Today: Free National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Qualifier Offers up 5 Spots

A Free-to-Play online National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) qualifier is set for Saturday on HorsePlayers.com, the new official qualifying site for the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping tournament.|

The contest offers five berths to February’s NHC and is open exclusively to NHC Tour members. This past January’s NHC 18 offered a record prize pool worth more than $2.9 million, including an $800,000 first-place prize won by Ray Arsenault, whose finish also earned him an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year.

To register for Saturday’s free contest, go to HorsePlayers.com/contest/207512. To sign up for the NHC Tour, go to www.ntra.com/membership. One must be a current NHC Tour member to play in free online qualifiers. Individuals also must be registered at HorsePlayers.com.

NTRA NHC logoThe top five finishers in Saturday’s contest (one more than in each of last year’s free online qualifiers) will each earn an automatic berth to the NTRA National Horseplayers Championship Presented by Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens™ and Treasure Island Las Vegas, to be held February 9-11, 2018, at Treasure Island. Each winning prize package includes NHC entry, four nights at Treasure Island and airfare reimbursement up to $400.

The free qualifier also offers NHC Tour points, with the top 10 percent of finishers earning shares of a points pool estimated at 250,000 points (with 3,750 to the winner), based on an estimated 1,500 players. The final number of points available will be determined on a sliding scale according to the number of participating NHC Tour players.

 The contest will be comprised of mythical Win and Place wagers on a series of mandatory races across the country with selections submitted in advance of the first designated contest race per the “Pick and Pray” format. Designated races will be posted 48 hours in advance on the HorsePlayers.com contest description page and selections may be submitted starting 24 hours in advance of the first race.

This marks the second of five free online qualifiers to be presented by the NTRA this year on HorsePlayers.com, with the later contests set for June 10, July 30, and Sept. 2. The 2017 NHC Tour is the richest in history with $400,000 in prize money, including $100,000 to the overall leader at the conclusion of the Tour season.

For more information on the NHC and NHC Tour, visit www.ntra.com/nhc.

Blaise Brucato Completes Rare Back-to-Back Tournament Wins

 Ohio Handicapper Captures Grade One Gamble and Spring Challenge at Keeneland

 April 22-23, 2017

 In the storied history of Keeneland Race Course, many patrons have had memorable (and profitable) weekends.  We would venture to guess, however, that not many have equaled the weekend that Blaise Brucato just experienced at this venerable racetrack.

RoughlyKeeneland Green Logo 24 hours after winning the inaugural Keeneland Spring Challenge, a $400 buy-in tournament held on Saturday (4/22/17), Blaise topped that performance with a dramatic win in Keeneland’s Grade One Gamble, a $3,000 buy-in tournament that has become one of the most prized titles on the NHC Tour.

On Saturday, the Cleveland native bested a field of 258 players by hitting a $500 exacta on the last race, winning a $10,000 BCBC spot and $3,500 in cash.  Mike Maloney of Lexington captured 2nd and 4th places in the tourney, earning an NHC spot and $3,500 in prize money.  NHC qualifiers Paul Hoffman of Chicago (3rd place) and Mark Haidar of Northville, (5th place) joined lucky 6th place finisher Ali Aksoy of Toronto, who benefitted from the NHC rule that prohibits any player from scoring 2 NHC spots in one tournament. [AGOS Founder Rich Nilsen finished a distant 21st].

After winning the Saturday tournament, Blaise revealed that April 22 was his Dad’s birthday.  Bill Brucato introduced his son to horse racing at a young age, and even though Bill passed away in 1988, it is clear that his spirit and love for racing lives on through Blaise.

TheNTRA NHC logo incredible story continued on Sunday, as Brucato closed again in the final race, cashing a $250 exacta to vault past former NHC Tour champion Jonathon Kinchen by a mere $200 to claim back-to-back victories, with another BCBC spot, an NHC berth, and $13,000 in cash.   In the Grade One Gamble, a record 170 entries competed for 7 BCBC spots, 10 NHC spots, and over $40,000 in cash prizes.  The 2nd place finish by Austin, TX native Kinchen earned him a BCBC and NHC spot plus $6,500 in cash. Third through 7th finishers Bob Traynor of Oceanside, CA, Joe Kramer of Fargo, ND, Marshall Gramm of Memphis, TN, Randy Gallo of Palm Beach Garden, FL and Kenneth King of New York, NY all earned BCBC and NHC entries, in addition to cash prizes.

