping.

Put mandatory selections in ahead of time. Don’t get cute. Just handicap your mandatories in a no-nonsense way and nail them. You are here for a reason — you are a damn good handicapper and even though you will need luck for three straight days, by hitting a high percentage of your mandatories you can give yourself a base to get in position to work some magic with your alternates.

Take a break when you need to. The human brain can only concentrate without going into a downward mode of “concentration hibernation” for twenty minutes at a time. Get up, walk around. Caffeine really helps. Alcohol… does not. Give away your drink tickets to someone you really want to beat.

Structure like hell. Know the rules, keep track like RainMan of how many races you have played and how many you have left. Don’t blow your shot at a life-changing score by forgetting a mandatory or by playing too many races. Not going to happen to you? Think again.

Don’t magnify the roar of the crowd in your head. You will not hit every cap horse. There will be a number of very excited people who will loudly cheerimages-1 about the fact that they have hit a capper each time one comes in. Keep your head down if you missed it. Turn up your music. Think of what you’ll do with hundreds of thousands of dollars. Do not get rattled and get pulled off your game.

Learn. Ask. Don’t be afraid to chit chat a little with successful players, unless they are clearly unavailable for conversation. I learn (steal) from the best. I observe what successful handicappers do and know myself well enough to know what works for me and doesn’t. Steal from others. But know thyself.

And have your speech ready. Memorize it. Dream it. Good luck.



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Barbara Bowley
Top Female Contest Player/Physicality Handicapper Barbara Bowley aka "Sophia" is the only female DerbyWars $100K game winner and one of the most successful women in the field. She recently won DW's $50k game, making her the only person to ever win both their $100k and $50k games. Her experience growing up around horses and natural intuitive style have made her successful at reading a horse’s psychological state, physical suitability and readiness to win.