Payday at the Races for NHC Champ Justin Mustari

She [Rosa’s Crystal] had last run, at Santa Anita, on Jan. 31. He knew trainer Carla Gaines’ success rate, with a layoff of at least 90 days, had been around 8%.

“Not something a gambler, or handicapper, would say is a good bet,” says Mustari. “But to be 19-1, and for me to think the horse should be 6-1 or 7-1 — assuming she’s in good form coming off a layoff — seemed the logical play.”

Frank often spoke about embracing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, which helped Justin deliberate. “I might never have this chance again,” Justin told his dad before the race. “I would be sick if I didn’t take this opportunity.”

Several gallops out of the gate, Rose’s Crystal stuttered. The 4-year-old roan filly nearly bumped into the beast in front of her, so jockey Juan Hernandez pulled up a bit.

About 330 miles from that eighth race, a mile on the Del Mar turf on Aug. 29, Justin Mustari stood on a platform here inside Bally’s Event Center. He viewed a giant screen and held his breath.

In the final race of the prestigious National Horseplayers Championship, the Des Plaines native had everything riding on 19-to-1 shot Rose’s Crystal.

“From watching thousands of races, when they pull up like that it usually [isn’t good]. The jockey and the horse usually are not on the same page,” says Mustari. “I thought, ‘Well, I’m out of it here.’ ”   Read on:

Last to First in the Kentucky Downs Turf Challenge Tournament

Colonial Downs Names Turf Course After SecretariatFRANKLIN, Ky. (Monday, Sept. 13, 2021) — Kenny Mollicone, a 47-year-old real-estate developer from Somerset, Mass., is the 2021 National Turf Handicapping Champion, having won the six-day online Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs.

Mollicone finished with an aggregate total of $5,783.90 Sunday after playing in all three of the individual two-day, live-money competitions. That gave him a comfortable $1,163.90 advantage over runner-up Christy Moore, who finished on top in the second contest.

As the King of the Turf, Mollicone earned $20,000 in prize money and the BetMakers King of the Turf Trophy. He earned a seat and prize pack to the 2022 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas in late January by virtue of his second place in the second contest.

If Mollicone was a horse, his race-chart trouble line would read “left at the gate, rallied, won under wraps.”

Santa Anita to return to Hillside Turf course and run 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill in October.

Mollicone tapped out in the first two-day contest staged Sept. 5-6, finishing with a $0 score as Gary Gristick won the competition with a $2,500 bankroll. Undeterred, he finished second at $3,778.40 behind Moore’s winning bankroll of $4,620 in the second tournament Sept. 8-9 and seventh with $2,005.50 Saturday and Sunday in the final leg won by Ed Deicke at $7,392. Contest players were required to bet a minimum amount of money on a minimum of five races each day.

“I was going to bet Kentucky Downs anyway,” Mollicone said by phone Monday. “To be honest, I really didn’t concentrate on the tournament. I usually bet $200, $300, $500 a race. I liked a horse or two, so I screwed around and the horses didn’t win, so I was done (with the first tournament). Some people do so much a race and manage their money. Me, I’m just like if I take a shot and win, great; if not, hey, I’ll do the next tournament. Kind of like that’s what happened.

“Like, I did OK for the tournaments, but I did great betting on my own…. I entered the contest figuring if I like a horse, I’ll take a shot. If he does well and I win, I got money and I keep playing. If not, then I just keep betting on my regular account.”

Mollicone says he played some horses whose double-digit odds seemed too high, but he couldn’t generally remember their names. One name he clearly recalls, however, is Arklow, who got bottled up in traffic in midstretch before getting through late and coming up a neck shy of Imperador in Saturday’s $1 million, Grade 2 Calumet Farm Turf Cup.

“He got blocked, should have won the race for fun,” he said. “He wins that race, I probably win that tournament. I had big doubles going in to him and big doubles going out with him. That’s what kind of killed me. Then (Sunday), I just did what I had to do. I didn’t like anything on the card.”

He said he calculated that he had enough bankroll to win the overall title and quit playing after Sunday’s seventh race — his handicapping there proving correct.

Mollicone is a fan of the competition’s format.

“It kept it interesting,” he said. “I knew I didn’t do well on the first one, but I kind of liked a couple of horses in the second one; it kept me involved. I thought it was great, the way they set up it and the way they did the overall so you’re going to play all three. Whoever came up with it, I think it’s a great idea. It keeps you wanting to do it.