Brian Johnson of Biloxi, MS, Ali Aksoy of Toronto, ON and Mike Maloney of Lexington, KY finished 8th through 10th and earned a berth to the 2018 NHC, in addition to cash prizes.  For Aksoy and Mahoney, it was the 2nd NHC berth in as many days.

To recap the weekend, totaling his bankroll winnings, cash prizes, and BCBC/NHC berths, Blaise Brucato cashed for over $50,000.  Not a bad way to spend a weekend at Keeneland, and not a bad way to celebrate your father’s birthday.  Somewhere Bill Brucato has a wide smile on his face.

Final Standings for Grade One Gamble (with Bankroll)

  1. Blaise Brucato $8,434.00
  2. Jonathon Kinchen $8,234.50
  3. Bob Traynor $7,000.00
  4. Joe Kramer $6,546.80
  5. Marshall Gramm $6,493.50
  6. Randy Gallo $6,412.00
  7. Kenneth King $5,968.00
  8. Brian Johnson $5,780.00
  9. Ali Aksoy $5,590.00
  10. Mike Maloney $5,151.00

$10k Buy-in Belmont Stakes Challenge Open for Registration

Source: NYRA

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) announced the opening of registration for the Belmont Stakes Challenge, a two-day live-money handicapping tournament to take place during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival beginning Friday, June 9 and concluding Belmont Stakes Day, June 10.|

 The entry fee for the 2017 Belmont Stakes Challenge is $10,000, of which $2,500 will go to the prize pool with the remaining $7,500 comprising each participants’ bankroll. Contestants are free to make win, place, show, exacta and trifecta wagers over the course of the two days, with eligible tournament races encompassing every race from Belmont Park on June 9 through the 149th running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

With guaranteed prize money of $110,000, entrants will also compete for one seat to the 2018 Belmont Stakes Challenge, four seats to the National Handicapping Championship and two seats to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

“The Belmont Stakes Challenge has quickly become one of the premier live-money tournaments in the industry, and we’re thrilled to offer it again in 2017,” said Lynn LaRocca, NYRA Senior Vice President & Chief Experience Officer. “Our goal is always to provide the best hospitality and tournament experiences for horseplayers, and the Belmont Stakes Challenge is central to those efforts.”

Online registration via belmontstakeschallenge.com or nyrabets.com opened on Friday, April 7 and close on Wednesday, June 7 at which time full payment required.

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.

Inside Horse Racing’s ‘Hunger Games’ in Las Vegas – Rolling Stone

NHC18 Champ Ray Arsenaul

NHC18 Champ Ray Arsenault

RollingStone.com: Inside Horse Racing’s ‘Hunger Games’ in Las Vegas

The NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas brings together an assortment of horseplayers from all over the world. and more »

Source: Inside Horse Racing’s ‘Hunger Games’ in Las Vegas – Rolling Stone

Champions Handicapping Tournament in Two Weeks at Laurel

The Maryland Jockey Club is accepting entries for the spring session of the Champions Handicapping Tournament to be held Saturday, March 25 at Laurel Park.

Berths to the NTRA/DRF National Handicapping Championship (NHC), Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) and BIG ONE tournaments are on the line as well as guaranteed prize money to the top 10 finishers.

A maximum of two entries per person will be accepted at a cost of $300 each, covering the $100 entry fee and $200 bankroll. The tournament will be capped at 300 entries.

The tournament winner will have their choice of one of two berths to the NHC or a berth in the BCBC or BIG ONE. The second-place finisher has the choice of one of the remaining three berths, the third-place finisher has the choice of one of the remaining two berths, and the fourth-place finisher will receive the remaining berth.

Tracks available for the tournament are Laurel Park, Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita, Aqueduct and Tampa Bay Downs, with no mandatory races. The minimum wager is $20.

For a registration form or further information, email Diana Harbaugh at Diana.harbaugh@marylandracing.com before noon March 24 or visit www.laurelpark.com/handicapping/champions-tournament. Registration by credit card can be done by calling 301-470-5432 before noon March 24.

The BIG ONE takes place Sept. 23-24 at Laurel Park, while the BCBC will be Nov. 3-4 at Del Mar and the NHC is held January 2018 in Las Vegas.

