For California Doctor, Contest Play Proves to be Just the Right Prescription

Dr. Ronald Tang has a lot going on in his life these days. The 39-year-old South Pasadena, Calif, resident maintains a busy schedule as an oncologist and hematologist. And he and his wife Winnie welcomed their first child, Siena, into the world just four weeks ago. Tang still makes time to play the races, however. In fact, he does so on a pretty darned regular basis.

“There’s a lot of juggling going on right now,” he laughed. “I usually get involved [with the races] Wednesday through Sunday, with Friday through Sunday being more heavy duty. Most of the time I do my handicapping at night after work, but with the baby being up at odd hours, it has actually given me more time to handicap. In some ways, my schedule is reverting to when I was a medical resident and never had time to sleep!”

If sleep deprivation has been an issue for Tang, it didn’t show last Sunday when he won qualifiers to both the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and The BIG One.

“I don’t buy into the qualifiers,” he said. “Instead I play feeders to try and get into the qualifiers. Sunday was a really good feeder day for me. I hit a 30-1 shot early on, and that wound up getting me into five different qualifiers—Breeders’ Cup, The BIG One, the Players Championship, Keeneland and the NHC.”

Tang played certain horses across all five contests and spread his picks out further in other races. He did well in all five events, but his best score of $94.00 got him the top spot in two.

In both of his victories, Tang did all his scoring with just two Gulfstream horses—Sonar in race 9 and Psychic Ability in race 11.

“Sonar was one of those I definitely wanted to use in all my tournaments. It was just a six-horse field, and she was 20-1 in the morning line. I didn’t think she’d go off that high, but I thought the favorite was beatable, and that if Sonar could hit, it could be a separator. Psychic Ability was coming off a layoff and had Jose Ortiz. That was another horse I focused on because of a weak favorite. I love races with weak favorites.”

Tang’s primary goal at the beginning of this year was to land his first-ever NHC spot. He came up short in Sunday’s NHC qualifier, but his newly-won berths in The BIG One and BCBC certainly increase the chances of him eventually punching his ticket to Vegas. 

A main reason why Tang has yet to qualify for the NHC is that he’s only been playing contests for a little over a year. His interest in racing, however, dates back to his early 20s, when a friend convinced him to visit nearby Santa Anita. 

“I don’t know if it was just beginner’s luck like everyone seems to have, but I wound up betting about $40 and finished with $250,” Tang recalled. “I really liked it, It was a positive day. But then I took a serious break—maybe eight or ten years. I was just too busy with life. Three or four years ago, though, I started picking it back up.”

Tang was still largely unaware of the contest scene, though, until early last year. That’s when he got some advice from a top player at HorseTourneys.

“I’m friends with Michael Somich,” Tang said. “Mike knew that I liked playing Pick 3s, Pick 4s and Pick 5s, and he thought I’d enjoy contests. He told me about the NHC and about HorseTourneys and encouraged me to check it out. Last March, with no other sports going on, I started trying to qualify for the NHC and got within five or six dollars maybe six or seven times, but I never quite had the right scenario. I said to myself, ‘I’m doing something right to get that close’ so between that and Mike’s encouragement, I kept at it.”

On Sunday, Tang’s persistence paid off in a big way. His successes aside, however, Tang just finds himself drawn in by the excitement. 

“I love the sport,” he said. “I’m not that young…and not that old…but I think the sport needs some new blood for it to continue. I think tournament play can definitely contribute to that. Tournaments don’t require a big investment. By just playing $18 or $20 or $56 in a feeder, you can do really well and have a lot of fun.”

With his place in The BIG One and the BCBC locked up—and with 4,000 NHC Tour points already banked this year—it seems there is still much more fun to be had in 2021 for Ronald Tang.

And miles to go before he sleeps.