About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 12-time qualifier to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He recently won a $24,000 package into the 2016 Kentucky Derby Betting Championship. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is also a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program. He is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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FREE NHC Contest for 2017 Equestricon ticket holders

NHC18 Champ Ray Arsenaul

NHC18 Champ Ray Arsenault

A seat at the 2018 NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) presented by Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens™ and Treasure Island Las Vegas will be up for grabs in a free handicapping contest open exclusively to Equestricon ticket holders, organizers announced today.|

With the purchase of a “Panel Pass” (starting at just $125) or VIP admission to the historic racing convention, scheduled for August 13 – 15 in Saratoga Springs, attendees will receive automatic entry into the NHC Equestricon Qualifier Contest on Saturday, August 26.

“The only way to enter this new NHC qualifier is to purchase an Equestricon ‘Panel Pass’ or ‘VIP Pass,’ which we expect will keep the field size relatively limited,” said NTRA Chief Operating Officer and NHC Tournament Director Keith Chamblin. “This is a great opportunity to qualify for Las Vegas while participating in an important fan initiative.”

The NHC-Equestricon contest will be hosted on HorsePlayers.com, the new official online qualifying platform of the NHC and Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC). The Breeders’ Cup is a Signature Partner of Equestricon, the fan-centric convention that will feature more than 45 panels, workshops, seminars and non-stop entertainment, mostly hosted within the Saratoga Springs City Center.

Participation in NHC Tour events, including online qualifiers, requires NHC Tour membership. To that end, organizers announced that with admission to Equestricon, all Panel Pass and VIP ticket holders will also receive a complimentary one-year membership to the NHC Tour (a $50 value). New NHC Tour members have exclusive access to a series of free member contests throughout the year, beginning this Sunday, April 9, on HorsePlayers.com.

“If you don’t yet have an NHC Tour membership, it makes all the sense in the world to purchase a Panel Pass or VIP Pass right now,” said Equestricon co-founder Justin Nicholson. “Not only will that give you a chance to play in five free contests between now and the end of the year, you’re also going to get automatic entry into the big NHC qualifier open only to those buying these two types of tickets to Equestricon.”

Tickets for Equestricon are now on sale at Equestricon.com. Panel Pass packages include access to up to eight panels at the convention, including a Tournament Handicapping Workshop on Monday, August 14, sponsored by the NTRA and NHC.

Featured in the Tournament Handicapping Workshop are a number of contest legends, including 2012 NHC winner Michael Beychok; 2015 NHC Tour hero Jonathon Kinchen; 2014 Horseplayer World Series Champion and back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge runner-up (2011 and 2012) Christian Hellmers; 2016 NHC champion Paul Matties; $100,000 and $50,000 online tournament winner Barbara Bowley; Daily Racing Form Tournament Editor and author of “The Winning Horseplayer” Peter Thomas Fornatale; and five-time NHC qualifier Jeannie King.

Here’s How Historic Horse Racing Works

historic horse racing machineCurious about historic horse racing, now being debated in ND? Here’s how it works

Grand Forks Herald, North Dakota, McFeely: Curious about historic horse racing, now being debated in ND? Here’s how it works

It’s been a lengthy debate in the gaming world whether or not historic horse racing, also known as instant racing, is a game of skill or one of chance.

Source: McFeely: Curious about historic horse racing, now being debated in ND? Here’s how it works

AGOS Horses to Watch – April 7, 2017

Horses to Watch for AGOS (AGameofSkill.com) visitors

Gulfstream Park


Race #2 – #11 – Monterey Marianne – 7 1/2f turf

Paco Lopez had the call for Jane Cibelli. The filly was coming off a 7 month layoff from Monmouth and working a regular clip at Palm Meadows. She was a handful this day tugging at the rider begging to takeoff and had to check and be restrained. Maybe she’s feeling just fine but needed one to work out the bugs. – I’m watching for her next effort at a price.

Race #4 – #2 – Delta Prince – 1 mile turf 

Jose Ortiz had the call for James Jerkins and this son of Street Cry was a perfect 2/2 over the sod. His 2nd effort of 2017 was exiting off a win and looked strong around the far turn as Ortiz guided him into a clear lane. He was out-kicked by eventual winner All Included who looked super as the odds-on favorite. Delta Prince may have needed a race just like this to get the competitive juices rolling, and I think we’ll see big things from this guy.