A First Timer’s Look at the NHC


Craig Spencer former jockey

By Craig Spencer

On January 27-29th I was lucky enough to be a guest at the Treasure Island Casino to participate in the 18th National Handicapping Championship.  I have not played a lot of tournaments and was lucky to win a seat on New Years’ Eve off of a qualifier on nhcqualify.com.  So my buddy and I headed to Vegas in hopes of coming home $800,000 richer.

It’s quite an event with so many like-minded handicappers enjoying spending time in an environment that caters to the horseplayer like none other.  We are the target audience that week and no stone is left unturned.  The NTRA does a top class job in organizing this event.  The accommodations, buffets, and dinners are top notch.  I will be back and I will be better prepared.  Now onto the events in the contest.

I had spent the couple of weeks prior to the NHC going over every first time starter to have made their debut since early December at all of the available tracks (eight in total).  I would make “trip notes” on ones that I thought ran better or worse than their running line might indicate.  If their race seemed like the running line would represent their abilities well, then I didn’t bother.

I had made around 90 notes on these horses and had gone back to see how any that might have made their next start had performed to see if my eye was good at identifying value.  I was quite pleased with the results.  Twenty-two had made their second start, four of them with “negative” trip notes, meaning that the performance wasn’t as good as the running line might suggest.  Examples included  “appeared to close well but the pace was extreme upfront and they finished the last quarter in near 27 seconds and this horse had everything go his way getting up the rail and still wasn’t good enough to finish better than a well-beaten third.”  All four of those horses had been reasonably well backed and all finished fourth or worse.

I had five runners that I thought ran deceptively well that didn’t perform that good in their next start.  I had three that ran well but ran into trouble in their second start to finish worse than second but none of them were beaten over three lengths in their second start.  It provided me some confidence that my notes were of some value.  I had four that finished second at good to great odds and six that came back to win paying $90, $66, $38, $24, $14, and $12, so I could see that I had a potential advantage.

I will say two things about these trip notes. First, I see very little value in watching a very experienced horse’s last race looking for trip problems.  I don’t weigh my decision on one race and will toss a race with any indication that it was abnormally poor.  I don’t need to watch the race to see it and one race will not have an effect to my opinion of an animal significantly.

Also I think people who do a lot of replay watching might get to be very good at it, but mostly they are looking for excuses and forget about other items in a race.  An example would be watching a replay and noticing a horse has nowhere to run down the lane so the jockey takes hold and gallops them to the finish line.  They forget that the horse had a perfect ground saving trip up until they ran into a wall of horses.  It is much more likely that the trainer will give instructions to go wide to avoid trouble next start and most of the time that ground loss will make it so they have too much to do and cost them even more energy to be lost than the lack of room did in their prior race.  However, for second time starters a lot can be learned from how they perform in their first start.

Second, after watching a ton of races over a few weeks I worried that I might be getting too forgiving, looking for reasons to like a horse.  I would suggest you spend less than 30 minutes before taking a break, clearing your head, doing something different so you can start again fresh watching the rest.

After entries came out for the weekend and they trickled in, which was painful, I pulled a list of all second time starters and looked at when they made their debut.  If it was outside of the window of time I had watched the replays or at a different track, I went back and watched those horses and made another 25 notes on these horses.  I also had run my data through my tools for the entire first day and had handicapped every race with a main and alternate selection before I left home.  We didn’t know until Thursday morning what the mandatory races would be on Friday and I would be traveling on Thursday so I wanted to be prepared.  Mission accomplished.

Day One of the NHC

Well, my buddy and I stayed out a little later than we should have on Thursday night.  I knew better and will not make the same mistake again.  But I took my list of horses and sorted them by main contenders’ morning line odds (after putting the mandatory races on top).  I had made some notes on ones I had to use and ones I wanted to watch the line on.  As the day progressed and morning line odds got obliterated, I realized as I marched down my list that many of the races had gone off that were a bit lower priority on my list and that I had passed on 3-4 winners already.

I cashed two place tickets for $9 bankroll going into my last alternate race.  In that race I had a Louisiana Bred maiden who had run a very game second in debut at Golden Gate in an open Maiden Special field.  I thought I’d get 4/1 or better on the horse but he was going off at around even money.  I told my buddy, I think I am going to change my ticket to this Yes It’s True first timer who had some decent works and whose trainer didn’t suck too badly with Firsters.  Being the devil’s advocate he is and to make sure I thought about things, he said, “Are you sure you don’t just want to cash, get a little momentum, and start tomorrow with $15 or so and change your tactics a bit?”  I thought about it and decided he may be right.  Well the Golden Gate shipper may have beaten the ambulance to the finish line, but it was a close photo with the ambulance.  The Yes It’s True first timer opened up a clear lead and held on to win and pay $131.  It would have given me the $64 maximum score (they limit the scores to 20/1 to win and 10/1 to place, or $64 as the most you can get off one selection).