“A couple of guys who beat me (in the third leg), they didn’t do the other tournaments and they didn’t get the $20,000. Shame on them. You’re going to bet Kentucky Downs anyway. It’s great racing. You’ve got great horses. I think the more the people find out about it, especially with the bonus at the end, you’re going to find more people playing next year. Guys are going to kick themselves in the butt for not playing the whole thing.”

Mollicone calls his late father, Bob, the best handicapper he’s ever known. He says the first thing he learned how to read was the Daily Racing Form and went Suffolk Downs and the off-track betting at Rhode Island casinos with his dad, the two also traveling around the country to play contests.

“I love betting turf races,” he said. “It’s a more exciting race, a more true race. And I just love the set up (at Kentucky Downs). They’re going uphill, downhill. I just love it. You look forward to it. I’ve always done well at Kentucky Downs. You get horses who pay $25, $30 that you think should pay $8 or $10. Great racing and great value.”

Tournament Director Brian Skirka called the 2021 Kentucky Downs King of the Turf Handicapping Challenge “a massive success.”

“We had over 400 combined entries over the three contests and awarded over $171,000 in prizes,” he said. “I’d like to thank all the players who participated and Kentucky Downs for putting on six days of world-class turf racing. In just two years, these Kentucky Downs contests have proven themselves to be some of the most-challenging and most-lucrative in the country. I look forward to working with the Kentucky Downs team to grow them even more in the future.”

source: Kentucky Downs

Day 1 Notes from the Re-scheduled 2021 NHC in Las Vegas

Handicapper Colin Cummings leads the way into day two of the NHC after scoring $165.90 on Friday (day 1 of the NHC).  Track the live action during the day with the NTRA leaderboard link.

Top Trainer Broberg Makes Second NHC Appearance

Karl Broberg, among the winningest active trainers in North America and 13th all-time, is an NHC qualifier for the second year in a row.

“I feel about as confident as I did last year, which is not at all,” Broberg said. “You just have to catch fire on the right day.”

The prolific horseman had a six-year run as the continent’s top trainer from 2015 to 2020 and was second last year to Steve Asmussen. As of Friday afternoon Broberg had 273 wins in 2021. His career mark stands at 4,090.

According to Broberg, any perceived advantages that trainers might have – like inside intel on other horses – are irrelevant in handicapping contests.

“Trainers are the worst touts in the world,” he said. “You love your horse and you get tunnel vision. If anything, I think it’s a detriment, unfortunately.”

Broberg owns and trains Bustin Bay in Friday’s Race 6 at Saratoga, the NHC’s second mandatory race. By rule Broberg is not allowed to participate in that race and will instead play an alternate, the Race 8 finale at Del Mar.

Over the three days of the NHC, Broberg has horses entered at six different tracks, including Saratoga, where he has stalls for the first time this summer. The majority of Broberg’s training wins have come in Texas and Louisiana but his success has also allowed him to attract better stock from new owners.

Broberg has amassed a significant following on Twitter (@KarlBroberg) as a result of his unusually candid posts, which often include tips on his own horses and photos of winning tickets.

New Caesars/William Hill Rewards Program at Bally’s Las Vegas

NHC qualifiers who bet into the pari-mutuel pools will get more bang for their buck thanks to a new partnership between Caesars Entertainment, parent company of Bally’s Las Vegas, and William Hill, who operates the race and sports books at Caesar’s properties in Nevada. In addition to the traditional Caesar’s Rewards program, horseplayers can also participate in the William Hill Rewards Club, with 4% of one’s handle returned in the form of comps throughout the property.

NHC qualifiers who sign up for the William Hill Rewards Club will receive 5,000 credits for their first $50 wager. Those points can be used at the newly rebranded Caesars Race & Sportsbook or for dining and other perks around the Bally’s Las Vegas property.

“A lot of these NHC players are accustomed to rebates so I’m glad we can offer them something substantial while they are here playing with us,” said William Hill’s Director of Race Operations Steve Alford. “

“I’m sure I’ll reach out to these players and invite them back out here to see us again a few times during the year,” Alford said.

Gulf Coast Players Keep One Eye on Developing Hurricane

Louisiana always boasts a strong presence at the NHC and this year is no exception, with seven players from the Bayou State, led by past champions and perennial qualifiers Judy Wagner (2001) and Michael Beychok (2012). The Louisiana delegation is having a hard time concentrating, though, as Hurricane Ida bears down on the Gulf Coast with landfall expected Sunday afternoon, around the same time the DraftKings Final Table will get underway.

“It weighs on you,” said Beychok. “You always hope the news will get better but it’s getting worse. This looks like a really bad one. We’ve all been working the phones constantly, trying to figure out where and when we can get back. I’ve been worried about family, first of all, and then working with clients trying to make sure their connections are solid.”