Race #8 -#9 Taperge – 1 mile turf

Javier Castellano in the saddle for Chad Brown always has to be respected. This daughter of Tapit flashed a good sign of things to come. Brown is winning at a white-hot (24%) and this was her third start in 2017. She got motoring and looked to have a dangerous turn of foot. This was a step up in class and I think she’ll grow into herself nicely.

Race #14 – The Florida Derby – #11 -Gunnevera – 1 1/8 

Javier Castellano in the driver’s seat for Antonio Sano and they broke from the outside post. This son of Dialed In was ready to give maximum effort and had to be restrained, and then urged to move about the 3/8th’s pole. He never found that comfortable stride, and I’m not tossing out the “Gun” for one average effort. No matter where he lands he’ll be a nice runner down the road.

Fair Grounds


Race #9 – The Mervin Muniz -#10 -Oscar Nominated – 1 1/8 turf

Florent Geroux in the saddle for Mike Maker.  This son of Kitten’s Joy came in 3/3 ITM and loves the “Big Easy.” He was a beaten chalk last time out and comes back to win (27%) next up. He was 3-4 wide on both turns and still managed a strong effort.

Race #11 – The Louisiana Derby – #1 – Patch – 1 1/8 dirt

Take nothing away from the impressive victory of Girvin. He did everything great and did not disappoint the faithful. Patch was handled by Tyler Gafflione for Todd Pletcher and this was his third start in 2017 with no starts in his two-year-old season. He bumped his rival and had to gather his composure quickly. After getting it all together he spun three-wide and made a game chasing effort. Not sure where he’ll end up when the smoke clears, but he’ll get better like a fine wine.

Expert Selections for 2017 Blue Grass Stakes Card

Expert FULL-CARD Selections with Spot Plays

Rich Nilsen handicapperRich Nilsen, founder of AGameofSkill.com and one of the top tournament players in the history of the NHC, offers up his Spot Play and full-card analysis for Saturday, April 8th at Keeneland.  The analysis covers the full card, all 11 races at Keeneland on Saturday 4/8.  Nilsen provides selections for the 11 races including the 5 graded stakes on the card.  Wagering strategies are included for the 3 spot plays on the Keeneland card.

Each race offered includes Nilsen’s detailed pace scenario which explains how the race will set up.

Put an expert on your side as you attack Keeneland on Blue Grass Stakes day!

Only $9.97 for the full-card Keeneland analysis, incl. 3 spot plays with Wagering Strategies.

Download instantly to any device. PDF document
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Nilsen had a huge year in 2016 with his few, major race day selection sheets.  One of those days was the 2017 Travers Stakes card won by eventual super horse Arrogate.  Arrogate was fairly unknown at the time, which is why he went off at 11-1 for trainer Bob Baffert.

2016 Travers’s Day Recap:  Nilsen picks top selection Haveyougoneaway who upsets the G1 Ballerina at odds of 10-1!   Nilsen follows that score up by giving out top selection ARROGATE, track-record winner of the G1 Travers Stakes! Arrogate returned $25.40 to win for followers of the sheet.  Another top pick runs 2nd at odds of 17-1 in race 3 on August 27, 2016.


“Great job, Rich!” ~ Jeff S.

“Rich: Nice job Travers Day! Thanks to Arrogate, you gave me a good day. How in the world did you land on him? I suspect you’re doing some kind of voodoo pace analysis. If you ever decide to give lessons or a seminar, let me know.” ~ Kelley S.

The Unbelievable True Story of Trainer Antonio Sano

Gunnevara Fountain of YouthHe is now training a major Kentucky Derby contender

Antonio Sano was Venezuela’s most successful thoroughbred trainer. Race after race, 3,338 times, his horses won as his reputation as the “Czar of the Hippodrome” grew. Until he lost it all in the span of 36 agonizing days. Not at the track, but in a cell of a room that had no windows, no toilet, no… [Read more…]

AGOS Horses to Watch – April 4, 2017

Horses to Watch for AGOS visitors.  Put these runners in your Stable Watch email service.

Turfway Park


Race #6 – Classic Salsa – 6 1/2f all weather

Jack Gilligan in the irons and heavily backed at the windows. He was forced in tight and got knocked around at the half way point taking away some needed energy. The rider gave a good account by getting him back in the action finishing up with a solid show effort. A cleaner trip may have the Jeremiah O’Dwyer trainee right on the money next up.

Race #7 – Professor Snape – 6f all weather

Luis Saez in town for Wesley Ward for this mount on Spiral Day. First time starter sent off the odds-on chalk and made a game effort running second this day. Ward does magic with his second time starters back to the races, and the namesake of the Harry Potter series may have some added magic to offer next time he loads in the starting gate.