Day Two of the NHC

I was dejected but vowed to at least not repeat Day One on Saturday.  I re-organized, spent a little less time at the [casino] tables and more time reviewing my selections with a lot fewer races on my list to play.  I sorted it by post times and categorized the races as “Mandatory,” “Use,” and “Watch the board.”  I played my “mandatory” and “use” races immediately (but still watched for odds and made some adjustments/cancellations on them if the odds didn’t make sense) and then knew which races were going off next.

I did quite a bit better with $129 in contest points on Day Two to get to $138, just $42.60 shy of making the cut to play on Day Three.  That one decision not to change my ticket on Friday cost me a chance to make some noise on Sunday.  I was able to use a trip note second timer that I scored a max payout in the contest on Saturday along with the correct second place horse who a Facebook buddy also had a trip note on, to cash an $880 exacta payout.  I also hit the pick 5 at Laurel for just under a grand, so it turned into a profitable weekend nonetheless.

Final Day of the NHC

I have no clue what would have happened on Sunday.  I played in the consolation contest, which the NTRA sponsors for the non-cut making players, such as myself, to play on Sunday morning.  You must play 10 races out of 36 races available before 12:30 pacific time, the same format the players making the cut play to determine who makes the final table.  I spent very little time preparing for that as there were quite a few social opportunities Saturday night and the chance of beating a field of 400+ non-advancers seemed pretty small, so my buddy and I enjoyed more of the Treasure Island that night.  Had I been in the main contest on Sunday, I would have likely spent a lot more time studying and came up with many different selections than the ones I used in the consolation contest where a couple of max horses are almost a necessity to beat that many players for one prize.  If you’re not first you’re last in that contest.  I did hit a $20 horse at Laurel making his second career start and a half sibling to $1.2M earner International Star.  I probably would have had that one in the big contest had I qualified, as there were many other positives on that horse.

Live and learn.  If you have never been to the NHC, it’s well worth the time to try and get qualified.  The experience is one that I will never forget.  I will be back and, as a second time starter, I will fare significantly better next time I am there.

 

  • Craig Spencer is a former jockey who competed for 12 years.

Ray Arsenault holds off Wolfson to win Handicapper of the Year title

NHC18 Champ Ray Arsenaulby Rich Nilsen

Two friends of mine, Ray Arsenault and Stephen Wolfson Jr., finished 1-2 in the 2017 National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas.  They are two of the most liked guys on the NHC tournament scene.  Arsenault, a veteran of the tournament scene from Canada, takes homes $800,000 and the Handicapper of the Year title!

Ryan Scharnowske barely made the top 66 to reach day three and then catapulted all the way to a third place showing, proving you should never give up.  Congrats to all the money winners this weekend, as well as everyone who made it to the Big Dance in Vegas.  Here is a link showing the final contest race and Ray’s celebration.

2017 NHC LUXAIR Jets Leaderboard – Final Table

As of Mandatory 7 – OFFICIAL

1 Ray Arsenault-1 407.7
2 Stephen Wolfson, Jr.-1 361.1
3 Ryan Scharnowske **-2 320.2
4 Louis  Filoso-2 309.3
5 Dan Kovalesky-1 308.7
6 Steve Hartshorn-1 299.4
7 Joe Jarvie-2 284.1
8 Frank Mustari-1 279.4
9 David Bernal-1 270.8
10 Michael Caposio-1 265.4

Day 3 Finalists for the 2017 National Handicapping Championship

The following individuals were in position to move on and have a chance at the $800,000 grand prize in Las Vegas on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.  This is the leaderboard in the closing hour of today’s contest.

1 Dan Kovalesky-1 260.8
2 Ray Arsenault-1 254.3
3 Frank Mustari-1 251.4
4 Eliot Honaker-1 248.5
5 Michael Ray-1 246.5
6 Sheldon Usprech-1 243.9
7 Kevin Jones-1 231.8
8 Travis Pearson-1 227.3
9 Paul Matties, Sr.-1 221.3
10 Brendan Fay-1 220.4
11 Stephen Wolfson, Jr.-1 220.3
12 Pat Nufrio-1 217.7
13T John Nichols-1 217.1
13T Ken Seeman-1 217.1
15 Louis  Filoso-2 214.7
16 Cheryl Kaufman-1 211.8
17 Dan Flanigan-1 208.2
18 David Bernal-1 207.2
19 Matthew Rentze-1 206.6
20T Dennis Johnson-1 206.5
20T Chris  Olsson-1 206.5
22T Paul Fishman-1 206.4
22T Duke Matties-1 206.4
24 Anthony Altomonte-1 206.1
25 Harlan Malter-1 206
26 Michael Caposio-1 203
27 Sally Goodall **-2 202.9
28 Paul Hughes-1 202.5
29 George Duarte-2 201.8
30 Geoffrey Schutt-1 201.3
31 Mitch Schuman-2 201.2
32 Steve Arrison-2 200.3
33 Bill Rendino-2 200
34 Kevin Willett-1 199.7
35 Matthew Reid-1 198.1
36 Allan Sadler **-2 197.6
37 Gary Russell-1 194.9
38 Lawrence Bergen-1 194.6
39 Greg DuBos-1 194.4
40 Gwyn Houston-1 194.3
41 Bobby Shoemaker-1 193.2
42 Thomas O’Connor-1 192.4
43 Richard Goodall-1 191.7
44 Gary Gristick **-2 191.3
45T Chris Larmey-1 191
45T Timothy Downs-2 191
47 Steve Hartshorn-1 190.4
48 John Osterbauer-1 189.9
49 Jason Avila-1 189.6
50 Randy Bauer-1 189.5
51 Derek Dickson-1 189
52 David Conover-1 188.6
53 Allan Sadler **-1 187.1
54 Stanley  Bavlish-1 186.7
55 Shawn Heron-2 186.3
56 Peter McFarland-1 186.1
57 Darrell Stanley-1 184.2
58 Bryan Carney-1 183.8
59 Peter Dresens-1 183.6
60 Jeffrey Jolliffe-1 183.4
61 Ryan Scharnowske **-2 183
62 Allan Schaffer-1 182.6
63 Jon Hurd-1 181.8
64 Mike Coutu-1 181.5
65T Ron  Tackett-1 180.8
65T Tony Zhou **-1 180.8

Wager on Your Favorite Horseplayer at NHC 2017

nhc final table vegas LAS VEGAS, NV — Horseplayers and their fans have until Friday morning to place their bets on who will win the 18th Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) Presented by Racetrack Television Network and Treasure Island Las Vegas. The NHC Future Wager, available in the Treasure Island Race & Sports Book, offers odds on 363 individual players and a “Field” encompassing about 190 other players that qualified for the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping contest after Oct. 31.

Not surprisingly, the Field opened as a heavy 7-2 favorite. Handicapping contest veteran Dave Gutfreund – the NHC’s all-time leading money earner still known to many by his old nickname “The Maven” – is the current favorite among individual horseplayers at 40-1.

Defending NHC winner Paul Matties and 2015 NHC Tour winner Jonathon Kinchen were the opening co-favorites at 50-1.

Matties closed at 50-1 last year, returning $102 on a $2 wager. Incredibly, Matties cashed a $100 wager on himself, earning $5,000 on top of his $800,000 first-place prize.

Several veteran players with the maximum two entries, such as past champion Judy Wagner, opened at 75-1. Others with two entries opened at 150-1, while the remaining individual interests with one entry, including AGameofSkill.com founder Rich Nilsen, opened at 200-1.

“The NHC Future Wager is believed to be the only legal betting on horseplayers offered anywhere in the world,” said NTRA Chief Operating Officer Keith Chamblin. “We salute Treasure Island for once again making this wager available to its customers and for helping us place a spotlight on the horseplayers whose wagering dollars fuel every aspect of our sport and business.”

The NHC Future Wager will close Friday, Jan. 27, the opening day of NHC 18, at 9 a.m. PST. NHC 18 will be contested over three days, Jan. 27-29, at Treasure Island.

In its 18th year, the NHC is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers and is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino race books, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping websites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals. There are no bye-ins to the NHC. Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards. In addition to the founding title sponsor, Daily Racing Form, the NHC is presented by Racetrack Television Network and Treasure Island Las Vegas.