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May 07, 2019


by Mike Henry
Additional lifelines vital to Chris Crowley's title performance, enabling him to collect $1,000 first prize and two seats at next season's High Rollers event; Tampa Bay area player Kevin Monaghan finishes second, earns $500 and one seat.

Chris Crowley of Jamestown, N.Y., walked a tightrope between success and elimination during the early stages of the “Live It Up Challenge” online handicapping contest sponsored by Tampa Bay Downs.

The retired sales and marketing professional neglected to purchase additional lifelines at the start of the contest on March 9, then realized how difficult it might be to get to the final day on May 5 with only the free lifeline each of the 743 entrants received upon registering.

Crowley, 67, breathed a sigh of relief when March 24 arrived and he was able to buy additional lifelines to guard against the virtual inevitability of one or more of his choices finishing out of the money. The timing of his infusion couldn’t have been better: immediately upon springing for additional lifelines, three of his next six selections failed to hit the board.

“It was stressful for a couple of days, but I relaxed a little bit after purchasing those four lifelines,” said Crowley, who posted a final bankroll of $259.50 to finish atop the final standings. “It’s a very challenging contest because you have to thread the needle between accumulating dollars in your bankroll and preserving your lifelines.”

Indeed, Crowley was one of only 14 players to make it to the final day without running out of lifelines and being eliminated. He earned first prize of $1,000 and two free seats at next season’s High Rollers Handicapping Contest at Tampa Bay Downs.

Finishing second with a bankroll of $235.10 was Kevin Monaghan of Land O’ Lakes, Fla. Monaghan, an IT Senior Manager for Insight, won $500 and one seat at the High Rollers Handicapping Contest, expected to take place in January.

Monaghan, 64, moved into second place Saturday by correctly selecting the Kathleen O’Connell-trained, Pablo Morales-ridden Market Swings to win the fourth race. “I wasn’t doing that well during the first half of the contest, so I started looking more at the jockeys and trainers,” said Monaghan, who was playing in his first handicapping contest. “I picked five winners in a row and gained a little more confidence.

“Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while,” added Monaghan, who visits Tampa Bay Downs about once a month during the Thoroughbred season.

Crowley, who has never been to the Oldsmar oval, is thrilled about the opportunity to come here next winter. “I can’t wait to get out of the frozen tundra in the middle of January and enjoy some Florida sunshine,” he said. “There is a very loyal fan base here that follows the Tampa signal, and it is always nice to see how beautiful it looks when we’ve had two weeks of snow here.

“I’m still ecstatic. I can’t really believe it,” added Crowley, who said he had played a number of handicapping contests without winning prior to this season.

Crowley said the two key victories that pushed him over the top were those by the Brenda McCarthy-trained, Jose Ferrer-ridden Legacy Park on March 16 and the Arnaud Delacour-trained, Daniel Centeno-ridden Ionic on March 31. Legacy Park’s victory boosted his bankroll by $32.80 and Ionic’s triumph by an even sweeter $45.

“It’s a fun contest and it definitely makes you think, and that’s good,” Crowley said.