Six handicappers from Maryland were among 61 grand-prize winners in the $275,000 Breeders' Cup National Pick Seven Contest this year.
The winners were among more than 221,000 entrants in the contest, which was based on the results of the seven Breeders' Cup races at Belmont Park Oct. 27.
Each of the 61 grand-prize winners picked all seven winners. They will split $150,000, which comes to $2,459 apiece.
The winning Marylanders are Charles Butta and Woody Trafton, both of Baltimore; Llewellyn C. Hoerl of Catonsville; Roger Lee of Owings Mills; Gene G. Rose of Thurmont; and Ernest D. Harden of Ellicott City.
Harden, 65, said he was unaware he had won for sure until a newspaperman called him Wednesday to alert him.
"I got something in the mail earlier that said I might be a winner, and then I got something notarized and mailed it back," said Harden, who is retired.
"I only filled out one [entry] slip. I didn't even watch but two or three of the races, and I really had no idea at the time I had won."
This was the third year for the contest, which is advertised nationally in racing publications and newspapers, including The Sun, in the weeks leading to the Breeders' Cup. Entry forms, which featured the names and preliminary odds of all pre-entered horses, had to be received by 1 p.m. on race day to be eligible. Entries via a 900-number telephone call were also accepted. There was no limit per person on the number of entries, and there was no cost to enter.
This year's second prize of $75,000 will be divided among 1,542 individuals who picked six of seven winners ($48.64 each). Third prize of $50,000 -- to be divided among the 10,211 who picked five of seven -- amounts to $4.90 per person.
From the 61 grand-prize winners, eight were from Kentucky, seven from New York, and six each from Maryland, Illinois and Texas.
Harden said he could not remember how he arrived at his winning selections. If a selected horse is not entered or is scratched, the post-time favorite automatically becomes the selection. For all Harden knows, he could have "backed into" picking Meadow Star (Juvenile Fillies), Fly So Free (Juvenile), Royal Academy (Mile) or In The Wings (Turf), all of whom won as post-time choices.
Other winning horses on Breeders' Cup Day were Safely Kept (Sprint), Bayakoa (Distaff) and Unbridled (Classic).
"My daughter was all over me about not writing down my selections," Harden said.
"I'm tickled. I probably went more to the races [at Laurel and Pimlico race courses] this year than I ever have, which was about six or seven times. I don't know much about horses, but I do like to bet on them. I especially like to bet on No. 2s."
None of the other five grand-prize winners from Maryland could be reached last night.
Last year, more than 312,000 entries were received, none of which correctly named all seven winners. Eleven entries had six of seven, and they split the combined first- and second-place pools. In 1988, one entry identified all seven winners and won $150,000.
The contest is funded by the Breeders' Cup.