Most of the Louisiana-bred NHC players sit together at their usual spot, Table 1, in the Bally’s Event Center. For Ryan Berni, a political consultant who served as Deputy Mayor of New Orleans under Mayor Mitch Landrieu, his first NHC appearance is not playing out at all like he’d imagined.

“My family’s headed to Florida right now,” Berni said. “I’m going to try to get back as soon as I can. I haven’t hit anything so far. I’ve been watching this storm all week; a lot more than I’ve been watching the races.”

Ida is expected to grow into a Category 4 hurricane. The projected path anticipates landfall somewhere along the Louisiana coast, with the eastern edge stretching into Mississippi.

Jon “Hurricane” Hurd is a New Orleans native and all too aware that his longtime nickname lands a little differently under the circumstances. Part of his strategy for dealing with the news from back home has been to submit his plays early in the day. That way he can monitor odds fluctuations and adjust as needed but has already made clear-headed decisions if he has to take calls from clients or kin. Hurd’s parents are contemplating whether to evacuate to their son’s home in Little Rock, Ark.

“It’s hard because everyone’s calling and they have so much going on,” Hurd said. “You can’t take hurricanes lightly. I’ll be praying for my family and friends but also doing everything I can to stay focused on winning the NHC.”

BCBC Winner Gramm Will Take a Swing at $3 Million Bonus

As the winner of last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, where he took home $492,750 between the prize pool and live-money earnings, Marshall Gramm is eligible for a $3 million bonus, the largest prize ever offered for a handicapping contest. The economics professor at Rhodes College in Memphis has pondered the potential windfall but tries to remain realistic about his chances of taking it.

“I made sure I did a little more work,” Gramm said. “You have to have a lot go right though. I didn’t want the bonus to create a lot of pressure for myself. This is still a great weekend to just enjoy Vegas and see friends.”

Gramm insists this NHC is not suited to his personal gambling style because he only follows a few favorite tracks – especially Oaklawn Park – and strongly prefers dirt racing. Nonetheless, as economist who obsesses over EV (“expected value”), Gramm has considered how his strategy might be impacted with the bonus in play. The added money incentivizes him to go all-out for the Final Table even if he risks giving up ground in the overall standings.

“I want to play to win the thing but at some point that usually becomes a lost cause” Gramm said. “But [Saturday] afternoon I’ll still be playing longshots because I might get lucky.”

New Sportech Contest Platform Debuts

Behind all of the personalities, hospitality, and drama of a top-class handicapping tournament is the infrastructure that actually keeps the contest running. Thursday’s “Last Chance/Next Chance” qualifier at Bally’s marked the debut of a completely new, state-of-the art tournament platform developed by Sportech, the international betting technology company.

The new platform is similar to that seen at contest sites like Monmouth Park, Hawthorne Race Course, and Lone Star Park. However, the software had to be updated to accommodate the mythical bankroll format of the NHC.

Among the innovations that players can’t miss are a real-time leaderboard that displays how many mandatory and optional races each entrant has completed. The full TVG Leaderboard suspended in the center of the Bally’s Las Vegas ballroom displays the top eight on the left side and a rotating look at the entirety of the field, in descending order, on the right.

“The NTRA has been working with Sportech, William Hill, and Caesars Entertainment for more than six months on a new contest platform,” said NTRA COO and NHC Tournament Director Keith Chamblin. “We are very pleased with the initial results and appreciate the investment by our partners in delivering what we hope will be a much-improved contest experience for our customers.”
For the first time, all contest plays must be made on self-service terminals dedicated for contest use, eliminating the possibility of teller error.

“Our ultimate goal in the future is to allow participants to play from their table in the Events Center on their phone or tablet,” Chamblin said.

A less-apparent feature that can have big ramifications for certain players is an improved process for canceling tickets. If a selection scratches from an optional race, for instance, that ticket is completely canceled so there is no risk of suddenly ending up on a post-time favorite the player never liked in the first place.

“We will learn some things from this weekend and continue to make improvements going into the 2022 NHC,” Chamblin said.

Soure: NTRA

NHC Begins Friday in Las Vegas

NTRA NHC logoLAS VEGAS (Wednesday, August 25, 2021) – The calendar tells us the 2020 renewal of the National Horseplayers Championship was “only” 18 months ago, even if it feels like several lifetimes since roughly 600 gamblers gathered at Bally’s for the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping contest. Nearly 200 days after being postponed due to COVID-19, #NHC2021 is set for this weekend, Friday to Sunday, as a midsummer betting extravaganza at Bally’s Las Vegas.