Race #10 – The G-3 Spiral Stakes- #8 Kitten’s Cat – 1 1/8 miles all weather

Luis Saez in the saddle for trainer Joe Sharp who was sent off the luke-warm favorite for the marquee race of the meet. He was in tight and knocked around quite a bit and forced to check. According to the Daily Racing Form, he bled and is being treated in Lexington, Kentucky. This may scrap plans to take him to Royal Ascot for owner Ken Ramsey, but I’m sure we’ll see good things to come when he returns to the races.

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Race #12 – Curlin’s Lass – 6f all weather

Abel Lezcano was in the driver’s seat and started uncorking a rally. This daughter of Curlin was in full-stride six wide closing with a rush. This was her second start lifetime and she showed good promise this day for the Mark Thomas barn.

Sunland Park


Race #9 – The G-3 Sunland Derby – Hedge Fund –  1 1/8 on the main

Jose Ortiz had the call for Todd Pletcher as they shipped in from Gulfstream Park. Ortiz is known for being a solid gate rider and jumped to a quick lead and showed the way until the top of the stretch where he got a little leg weary and finished a game third. The pace may have been a little easier as the odds-on favorite Bronze Age from the Bob Baffert barn stumbled at the start and eased. I think we’ll see maturing three-year-old who can show the way right to the winner’s circle.

Keeneland Trainer Profile: Steve Asmussen

When one combines these categories, it accounts for close to 70% of Asmussen’s wins.

Handicapper Art ParkerBy Art Parker, author of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns

The 51 year old trainer comes from a racing family in Texas, which includes his brother Cash who won an Eclipse Award and then enjoyed a successful career in Europe. Steven Asmussen has won several of the country’s great races. His biggest wins have been the Preakness, Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Dubai World Cup. He has also won the Eclipse Award as the most Outstanding Trainer.

Asmussen wins with a variety of angles but is very dangerous with his two year olds in their first start and he excels with second time starts of any age. The same can be said of his layoff horses, either first or second race back. When one combines these categories, it accounts for close to 70% of Asmussen’s wins. The trainer pretty much works his horses 6-7 days apart and most of his winners have their last work 6-8 days prior to race day. One should look for a gate work from his debut juveniles, usually in one of the last two workouts before race day. The last work for a two year old will come at Keeneland.

Of particular note is, that compared to most trainers, Asmussen has his horses working a little more in a 30 days period leading up to race day. He will have 15 furlongs of racing or work at a minimum and often his horses will go more than 20 furlongs within a 30-day period prior to race day. The trainer rarely produces a repeat winner at Keeneland.

Asmussen, surprisingly, delivers with some ‘price’ horses at Keeneland and approximately two-thirds of his Keeneland victories have come in the fall meet. He will ship horses from many different tracks in the fall, but for the spring meeting look for those coming from Churchill Downs or Fair Grounds.

Asmussen has won for a long list of owners but his top owner is William Heiligbrodt. Jockey Ricardo Santana is his ‘go-to’ rider, having ridden more than 50% of Asmussen’s Keeneland winners. He has also successfully used Shaun Bridgmohan, Julien Leparoux, Robby Albarado and James Graham.

The following is an excerpt of the trainer stats found in Art’s book, now available for download at AGameofSkill.com

Steve Asmussen (25 wins)

  • Two year old debut horses show works 6-7 days apart, at least one from the gate, usually the last work 6-8 days prior to race day.
  • Look for horses that have worked and/or raced 15-20 furlongs within 30 days of race day.
  • Winners have shipped from 8 different tracks, but more than two-thirds have logged their last work at Keeneland.
  • More than half of winners were ridden by Ricardo Santana.
  • Has won for 17 different owners.
  • Approximately half of the winners paid in double digits.
  • More likely to win with turf-to-main surface switches than main-to-turf.

