Press Release: Kenny Mollicone goes from $0 to being Kentucky Downs’ King of the Turf

Kentucky Downs’ 2021 King of the Turf: Kenny Mollicone!

Developer rallies to win overall title after scoring $0 in first leg

(Kentucky Downs’ King of the Turf Kenny Mollicone,right), with his handicapping buddy Patrick Piccolo at Gulfstream Park. Mollicone said Piccolo “might be the only guy’s opinion I listen to when it comes to horses.” Photo courtesy Kenny Mollicone)

FRANKLIN, Ky. (Monday, Sept. 13, 2021) — Kenny Mollicone, a 47-year-old real-estate developer from Somerset, Mass., is the 2021 National Turf Handicapping Champion, having won the six-day online Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs.

Mollicone finished with an aggregate total of $5,783.90 Sunday after playing in all three of the individual two-day, live-money competitions. That gave him a comfortable $1,163.90 advantage over runner-up Christy Moore, who finished on top in the second contest.

As the King of the Turf, Mollicone earned $20,000 in prize money and the BetMakers King of the Turf Trophy. He earned a seat and prize pack to the 2022 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas in late January by virtue of his second place in the second contest.

If Mollicone was a horse, his race-chart trouble line would read “left at the gate, rallied, won under wraps.”

Mollicone tapped out in the first two-day contest staged Sept. 5-6, finishing with a $0 score as Gary Gristick won the competition with a $2,500 bankroll. Undeterred, he finished second at $3,778.40 behind Moore’s winning bankroll of $4,620 in the second tournament Sept. 8-9 and seventh with $2,005.50 Saturday and Sunday in the final leg won by Ed Deicke at $7,392. Contest players were required to bet a minimum amount of money on a minimum of five races each day.

“I was going to bet Kentucky Downs anyway,” Mollicone said by phone Monday. “To be honest, I really didn’t concentrate on the tournament. I usually bet $200, $300, $500 a race. I liked a horse or two, so I screwed around and the horses didn’t win, so I was done (with the first tournament). Some people do so much a race and manage their money. Me, I’m just like if I take a shot and win, great; if not, hey, I’ll do the next tournament. Kind of like that’s what happened.

“Like, I did OK for the tournaments, but I did great betting on my own…. I entered the contest figuring if I like a horse, I’ll take a shot. If he does well and I win, I got money and I keep playing. If not, then I just keep betting on my regular account.”

Mollicone says he played some horses whose double-digit odds seemed too high, but he couldn’t generally remember their names. One name he clearly recalls, however, is Arklow, who got bottled up in traffic in midstretch before getting through late and coming up a neck shy of Imperador in Saturday’s $1 million, Grade 2 Calumet Farm Turf Cup.

“He got blocked, should have won the race for fun,” he said. “He wins that race, I probably win that tournament. I had big doubles going in to him and big doubles going out with him. That’s what kind of killed me. Then (Sunday), I just did what I had to do. I didn’t like anything on the card.”

He said he calculated that he had enough bankroll to win the overall title and quit playing after Sunday’s seventh race — his handicapping there proving correct.

Mollicone is a fan of the competition’s format.

“It kept it interesting,” he said. “I knew I didn’t do well on the first one, but I kind of liked a couple of horses in the second one; it kept me involved. I thought it was great, the way they set up it and the way they did the overall so you’re going to play all three. Whoever came up with it, I think it’s a great idea. It keeps you wanting to do it.

“A couple of guys who beat me (in the third leg), they didn’t do the other tournaments and they didn’t get the $20,000. Shame on them. You’re going to bet Kentucky Downs anyway. It’s great racing. You’ve got great horses. I think the more the people find out about it, especially with the bonus at the end, you’re going to find more people playing next year. Guys are going to kick themselves in the butt for not playing the whole thing.”

Mollicone calls his late father, Bob, the best handicapper he’s ever known. He says the first thing he learned how to read was the Daily Racing Form and went Suffolk Downs and the off-track betting at Rhode Island casinos with his dad, the two also traveling around the country to play contests.

“I love betting turf races,” he said. “It’s a more exciting race, a more true race. And I just love the set up (at Kentucky Downs). They’re going uphill, downhill. I just love it. You look forward to it. I’ve always done well at Kentucky Downs. You get horses who pay $25, $30 that you think should pay $8 or $10. Great racing and great value.”

Tournament Director Brian Skirka called the 2021 Kentucky Downs King of the Turf Handicapping Challenge “a massive success.”

“We had over 400 combined entries over the three contests and awarded over $171,000 in prizes,” he said. “I’d like to thank all the players who participated and Kentucky Downs for putting on six days of world-class turf racing. In just two years, these Kentucky Downs contests have proven themselves to be some of the most-challenging and most-lucrative in the country. I look forward to working with the Kentucky Downs team to grow them even more in the future.”

— by Jennie Rees

Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge


Overall Top 5 (with final bankroll)
1. Kenneth Mollicone, $5,783.80 ($20,000 prize money)
2. Christy Moore, $4,620.00
3. Nick Noce, $3,768.00
4. David Rink, $3,206.60
5. Gary Gristick, $3,001.00

Seat Winners
NHC – National Horseplayers Championship
BCBC – Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge

Contest #1
Name (score) — prizes
Gary Gristick ($2,500) – NHC, $9,000
Lawrence Kahlden ($1,940) — NHC, $4,500
Erin Doty-McQuaid ($1,905.50) — NHC, $2,700
Marikate Carter ($1,655.60) – NHC, $1,800

Contest #2
Name (score) — prizes
Christy Moore ($4,620) – BCBC, $6,600
Kenneth Mollicone ($3,778.40) – NHC, $3,200
Nick Noce ($3,746) – NHC, $2,000
David Rink ($3,206.60) – NHC, $1,350

Contest #3
Name (score) — prizes
Ed Deicke ($7,392) – BCBC, $8,600
Michael Doheny ($6,506) – BCBC, $4,200
Gary Wright ($6,229) – NHC, $2,500
George Chute ($4,041.70) – NHC $1,600
Chris Larmey ($3,403.50) – NHC $1,200
Joseph Regan ($2,259.70)- NHC $1,000

Kentucky Downs by the numbers: Looking back at the meet

All sources handle

The 2021 all-sources handle of $74,088,532 was up from last year’s total of $59,828,444 by $14,260,088, or 24 percent.