The nature of pandemic life in 2020 forced the cancelation of many on-track contests, but led to unprecedented interest in online wagering on Thoroughbred racing and online handicapping contests. As a result, this weekend’s 22nd NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) presented by Racetrack Television Network, Caesars Entertainment and Bally’s Las Vegas will carry cash prizes of some $2.01 million, including a grand prize of $700,000, and overall prize money and travel awards of nearly $3 million. Some 449 individuals and 550 entries (101 of the players earned the maximum of two entries) will also compete for an Eclipse Award and the title of “Horseplayer of the Year.” (A total of 75 berths to the 2021 NHC, and approximately $350,000 in prize money, will be transferred to the 2022 NHC primarily due to issues related to COVID-19).

The NHC field will be reduced to the top 10 percent of players after the first two days. The highest 10 cumulative scores after the Semi-final round on Sunday morning will fill out the DraftKings Final Table. Bankrolls amassed during Day 1, Day 2 and the Semi-final round will roll over to the Final Table, with the 10 finalists settling the NHC score in seven “mandatory” assigned races.

This year’s track menu for mandatory and optional races is comprised of Del Mar, Ellis Park, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Monmouth Park, Saratoga Race Course, and Woodbine Racetrack. All but Gulfstream and Golden Gate are part of the NHC for the first time.

“The 2021 NHC has been a long time coming but will be worth the wait,” said NTRA Chief Operating Officer and NHC Tournament Director, Keith Chamblin. “I want everyone involved—horseplayers, sponsors, and contest partners—to know how much we appreciate their patience and cooperation as we navigated having to reschedule the event. Having world-class summer racing from Del Mar and Saratoga, including the star-studded Runhappy Travers Day card, as well as the addition of new tracks Monmouth Park, Ellis Park and Woodbine, is going to make this an exciting and memorable NHC.”
Players who do not make the Semi-final cut will still compete on Day 3, in a separate $50,000 Consolation tournament.

A full scoreboard will be updated regularly at ntra.com/nhc, where fans and players can also find each day’s contest race menu and news updates.

At the Races with Steve Byk will broadcast live on SiriusXM satellite radio (Sirius 219; XM 201) from Bally’s and online at www.stevebyk.com daily, from 9-12 a.m. ET/6-9 a .m. PT on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Monday, with NHC coverage at www.SteveByk.com/listen-live-SiriusXM slated for 2-8 p.m. ET/11 a.m.-5 p.m. PT) Friday-Sunday. Additional news and exclusive content will be shared on Twitter via the official NTRA account, @NTRA.

Defending NHC champion Thomas Goldsmith heads this year’s field, which is comprised of an estimated 449 individuals (pending the outcome of Thursday’s Last Chance/Next Chance Contest). There are 100 rookies, representing some 22 percent of the field. There are 101 dual qualifiers going into Thursday’s Last Chance/Next Chance Contest at the Bally’s Events Center.

As the 2020 NHC winner, Goldsmith received an automatic berth into this year’s tournament to defend the title he won 563 days ago when he prevailed in his first time playing in the NHC. Goldsmith amassed a winning bankroll of $404.10 over the three-day tournament from 53 mythical $2 Win and Place bets. He will seek to become the first-ever two-time winner of the NHC, as will eight other past winners that have qualified. The other qualifying champions are Scott Coles (2019), Ray Arsenault (2017), Jose Arias (2014), Michael Beychok (2012), Stanley Bavlish (2007), Steve Wolfson, Jr. (2003), Judy Wagner (2001) and Steven Walker (2000).
Several players will compete for major bonuses tied to earlier accomplishments. As the winner of the 2020 NHC Tour, legendary 20-time qualifier Sally Goodall won $100,000 and an NHC berth. She also is eligible for a $5 million bonus if she goes on to win at the 2021 NHC finals.

Marshall Gramm, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC), is eligible for a $3 million BCBC/NHC Bonus if he takes down the NHC title.

In its 22nd 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. NHC players qualified via contests hosted by 31 racetracks, casino race books, handicapping contest websites, Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) outlets, simulcast distribution networks, horse owner associations, and other Thoroughbred racing organizations.

The #NHC2021 qualifier hosts were: Aqueduct, At the Races with Steve Byk, Bally’s Las Vegas, Belmont Park, Breeders’ Cup, Canterbury Park, Capital OTB, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Fonner Park, Gulfstream Park, Hawthorne Race Course, Hialeah Park, Horseplayers.com, HorseTourneys.com, Keeneland, Kentucky Downs, Lone Star Park, Monmouth Park, NTRA, NYRA Bets, Ruidoso Downs, S. Florida HBPA, Sam Houston Race Park, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga, Sport of Kings, STATS Race Lens, Tampa Bay Downs, The BIG One, TVG and Xpressbet.com.

