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June 12, 2004     E-mail this page to a friend!

Photo: Rick Adams on left with Los Alamitos Marketing Director Orlando Gutierrez

LOS ALAMITOS RACE COURSE, CYPRESS, CA.... A track record 397 handicappers played the Los Alamitos DRF/NTRA Regional Handicapping Tournament on Friday, June 11, but only one correctly tabbed five of the six tournament race winners..

Rick Adams of Long Beach was the top handicapper on the night, as his five winners gave him the championship, the first place cash prize of $900, prizes courtesy of, plus one of the three coveted Los Alamitos spot for the $200,000 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship to be held in Las Vegas in January. Salim Ed Hakim of Anaheim and Steve Hendricks of Carlsbad will join Adams as Los Alamitos representatives in Las Vegas.

Adams, 59, has been playing the ponies for more than 40 years. In fact, the retired police officer recalls making his first visit to the track when he was 12. Adams also boxed in his younger days, picking up the nickname of “Rocky” along the way. Eventually, Adams decided to hang up his boxing gloves to dedicate himself to public service.

Adams, who for a spell groomed and trained horses in his spare time, has always had a love affair with the track. His handicapping style is a simple one; look for jockey/trainer combinations that have worked in the past.

“I like to keep track of what jockeys trainers like to use when they feel they have a shot to win races,” Adams said. “I like to know what trainers are willing to drop horses down in class in order to get a win. I enjoy studying the past performance lines and I have been playing the horses for a long time. My strategy worked on the night of the tournament. 

“I’m so looking forward to the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship,” he added. “It’s going to be great fun.”

 One of four handicappers with four out of six in winners in the tournament, Hakim earned the $400 runner-up cash prize for being the closest to selecting the $1 exacta payoff in the final race of the contest. Hakim was playing in only his second handicapping tournament ever, his first coming in 2002.

“I only had two winners the first time,” he said. “I had a miserable showing.”

Looking to redeem himself, Hakim did twice as well this time around. Yet, he never expected to be in contention for a top spot.

“I figured that with as many players in the tournament, that a lot of players would have five or even six winners. I thought only one horse was really hard to predict, so I am surprised to finish second.”

The 67-year-old handicapper was born in Beirut, Lebanon, where his father owned several horses.

“By the time I came to the United States I was already a horse player,” he said.

A financer for auto dealers in Fullerton, California, Hakim resides just six miles away from Los Alamitos Race Course.

“I’ve been going to the track every day for the past 35 years,” he added. “I just approached this tournament as another night at the races.”

Steve Hendricks of Carlsbad will be making his third appearance in the $200,000 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Tournament after his third place finish at Los Alamitos. Hendricks, a full-time racehorse player, drove 3 1/2 hours and 80 miles just to participate in the contest.

“Traffic was bad,” Hendricks said. “I’m just glad I made it in time for the start of the contest. I used (handicapper) Les Onaka’s analysis for the Quarter Horse races and I took a chance with a longshot at Hollywood Park. Les’ comments helped me a lot.”

Hendricks qualified to the championship last via the regional at Surfside Race Place. Three years ago he made the final field after qualifying at Turf Paradise in Phoenix. Hendricks says he competes in about six regional tourneys per year. Originally, from North Carolina, Hendricks worked for National Cash Register, a company that made the old-fashioned cash register before taking the computer route. That job brought Hendricks to the West Coast in 1984. Hendricks lived in Huntington Beach for many years before moving to Carlsbad.