Art’s book is available here


The Kentucky Derby Donald Trump-style

“First Saturday in May” Visitors can Purchase $100,000 Marriott package for the weekend

It’s a little over a month away to the Kentucky Derby, which means that hotels, motels, Airbnb rentals and any other accommodations in and near Churchill Downs are going fast – especially at economic rates. However, if you’re not on a budget, you have the chance to live like royalty the first weekend of May courtesy… [Read more…]

Emerald Downs opens 70-date horse racing season on April 8, 2017

The Seattle Times — Emerald Downs opens 70-date horse racing season on April 8

The Seattle Times Jockey Mario Gutierrez pulls up after crossing the finish line on Point Piper to win the 81st annual Longacres Mile horse race in one minute, 32.9 seconds, a track record at Emerald Downs in Auburn, Sunday August 14, 2016. (Bettina Hansen/The Seattle …

Source: Emerald Downs opens 70-date horse racing season on April 8

2017 Kentucky Derby Points list

as of March 31, 2017.  Things will change after this weekend!


Rank Horse Points Owner Trainer Stakes earnings
1 Thunder Snow 100 Godolphin Saeed bin Suroor $1,621,063
2 Gunnevera 64 Peacock Racing Stables Antonio Sano $1,042,800
3 Tapwrit 54 Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners Todd Pletcher $295,570
4 J Boys Echo 53 Albaugh Family Stables Dale Romans $255,000
5 Hence 50 Calumet Farm Steve Asmussen $481,129
6 Malagacy 50 Sumaya U.S. Stables Todd Pletcher $540,000
7 Fast and Accurate 50 Kendall E. Hansen Mike Maker $320,712
8 Girvin 50 Brad Grady Joe Sharp $249,800
9 Practical Joke 34 Klaravich Stables Chad Brown $766,000
10 Untrapped 34 Michael Langford Steve Asmussen $210,000
11 Classic Empire 32 John C. Oxley Mark Casse $1,493,820
12 El Areeb 30 M M G Stables Cal Lynch $330,000
13 Gormley 25 Jerry and Ann Moss John Shirreffs $284,000
14 State of Honor 22 Conrad Farm Mark Casse $119,564
15 McCraken 20 Whitham Thoroughbreds Ian Wilkes $285,048
16 Master Plan 20 Al Shaqab Racing, WinStar Farm et al Todd Pletcher $214,700
17 Iliad 20 Kaleem Shah Doug O’Neill $200,000
18 Sonneteer 20 Calumet Farm Keith Desormeaux $186,000
19 Blueridge Traveler 20 Horizon Stables Kenny McPeek $95,000
20 Cloud Computing 20 Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence Chad Brown $60,000
21 Wild Shot 17 Calumet Farm Rusty Arnold II $132,200
22 Guest Suite 15 William S. Farish and Lora Jean Kilroy Neil Howard $144,040
23 Petrov 13 Rialto Racing Stables and Southern Spring Stables Ron Moquett $195,000
24 Irap 13 Reddam Racing Doug O’Neill $144,000
25 Lookin At Lee 12 L and N Racing Steve Asmussen $328,600
26 Term of Art 11 Calumet Farm Doug O’Neill $119,000
27 One Liner 10 WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing Todd Pletcher $300,000
28 Irish War Cry 10 Isabella De Tomaso Graham Motion $272,660
29 Mo Town 10 Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Team D Tony Dutrow $188,000
30 Three Rules 10 Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, Tom Fitzgerald and Roy Geoff Jose Pinchin $142,240
31 No Dozing 10 Lael Stables Arnaud Delacour $106,500
32 Royal Mo 10 Jerry and Ann Moss John Shirfeffs $93,000
33 Convict Pike 10 Ashbrook Farm Rusty Arnold II $47,500
34 Local Hero 10 e Five Racing Thoroughbreds Steve Asmussen $40,000
35 True Timber 6 Calumet Farm Kiaran McLaughlin $74,000
36 Talk Logistics 6 Hardway Stables Eddie Plesa Jr. $60,100
37 Bonus Points 5 Three Diamonds Farm Todd Pletcher $52,500
38 Action Everyday 5 St. Elias Stable Todd Pletcher $15,000
39 American Anthem 4 WinStar Farm, S F Bloodstock and China Horse Club Bob Baffert $23,000
40 Warrior’s Club 3 Churchill Downs Racing Club D. Wayne Lukas $27,528
41 Rowdy the Warrior 2 Robert H. Zoellner Donnie Von Hemel $34,429
42 Takaful 2 Shadwell Stable Kiaran McLaughlin $31,500
43 Win With Pride 2 Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable Todd Pletcher $22,500
44 Midnight Pleasure 1 Ruis Racing Craig Dollase $54,000
45 Silver Dust 1 Tom Durant Randy Morse $52,000
46 Bobby Abu Dhabi 1 Rockingham Ranch Peter Miller $18,000
47 Arklow 1 Donegal Racing Brad Cox $12,000