The tournament format for the NHC is meant to be the best possible test of overall handicapping ability. Players attempt to earn the highest possible bankroll based on mythical $2 Win-and-Place wagers. Assigned “mandatory” races – eight per day on Day 1 and Day 2 and seven at the Final Table – will be announced at least 36 hours prior to each contest day (Wednesday evening for Friday, Thursday evening for Saturday, Friday evening for Sunday) on Twitter (@NTRA) and NTRA.com.

The remaining 10 races on Day 1 and Day 2 and all 10 plays in the Semifinal round will be optional wagers on races at one of the seven designated tournament tracks.

On Saturday, the NTRA also will host an invitation-only online tournament, the 7th Annual NTRA NHC Charity Challenge presented by Four Roses Bourbon. A field of approximately 60 will compete for the $5,000 charitable prize with $2,500 set to be donated in the winner’s name to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and the other $2,500 going to the winner’s charity of choice.

The National Horseplayers Championship is presented by Racetrack Television Network, Caesars Entertainment and Bally’s Las Vegas and sponsored by 1/ST BET, Breeders’ Cup, Capitol OTB, Century Bets, Daily Racing Form, DraftKings, EquinEdge, FanDuel Group, Four Roses Bourbon, Hawthorne Racecourse, Hialeah Park, HorsePlayers.com, HorseTourneys.com, Keeneland, Monmouth Park, NYRA Bets, Roberts Communications, Santa Anita Park, STATS® Race Lens, The Stronach Group, TVG and Xpressbet.

Racetracks Announced for NHC Tournament in Las Vegas

NTRA NHC logoLEXINGTON, Ky. (Friday, June 25, 2021) — Seven North American racetracks, including premier summer-time race meetings Del Mar, Saratoga and Monmouth Park, make up a menu from which all mandatory and optional races will be selected when the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping tournament – the NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), presented by Racetrack Television Network, Caesars Entertainment and Bally’s Las Vegas – is contested Aug. 27-29, 2021. The official NHC 2021 racetracks are Del Mar, Ellis Park, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Monmouth Park, Saratoga Race Course and Woodbine Racetrack.

This year’s NHC, which includes more than 600 entries, was originally scheduled to be held February 9-11, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and was rescheduled for late August. The total cash and prizes to be awarded at the 2021 NHC are estimated to be nearly $3.8 million, including an estimated $3 million in prize money.

“The menu of racetracks represents the best possible mix of quality racing and geographical diversity,” said NTRA Chief Operating Officer and NHC Tournament Director Keith Chamblin. “Del Mar and Saratoga, which on Saturday, Aug. 27, will feature six Grade I events headed by the Runhappy Travers Stakes, highlight the racing, but it will be great to introduce Ellis Park, Monmouth Park and Woodbine to NHC contest play.”

The three-day NHC requires players to make mythical $2 win and place wagers on eight mandatory races and 10 optional races on each of the first two days. The top 10 percent of players achieving the highest bankroll at the conclusion of the first two days will advance to Sunday morning’s Semi-Final round which will consist of 10 optional plays. The top 10 players following the Semi-Final round will advance to Sunday’s Final Table where they will compete in seven mandatory races to determine the National Champion. The winner will receive $800,000 and an Eclipse Award as the Horseplayer of the 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 buy-ins to the NHC. Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards. The NHC is presented by Racetrack Television Network, Caesars Entertainment and Bally’s Las Vegas.

For more information on the NHC Tour and a complete contest schedule, visit NTRA.com/nhc.

ELIGIBLE TRACKS FOR 2021 NHC IN LAS VEGAS*

Del Mar

Ellis Park

Golden Gate Fields

Gulfstream Park

Monmouth Park

Saratoga Race Course

Woodbine Racetrack

* Subject to change

How Frank Mustari Won Keeneland’s Grade One Gamble Tournament

Frank Mustari of Chicago has a stellar reputation as a handicapping contest player who makes scores at opportune times. Mustari struck again at Keeneland on Saturday, April 10, when he won the Grade One Gamble by nailing a $235 trifecta in the final race for a bankroll total of $27,025. His total topped a record field of 248 players who competed at Keeneland and through [several ADW sites] and allowed Mustari to take home a record first prize of $50,000, a berth in the $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) at Del Mar and an entry in the 2022 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas.

