'Bettor' suited: Former judge in running for championship prize


By Linda Laderman
Legal News

Life after the judiciary has been anything but boring for David Bajorek, a former judge in the 25th District Court.  After 21 years on the bench, Bajorek retired in 2012 to establish a private practice and to hedge his bets on thoroughbred horse racing.

Bajorek could earn an $800,000 payday after qualifying for the $2.5 million National Thoroughbred Racing Association/ Daily Racing Form National Handicapping Championship January 28-30 in Las Vegas. 

The Las Vegas event is recognized as the “Super Bowl” of the horse racing tournament circuit. Bajorek qualified for the championship tournament by finishing second in a tournament last January at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

The years spent weighing evidence and testimony have been good training for the uninterrupted hours Bajorek devotes to analyzing past performances of the horses that pique his interest.

“There’s an old saying that students don’t go to law school to learn the law, they go to learn how to learn the law,” Bajorek said. “In other words, think like a lawyer. I do think lawyers and judges develop an ability to compartmentalize things and look from different perspectives. You consider several factors before coming up with an opinion.”

Bajorek doesn’t feel comfortable betting on a race until he’s examined it for at least one-and-a-half hours.

“There is a direct correlation between the amount of time spent studying the sport and return on investment,” Bajorek said.

Over decades of handicapping, Bajorek has tracked not only his wins and losses, but also the minutes invested handicapping specific events.

“I need about two hours to really study it right,” Bajorek said. “The more time I spent with my nose in the program studying a race, the better chance that I’m going to have a successful day,”
While some horseplayers might find spending nearly two hours on analyzing a race too long, Bajorek likes digging into pace scenarios and internal fractions, looking for nuggets of
information that can make a long shot suddenly appear as a logical winner.

“You have to learn how the race is going to be run, who’s going to be out in front, who’s going to be stalking, who’s going to be laying back, when they’re going to make their moves. In your mind you have an image, including the fractional times and the finish,” Bajorek said.

The former judge saw his first race when he was 8 years old. It left a lasting impression.

“At a young age studying the program really helped me develop my math skills,” Bajorek said. “I learned my fractions by reading the racing form.”

Despite 50 years as a fan and increasingly knowledgeable horseplayer, Bajorek never tried a handicapping tournament until November 2014.

Bajorek’s strong showing at Gulfstream Park was his first attempt at a “live money” contest. That also earned Bajorek a second entry to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. Despite struggling for most of the afternoon, he found a generous exacta lurking in Gulfstream’s featured $75,000 Treasure Cost Stakes.

“There are so many variables and complexities, for me it’s the challenge of successfully handicapping it. When it all comes together, just as you imagined it, that’s very rewarding. And if I make a few bucks, too, then that’s nice,” Bajorek said.