Details: all-sources handle at the 2021 Kentucky Downs meeting
Sunday, September 5, 2021 (11 races) $10,762,322
Monday (Labor Day), September 6, 2021 (11) $10,186,247
Wednesday, September 8, 2021 (10) $7,965,161
Thursday, September 9, 2021 (11) $10,425,558
Saturday, September 11, 2021 (11) $20,849,967
Sunday, September 12, 2021 (10) $13,899,277
Total: $74,088,532

Top six days all-time handle at Kentucky Downs through the 2021 meeting
Saturday, September 11, 2021 (11 races) $20,849,967
Saturday, September 12, 2020 (11) – $17,437,731
Sunday, September 12, 2021 (10) $13,899,277
Saturday, September 7, 2019 (10) $11,321,492
Sunday, September 5, 2021 (11) $10,762,322
Thursday, September 9, 2021 (11) $10,425,558


Joel Rosario rode to 17 victories from 53 starts (32 percent), including five each on the first two days of the meet and four on the final day 6 to win his first Kentucky Downs riding title. He blew by the previous record of 12 jointly held by Rafael Bejarano (2004), and Florent Geroux (2015 and 2016). It’s a record that is likely to stand for a long time. Rosario ran second six times and third four times. Last but not least, he pulled down $2,952,097 in earnings.

Second in this year’s win standings was last year’s champ, Tyler Gaffalione, who won eight outings and had an overall record of 50-8-7-6 with $1,735,730 in purse money, also second-best. Julien Leparoux was third in wins with five out of 36 starts. Although he won only two races, Geroux’s mounts represented $1,347,463 in earnings, third in the rankings.


Mike Maker, Steve Asmussen and Brendan Walsh tied for the Hagyard’s Leading Trainer title with four wins apiece. Maker led the field in starters (49) and earnings ($1,065,892). His stable ran second 10 times and third 10 times.

Brad Cox, with three wins, ranked second in earnings with $1,051,880. The only other member of the millionaire club was Michael Stidham, whose two wins from four starts yielded $1,044,690 in purse money.


The Sentient Jet Leading Owner award was won hands down by Godolphin, LLC, who added four winners to their total of 55 so far this year as listed by Equibase. Among their eight starters, they earned $1,074,166, also tops at the meet.

Adventuring, a homebred by Pioneerof the Nile out of Questing (GB), by Hard Spun, got the team off to a good start by winning the Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks on opening day.

The following afternoon, another homebred, Pixelate (City Zip out of Speckled, by Street Cry (IRE)), took the Grade 3 WinStar Mint Million Stakes.

Three racing days later, first-timer Boxing Day (Street Boss out of Dowager, by A.P. Indy), a homebred filly, was four wide before coming home first; and the homebred juvenile colt Grael (Astern (AUS) out of Fortress, by Street Cry (IRE)) got the job done going a mile.

Owners with two wins at the meet were, in order of earnings, Three Diamonds Farm ($379,644); Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher ($253,814); and Stuart S. Janney, III ($124,440). Among owners with a single win, Brad Kelley’s Calumet Farm ($720,356) topped the rankings. Kelley grew up in Simpson County not far from Kentucky Downs.


There were numerous large payoffs during the meet, but favorites won at a rate slightly greater than the national average. From 64 races, favorites won 22 times, or 34.4 percent. The national average usually runs around 33 percent.

Keeping track of the tracks

Ellis Park and Saratoga Race Course led all last-race venues that produced winners at the Kentucky Downs meet. From 64 races, 19 winners last raced at the Henderson, Ky. track, attesting to its improving racing product, and 16 winners shipped in after last running at Saratoga, whose prestige is more than established.

Debut runners won five races, and starters that last raced at Indiana Grand took four. Other tracks that preceded multiple winners at the meet were Churchill Downs (3), Colonial Downs (3), Arlington Park (2), Gulfstream Park (2) Monmouth Park (2).

Aqueduct, Del Mar, Fair Grounds, Lone Star, Mountaineer and Woodbine each had one. In addition, European tracks were last-race venues for two winners: one from Leopardstown (IRE) and one from Newmarket (GB).

– by Dick Downey


About Kentucky Downs

Check out our new The Mint Gaming Hall!

Located near the Kentucky and Tennessee border, just off Interstate 65 and approximately 35 miles from Nashville, Tenn., Kentucky Downs features Historical Horse Racing gaming terminals and conducts live turf racing each September on America’s only “European-style” race course while offering among the highest purses in the world. Kentucky Downs is a pioneer in modern Historical Horse Racing, the electronic form of pari-mutuel betting on horses that has become one of the great financial success stories in the sport’s history. Racing has been conducted at the facility since 1990, when it was called Dueling Grounds.

Address: 5629 Nashville Road, P.O. Box 405, Franklin, KY 42135
Phone: 270.586.7778
2021 racing dates: Sept. 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 and 12

Kentucky Downs media contacts:
Jennie Rees,
Kentucky Downs publicity director

Allie Sclafani,
Kentucky Downs marketing director

Kentucky Downs | 5629 Nashville Road, Franklin, KY 42134

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