Thanks to his incredible hit, Mustari passed leader Ed Deicke of Lido Beach, New York, for the win. Deicke played a $1,000 win bet on King Fury in the Stonestreet Lexington (G3) for $19,200 and finished with $24,969. His second-place finish was good for $26,000 in prize money and berths in the BCBC and NHC.

Defending BCBC champion Marshall Gramm of Memphis finished third with $20,630, cashing for $16,000 in prize money and berths in the BCBC and NHC.

Joining the top three who earned BCBC entries and NHC entries were Bobby Marks ($20,490 bankroll; $12,000 prize money), Ryan Knottek ($16,300 bankroll; $7,000 prize money) and Peter Behr ($14,910 bankroll and $3,000 prize money).

Also receiving berths to the NHC were 7th- through 10th-place finishers: Dennis Hubbard, Paul Weizer, Mark Stanton and Rick Broth. Each also received $3,000 in prize money.

Prize money of $3,000 each went to 11th- through 15th-place finishers: Mark Haidar, Evan Trommer, Christy Moore, Frank Mustari (again), and Ray Arnesault.

“Thanks so much to the incredible players for your support of Keeneland racing,” Keeneland Director of Wagering Development Jim Goodman said.

Full results are available at https://members.breederscup.com/bcbc/keeneland.

Source: Keeneland

The 2021 NHC Tour Begins Today

NTRA NHC logoLexington, Ky. (January 25, 2021) – The 2021 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Tour officially begins this Friday, January 29 with a $75 online qualifier to be held on HorsePlayers.com, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today.
Friday’s contest will be the first NHC qualifier to offer 2021 NHC Tour points awarded to Tour members who finish in the top 10 percent of officially-sanctioned NHC contests and among the first contests to offer berths to the $3,000,000-estimated 2022 NTRA National Horseplayers Championship to be held at Bally’s Las Vegas January 28-30, 2022. The officially declared Tour points leader will be eligible for a $5 million bonus should he or she win the 2022 NHC.
The 2021 NHC Tour, which offers an additional $365,000 in prize money, runs through January 9, 2022 and is expected to offer hundreds of online and onsite opportunities to compete for an NHC berth. The top 75 individual point leaders on the overall year-end Tour Leader Board, who have not already qualified through an official on-track or online contest, will automatically qualify into the 2022 NHC. Horseplayers cannot buy an entry into the NHC; they must earn a berth in qualifying contests held throughout the year.

How to Participate in the 2021 National Horseplayers Championship

Tour membership of $50 must be paid prior to participating in an online or on-track NHC qualifier to be eligible to win a berth in the NHC. To sign up for the NHC Tour, go to www.ntra.com/membership.
For more information on the NHC Tour benefits and to view the official rules go to www.nhctour.com. A schedule of 2021 Tour events will be updated regularly at https://www.ntra.com/nhc/nhc-events/.
About the NHC
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. For more information on the NHC, visit NTRA.com/nhc.

Lessons from the First Big Online Tournament of the Year

By Rich Nilsen

The first big online handicapping tournament of the year was held over the weekend of Jan. 9-10 at horsetourneys.com, and I was fortunate enough to win into this $1,500 buy-in event via an initial $28 feeder.  It was also the same weekend at the local Tampa Bay Downs handicapping contest, so plenty of work was required to prepare for both events.

The Flo-Cal Faceoff, the Players Championship (April 2-3) and the Spa & Surf Showdown (August 14-15) comprise the new 2021 Tourney Triple series at HorseTourneys which features additional bonuses and prizes if you do well over the three contests.  The Flo-Cal closed on the morning of January 9th with a staggering purse of $570,373 based on 429 entries and a top prize set at $205,019.  The contest was comprised of full-card mandatory races at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita on both Saturday and Sunday, so this was going to be a long weekend.

On day one I got off to a very good start in the Flo-Cal Faceoff by hitting five winners from the first nine races at Gulfstream Park.  The problem was that I missed the big longshot that came in early in the day ($37.00 to win, $17 to place) and that missed $54 in bankroll was going to be difficult to overcome.

Unfortunately, I did not fare nearly as well at Santa Anita, so most of my Saturday bankroll came from South Florida.  I ended the day with over $97, an admirable score that was within ‘shouting’ distance, but that only put me in the top 25% of the field.  The lucrative prize structure was paying down to the top 28 players at the conclusion of the weekend.

Day Two of Flo-Cal

I decided I was going to swing for the fences on Sunday.  ‘Grinding it out’ seemed like a difficult strategy to make up the $60-90 deficit.  Hindsight is 20/20 and that proved to be a mistake on a day where shorter price horses were consistently winning throughout the afternoon.  The first longshot of the day wouldn’t come in until nearly 4pm when Weisser scored in Gulfstream Park’s 8th race, paying $27.80, $11.80.  I did not have him, and the situation was looking bleak.

However, I am not one to give up, knowing that in the span of just one-two races, a tournament player can make up huge strides on the leaderboard.  In the very next race at Gulfstream Park (race 9), I eyed a runner that was trying the turf for the first time.  The Munnings filly had won two of her three starts when sprinting and she had good tactical, early speed.  She looked like the type of filly that could win going 5 furlongs on the grass.  She was a juicy 17-1 and I knew if I could get this horse home, I was back in the top 50 of the standings.  I would then have a chance for some nice prize money if I could finish the day strong.

Choose Joy, my bomber, tracked closely in third and was loaded turning for home.  She surged in the final strides at the leader, but the front runner who had been off since June fought back and held on by a diminishing nose.  I got a $15.00 place payoff but missed out on an additional $36 for the win.  Numerous players had the 14-1 winner, and, instead of sitting on the first page of the leaderboard,  I was now sitting in around 170th  and the light at the end of the tunnel was very dim.

It wasn’t too long before the final race of the long weekend was upon us.  Sitting in about 140th and being only $20 out of the top 100, I had to decide if I was going to shoot for the top 100 to earn some points in this Triple Tourney event, or if hitting a bomb could move me into the top 28 of the cash prize winners.

In the field of 11 there were only three cappers and a 17-1 shot on the board.   The math told me I was blocked.  There was simply no way that I was going to pass over 100 players no matter what horse won.  It made more sense to find a horse I really liked at good odds.  [In the end my calculations were correct and even if I had hit the final contest race winner, I would have only ended up about 40th… but I digress.]

Not that I was considering the favorites, but the shorter priced horses in the field did not strike fear into anyone.  #11 Miss Dracarys had only raced one time.  She was let off at odds of 23-1 in her debut, indicating that she wasn’t exactly ‘well meant’ by her connections.  Despite that, she won, but now she was being asked to transfer that form on the other side of the country – not an easy task for a young horse.

So, I was on the lookout for a runner that had a strong chance of winning and represented some value.  I needed at least 6-1 odds to secure a top 100 finish, but of course, the higher the odds the better.

Santa Anita race favorites

#10 Empire House was starting for the dangerous Jonathan Wong outfit, but this runner had never attempted the turf.  She was getting first time Lasix and had a pedigree to handle the surface switch.  She made sense at odds of 9-1, but #4 Magical Thought was even more appealing.  Starting for trainer Peter Miller, arguably the best turf sprint trainer in California, this horse was dropping out of a graded stakes race and was cutting back from one mile to a preferred sprint distance.  She was also 9-1 and just the odds I needed to pass a lot of players on the leaderboard.

The Pivotal Question

When I first handicapped the race, it didn’t take my long to pass right over the #1 horse.  Having seen Mountaineers shippers lose at an extraordinarily high rate over the years, I didn’t care for the cheap maiden graduate to move to Santa Anita and win.  Although she had won by a large margin (over a bad field) she had “lugged out” in the lane, another negative note.  Two races back this horse had lost at Belterra Park.  Win at Santa Anita…are you kidding me?  Next.

Now, my Dad, who taught me how to handicap, would not have been so rash.  He would have looked at this odd shipper and asked himself the question, “What is this horse doing in this race?”  And that is the question that would have led to the correct answer.  He was here to win.

Santa Anita race 9 winner

The Mountaineer shipper had moved into one of the top barns in Southern California, that of John Sadler.  He had given the filly a long string of workouts, fairly consistent and dating back to at least early October.  She showed two bullet works in early October and a sharp 47.3 drill, sixth best of 52 at the distance on October 17.

Sadler was putting up one of the top jockeys in Southern California, Umberto Rispoli.  Rispoli is one of the best on the grass and also one of the best out of the gate.  This horse had flashed very quick early speed in her two races, and that is one of the main assets you typically want in a 6 furlong turf horse.

Why in the world would a top California barn obtain a lowly maiden winner from West Virginia?  By the stallion Cinco Charlie and out of a modest winner, the filly didn’t have much of a pedigree.  However, they clearly saw something in this runner and felt that she could fit a certain profile out West.  The connections were right, and they were handsomely rewarded.

The Final Race Result

With dusk falling over the stunning San Gabriel Mountains, Five Pics Please cruised to the front right out of the gate and ran the field off their feet.  At odds of 29-1 she easily held on for the shocking score in the $63,000 race.  She stopped the timer in a swift 1:08.91.

By not closely analyzing Five Pics Please and failing to ask the obvious question that my father would have asked, I missed out on a big longshot winner.  The Flo-Cal Faceoff champ turned out to be Alan Levitt, a 12-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship.  Back in 2012 he compiled a $195.20 bankroll en route to a 7th place overall finish in Las Vegas.  With one race to go Levitt was sitting in 19th place in the Flo-Cal Faceoff, and he wisely pulled the trigger on the Mountaineer bomber.  He catapulted past the 18 players in front of him and took down the lucrative six-figure cash prize.

The Final Race Result winner Santa Anita

copyright 2021 Equibase.com

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2020 NHC Tour and Qualifying Opportunities Coming to a Close

NTRA NHC logoLexington, Ky. (January 13, 2021) – Highly-coveted berths to the $3 million-estimated National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas remain up for grabs as the 2020-21 NHC Tour season winds down with online and on-track contests offered over the next two weekends and berths tied directly to season-long participation are determined by end-of-season Tour points totals.
Only six contests remain in the 2020-21 Tour season with events scheduled for Friday-Sunday on each of the next two weekends. In addition to the six remaining NHC contests, “feeder” contests offering complimentary berths into to the main qualifiers are available every day for as little as $18 per entry.
A total of $300,000 in Tour prize money will be awarded to the top 15 finishers in the NHC Tour, based on the official 2020 NHC Tour rules. The newly-crowned NHC Tour Champion will win $100,000 and be eligible to compete for a $5 million bonus at the 2021 NHC.
The top 75 individual overall points leaders, who have not already qualified for the 2021 NHC through an officially-sanctioned NHC on-track or online contest at the end of the Tour season on January 23, will automatically qualify into the 2021 NHC. In addition, $15,000 will be paid out to the overall, official Tour Points Leaders, as of January 23, who are first-time NHC Tour members (e.g., “Rookies”).
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 NHC, presented by Racetrack Television Network, Caesars Entertainment and Bally’s Las Vegas, will be contested August 27-29 at Bally’s. 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.
Details on the Tour-ending NHC qualifiers are below:
Friday, January 15
Horseplayers.com
Prizes: 2 NHC berths and 2020 Tour Points + travel package guaranteed
Entry Fee: $75
Saturday, January 16
Horseplayers.com
Prizes: 2 NHC berths and 2020 Tour Points + travel package guaranteed
Entry Fee: $165
Canterbury Park
Prizes: 1 NHC berth (no 2020 Tour Points) + travel package guaranteed
Entry Fee: $100
Sunday, January 17
Horseplayers.com
Prizes: 1 NHC berth per 21 entries guaranteed (Tour points if 2 berths awarded) + travel package
Entry Fee: $500
Friday, January 22
Horseplayers.com
Prizes: 2 NHC berths and 2020 Tour Points + travel package guaranteed
Entry Fee: $75
Details posted soon on Horseplayers.com
Saturday, January 23
Horseplayers.com
Prizes: 2 NHC berths and 2020 Tour Points + travel package guaranteed
Entry Fee: $100
Details posted soon on Horseplayer.com.
Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship
Prizes: Up to 5 NHC berths awarded (player’s choice 2021 or 2022) and 2020 Tour Points + travel package
Entry Fee: $6,000 ($5,000 bankroll + $1,000 entry fee)
One must be a current NHC Tour member to be eligible to win NHC entries. To sign up for the NHC Tour, go to www.ntra.com/membership. For more information on the NHC and NHC Tour, visit www.nhctour.com/nhc or contact Michele Ravencraft at mravencraft@ntra.com.
About the NHC
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. For more information on the NHC, visit NTRA.com/nhc.

Veteran Player Yohler Captures Del Mar Fall Challenge

Del mar chantal billboardTimothy Yohler of Fisher, IN scored huge in the last race of the Del Mar Fall Challenge [on Saturday, November 28, 2020]. Yohler vaulted into the lead with large exacta and trifecta wagers turning his final $1,500 in bankroll into $30,180.

In addition to Yohler’s bankroll winnings, he receives $35,000 in cash and a $10,000 [value] 2021 Breeders Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) entry.

Second place finisher Christy Moore ended with a bankroll of $24,840 and a cash prize of $19,000. Kevin Bogart finished third good for $7,500 in prizes. Both Christy and Kevin also receive $10,000 BCBC entries for next year’s Breeders Cup held at Del Mar.

The Challenge buy-in was $4,000 with $3,000 going to the player starting bankroll and $1,000 to the prize pool which offered $100,000 in total prizes.

Source: DMTC.com

How Marshall Gramm won the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge