2018 NYRA Handicapping Tournament Schedule

Highlighted by the third annual Belmont Stakes Challenge, The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) has released the 2018 schedule for handicapping challenges at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course.

Each handicapping contest offers horseplayers the opportunity to win live money wagered in addition to the prize pool. Each NYRA handicapping challenge will also offer the opportunity qualify for a seat to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge in November and the National Horseplayers Championship in February 2019.

In addition to registering online at NYRA.com, horseplayers can also directly qualify into each NYRA handicapping challenge through qualifiers hosted at DRF.com and Horsetourneys.com.

Aqueduct Racetrack Winter/Spring meet
* Saturday, March 10, Gotham Challenge: $500 Entry Fee, one seat to the 2018 Belmont Stakes Challenge, two seats to the 2019 National Horseplayers Championship. Guaranteed minimum 1st place prize of $5,000.

* Saturday, April 7, Wood Memorial Challenge: $500 Entry Fee, one seat to the 2018 Belmont Stakes Challenge, two seats to the 2019 National Horseplayers Championship. Guaranteed minimum 1st place prize of $5,000.

Belmont Park
* Friday, June 8, and Saturday, June 9 Belmont Stakes Challenge: $10,000 Entry Fee, one seat to the 2019 Belmont Stakes Challenge, two seats to 2018 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, 4 seats to the 2019 National Horseplayers Championships. 100 percent of the prize money will be returned to players after deducting the cost of seats. Wagering will take place on all live races from Belmont Park on Friday, June 8 and will conclude on Saturday, June 9 with the Belmont Stakes.

* Saturday, July 7, Stars & Stripes Challenge: $500 Entry Fee, one seat to the 2019 Belmont Stakes Challenge, 2 seats to the 2019 National Horseplayers Championship. Guaranteed minimum 1st place prize of $5,000.

Saratoga canopy walk throughSaratoga Race Course
* Friday, August 10, Saratoga Challenge: $1,000 Entry Fee, one seat to the 2019 Belmont Stakes Challenge, three seats to the 2019 National Horseplayers Championship. Guaranteed minimum 1st place of $15,000.

* Saturday, August 11, Fourstardave Challenge: $2,000 Entry Fee, one seat to the 2019 Belmont Stakes Challenge, five seats to the 2019 National Horseplayers Championship. Guaranteed minimum 1st place prize of $25,000.

 

Aqueduct Racetrack Fall Meet
* Saturday, November 17, Aqueduct Challenge: $1,000 Entry Fee, one seat to the 2019 Belmont Stakes Challenge and six seats to the 2019 National Horseplayers Championship. Guaranteed minimum 1st place prize of $10,000.

For more information including full rules and regulations for each 2018 NYRA handicapping challenge, please visit nyra.com/challenge.

2018 National Horseplayers Championship Begins Today in Vegas

Nearly $3 Million, ‘Horseplayer of the Year’ Eclipse Award on the Line at NHC 19

A record estimated field of 700 entries will compete for the largest purse in handicapping tournament history – projected at more than $2.96 million in cash and awards – and horse racing’s official title of “Horseplayer of the Year” – at this weekend’s 19th NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Presented by Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens™ and Treasure Island Las Vegas. The three-day tournament, Friday to Sunday at Treasure Island, will offer a first-place prize of $800,000.

“This year’s total NHC prize money will be about double what it was only five years ago, in 2014,” said NTRA Chief Operating Officer and NHC Tournament Director Keith Chamblin. “We are very grateful to so many horseplayers and participating organizations throughout the industry for their help making the NHC a singular event that represents the ultimate prize for horseplayers.”

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 Semifinal round will fill out the Final Table. Bankrolls amassed during Day 1, Day 2 and the Semifinal round will roll over to the Final Table, with the 10 finalists settling the NHC score in seven “mandatory” assigned races.

Players who do not make the Semifinal cut will still compete on Day 3, in a separate Consolation tournament.

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

Noel Michaels, author of Handicapping Contest Handbook: A Horseplayer’s Guide to Handicapping Tournaments, will host live video coverage daily, Friday to Sunday, from 5-8 p.m. ET (2-5 p.m. PT) on the NTRA Facebook page (www.facebook.com/1NTRA). Programming will include interviews with NHC personalities, handicapping and previews of mandatory races, and live coverage of Sunday’s Final Table. Additional news and exclusive content will be shared on Twitter via the official NTRA account, @NTRA.

nhc final table vegasAt the Races with Steve Byk will broadcast live on SiriusXM satellite radio (Sirius 219; XM 206; Online 964) from Treasure Island during the show’s regular hours, 9 a.m.-Noon ET (6-9 a.m. PT), on Friday morning, and online at www.stevebyk.com daily, Friday to Sunday, Noon-5:30 p.m. ET (9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. PT). Next Monday’s regular 9 a.m.-Noon ET (6-9 a.m. PT) show will feature an extended NHC recap.

Defending NHC champion Ray Arsenault – who last month was honored with an Eclipse Award as “Horseplayer of the Year”– heads this year’s record field, which is comprised of 570 individual players (130 are dual qualifiers playing the maximum two entries).

As the 2017 NHC winner, Arsenault, of Thornhill, Ontario, Canada, near Toronto, received an automatic berth into this year’s tournament to defend the title he won last January when he bested 653 other entries.

Arsenault won by amassing a mythical bankroll of $407.70 from a total of 53 Win-and-Place wagers pared from a mind-melting menu of more than 150 races run at eight different tracks. Arsenault will seek to become the first-ever two-time winner of the NHC, as will 11 other past winners that have qualified. The other qualifying champions: Paul Matties (2016), John O’Neil (2015), Jose Arias (2014), Michael Beychok (2012), John Doyle (2011), Brian Troop (2010), John Conte (2009), Richard Goodall (2008), Stanley Bavlish (2007), Steve Wolfson Jr. (2003), and Judy Wagner (2001).

Several players will compete for major bonuses tied to earlier accomplishments:

The winner of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) is eligible for a $3 million BCBC/NHC Bonus. San Francisco resident Nisan Gabbay, a 40-year-old software developer and owner of a tech startup, earned $350,000 for winning the BCBC at Del Mar in November with a final live bankroll of $176,000. First prize at the NHC is $800,000, meaning that successful completion of the BCBC-NHC double would be worth $4.326 million.

 

Buddies Brad & Howard at the 2015 NHC

As the winner of the 2017 NHC Tour, Mike Ferrozzo won $100,000 and an NHC berth. Should he go on to win this year’s NHC, he will receive a $2 million bonus in addition to the NHC grand prize of $800,000.

Hawthorne sponsors million-dollar bonuses for their Holiday Extravaganza champions. John Ukleja won the Dec. 29 contest and Paul Langley won on Dec. 30. Both are eligible for a $1 million bonus should they go on to win the NHC.

Ed Peters is eligible for a $500,000 bonus should he win the NHC as the top qualifier out of The BIG One at Laurel Park in September.

In its 19th year, the NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), previously known as the National Handicapping Championship before a revamping of the brand in 2017, 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 40 racetracks, casino race books, handicapping contest websites, Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) outlets, simulcast distribution networks, horse owner associations and other Thoroughbred racing organizations. The NHC 19 qualifier hosts were Aqueduct, Arlington Park, Belmont Park, BetPTC.com, Breeders’ Cup, Canterbury Park, Century Bets, Churchill Downs, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Ellis Park, Equestricon, Gulfstream Park, Hawthorne Race Course, Hollywood Casino at Penn, HorsePlayers.com, HorseTourneys.com, Indiana Grand, Keeneland, Laurel Park, Lone Star Park, Los Alamitos Race Course, Louisiana Downs, Meadowlands, Mohegan Sun, Monmouth Park, National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club, Public Handicapper, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga Bets, Saratoga Race Course, Surfside Race Place, Tampa Bay Downs, The BIG One, Thoroughbred Owners of California, Treasure Island, TVG, Woodbine Entertainment Group, and Wynn Las Vegas.

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 – are selected by NTRA Director of Media & Industry Relations Jim Mulvihill, Treasure Island Director of Race and Sports Tony Nevill, Monmouth Park Marketing Manager and Contest Director Brian Skirka, and Equibase National Racing Analyst Ellis Starr.

Mandatory races 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 eight designated NHC tournament tracks: Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Laurel Park, Oaklawn Park, Santa Anita Park and Tampa Bay Downs.

Treasure Island will play host to the NHC in its second-floor ballroom for the seventh straight year.

On Saturday, the NTRA also will host an invitation-only online tournament, the Tito’s $10,000 Charity Challenge. A field of about 40 celebrities and racing personalities will compete to have $10,000 donated in their names to three different causes – the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, official charity of the NHC ($5,000); a nonprofit of the winner’s choosing ($2,500); and a nonprofit to be determined by Tito’s ($2,500).

About the NHC
In its 19th 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. For more information on the NHC, visit NTRA.com/nhc.

Veteran Contest Player DQ’d in 2017 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge

Breeders CupBreeders’ Cup Limited (BCL) has completed its analysis of the results of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC). In early November, BCL retained Robert Watt of Stoll Keenon Ogden, PLLC, (SKO) to perform an independent investigation of the BCBC following the receipt of a written complaint alleging several improprieties including collusion among specific BCBC participants. The BCBC Official Rules explicitly provide that “[c]ollusion of entries between horse players is prohibited, as is any attempt to manipulate the results of the tournament.”

Over the course of several weeks, SKO undertook an extensive investigation of the BCBC. This investigation included reaching out to 2017 BCBC participants and inviting them to share any pertinent information relating to any tournament improprieties, reviewing wagering patterns of all BCBC prize-winning participants and any alleged partners, consulting with three independent handicapping tournament directors, a review of wagering detail by the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, reviewing podcasts and other interviews of participants commenting on the BCBC, and interviews with participants that either made allegations, had information or were accused of violating contest rules.

Following the conclusion of SKO’s investigation, BCL has determined that Eric Moomey and Roger Ball colluded to increase the number of entries available to them and otherwise attempted to manipulate the tournament’s results in violation of the BCBC Official Rules. Consequently, Mr. Moomey’s entry which resulted in a 9th place finish (and within the prize pool) is disqualified and the participants that finished 10th through 19th will each move up one place in the BCBC final standings and prize money will be reallocated accordingly.

BCBC participants are limited to two entries. Mr. Moomey and Mr. Ball each had two entries and the review of wagers revealed that those four entries covered all horses in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (6th race) on Friday with zero overlapping wagers between the four separate entries. Mr. Moomey’s and Mr. Ball’s collective four entries covered all of the European horses other than the horse in the 14 post in the Juvenile Turf (8th race) on Friday with zero overlapping wagers between the four separate entries. Combining four separate entries to create a larger bankroll to permit wagering on more horses in a single race is an unfair advantage over other participants playing one or two entries. Mr. Moomey and Mr. Ball made all of their wagers in these two races within close proximity to each other and used the same four wagering machines for all of these wagers. Many of these wagers were made at nearly the same time.

Other allegations of collusion amongst additional BCBC participants were extensively investigated but the investigation led to the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to support a finding that a violation of the rules occurred. Specifically, BCL received a complaint about Nisan Gabbay and Kevin McFarland. Both individuals only had one entry per person (as opposed to the permitted two entries per person). Mr. McFarland wagered throughout both days of the BCBC. Mr. Gabbay did not wager until the sixth race on Saturday and incurred 5,000 penalty points on Friday and 6,000 penalty points on Saturday for failing to place minimum wagers in accordance with the BCBC Official Rules. Mr. Gabbay and Mr. McFarland stated unequivocally that they do not collaborate on wagering strategy even though they share tournament winnings. The BCBC Official Rules do not prohibit the sharing of winnings and the investigation concluded that such sharing does not violate the rules in effect. Moreover, Mr. Gabbay and Mr. McFarland played only one entry apiece and the wagering patterns employed could have been employed by one participant with two entries within the rules.

BCL received additional complaints regarding a revision to the BCBC Official Rules on minimum wagers. Prior to the 2016 BCBC, participants were given a 5,000-point penalty per race for failing to bet the minimum wagers on Friday and a disqualification for failing to bet the minimum wagers on Saturday. BCL felt that the penalty was too harsh and the BCBC Official Rules were revised in 2016 for the 2016 BCBC to state that participants would receive a 1,000-point penalty per race on Friday and a 2,000-point penalty per race on Saturday for failing to bet the minimum wagers without providing for disqualification. The investigation concluded that the imposition of penalties in 2017 was consistent with the current version of the rules and that the application of those rules does not warrant the disqualification of Mr. Gabbay in addition to the specified point penalties.

While other major handicapping tournaments also have minimum wager penalties similar to the current BCBC penalties, BCL is nevertheless reviewing its Official Rules for future years to encourage wagering throughout the two days of racing while mitigating penalties for those players that unintentionally failed to meet the minimum wagering requirements.

As part of its investigation, BCL has received significant feedback from participants regarding improvements to the BCBC. As a result, BCL has recently formed a Wagering Committee made up of BCL Members and chaired by Craig Bernick and Mike Rogers. Other Members from BCL include Fred Hertrich, Bret Jones, Mike Levy, and David Richardson. Horseplayers and tournament players will be represented on the Wagering Committee by Paul Matties, Joe Appelbaum, Jonathan Kinchen and Tom Quigley. As stated by Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Craig Fravel, “while we hope that the work of the Wagering Committee will lead to improvements for the Breeders’ Cup and Thoroughbred racing generally, the first priority will be to review the operation of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge as well as the rules governing play. We expect to address concerns related to collusion, the audit/referee function, minimum play requirements, bet types and any others brought to our attention by the committee or the tournament community. While this has been an unfortunate occurrence, we expect to make changes that will set an example for the industry and establish a foundation for growth. We welcome input from horseplayers as part of those efforts.”

BCL would like to thank all BCBC participants for their patience and cooperation in the delay of the official results as well as for their part in making the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a success.

Gulfstream Park NHC/Pegasus Contest has Latin American Flaire

Pegasus statue at Gulfstream ParkPress Release

Gulfstream Park announced the first Clasico del Caribe Betting Challenge Saturday, Dec. 9 which could offer up to four Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship seats and two National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) seats.

To be held in Gulfstream’s Sport of Kings, the live-money Clasico del Caribe Betting Challenge will have a buy-in of $2,000 ($1,500 bankroll, $500 prize pool). Players must wager a minimum of $250 on at least six races at Gulfstream Park and Laurel Park. Two of the six must include the Clasico del Caribe plus an additional stakes race at Gulfstream Park of the player’s choosing. There will be no maximum. There will be win, place, show, exacta or trifecta wagers only. Players must bet their entire $1,500 bankroll over the course of the contest.

Prizes, based on 100 entries, will be four Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship seats and two NHC seats.

Players can qualify at HorseTourneys.com. For more information, contact Nancy Berry at nancy.berry@gulfstreampark.com.

Collusion? Aqueduct Handicapping Tournament Won by Teammates

Press Release

Entering the Aqueduct Challenge Handicapping Tournament after winning both days of the Saratoga Challenge tournament this summer, Terrence “Terry” Cook was the prohibitive favorite to take first place honors again and did not disappoint, compiling a bankroll of $2,277 on Saturday to win his third tournament on the NYRA circuit.

The Baltimore, Maryland native, who routinely plays tournaments with partners Mark Komen, Mark Saperstein and Bob Schmidt, deployed the same strategy that has garnered wins in the last three NYRA live-money handicapping tournaments.

“We use the same strategy we use in every cash tournament,” said Cook. “We try to hit one big bet.”

Cook and his partners capitalized in Race 6 on Saturday’s card at the Big A cashing in on a $20 12-9 exacta box, with $55 winner Time on Target over post-time favorite Unleveraged.

“That race put us on top, returning $2,000, and we just shuffled our way from there watching everybody else to hang on,” said Cook.

Winning $7,613 in total prize money, Cook elected to capture a seat to the National Handicapping Championships in February having won two seats to the Belmont Stakes Challenge via his wins in the Saratoga Challenge tournament.

Konrad Kleinbub finished second with a bankroll of $2,071, winning $3,698 and a seat at to the 2018 Belmont Stakes Challenge. Charles Welch took third-place with a bankroll of $1,951 and a total of $2,828 in prize money. Having already double qualified to the National Handicapping Championships, the remaining NHC seat went to Nicole Cox, who finished in fourth with $1,655 and $2,393 in prize money.

 

[stock-engine]

Upcoming NHC Tournament in California

Press Release

The Los Alamitos Racing Association will offer a cash prize and three seats to the 2018 National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas with a live money contest Saturday, Dec. 9.

Cost to enter the Los Alamitos Winter Qualifier is $400. Of that amount, $100 will be placed in the contest prize pool with the remaining funds going towards a live-money wagering card.

NTRA NHC logoContestants must enter prior to 12:30 p.m. – post time for the first race – Dec. 9. Players can begin entering the contest at 10 a.m. that morning.

Tournament races will include the entire card at Los Alamitos with permitted wagers including win, place, show, exactas and daily doubles beginning on races 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5. Each entry must bet at least $50 on six races, but there is no wagering limit. For purposes of the contest, a Daily Double wager counts as one race.

The player with the highest bankroll at the end of the day will be declared the winner and the player with the second highest bankroll will be the runner-up.

The winner will receive 50% of the prize pool, which will be capped at $10,000. The remaining payoffs: 20% (2nd place), 15% (3rd place), 10% (4th place) and 5% (5th place).

There will also be three berths available to the 2018 Last Chance contest in Las Vegas.

Another handicapping contest is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 16. Further details will soon be available.

For complete contest rules or any other questions, contact larace@losalamitos.com or by telephone at 714-820-2690.

The Winter meet at Los Alamitos will begin Thursday, Nov. 30 and continue through Sunday, Dec. 17.

Australian Racing Package Offered in Free Handicapping Tournament

Flemington Australia racetrackPress Release

Daily Racing Form and Sky Racing World have partnered to create The Everest Tournament, a free contest scheduled for Friday night, Oct. 13, consisting of races from The Everest card at Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, Australia. The Everest, a sprint, is the world’s richest turf race with a purse of $10 million Australian. The world’s best sprinter Chautauqua and last season’s best two-year-old, She Will Reign, are among the confirmed starters for The Everest.

The winner of the online tournament, which will take place exclusively at DRF Tournaments tournaments.drf.com will receive a free trip to Australia for Day 1 of The Championships at Randwick on Saturday, April 7, 2018. The prize package includes round-trip airfare, VIP tickets, ground transportation and a three-night hotel stay in downtown Sydney for the winner and a guest. The total prize value is more than $6,000. In addition, the top 100 finishers will receive entry into a special invite-only tournament with $500 in prizes.

Players interested in learning more about Australian racing are encouraged to participate in a free online handicapping session scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 12. Australian racing pundit Jason Witham will discuss the contest races in detail. Registration for the will be available soon on DRF.com.

“We couldn’t be more excited by this partnership with Sky Racing World,” said John Hartig, DRF’s Chairman and CEO. “The grand prize is a trip of a lifetime, and we are thrilled to showcase the high-quality racing in Australia.”

“The Everest is now the jewel of the Sydney Spring Racing Carnival crown and the $10 million prize pool sees it surpass the iconic Melbourne Cup ($6.2million) as the richest Australian horse race,” said Sky Racing World CEO & President David Haslett. “We are excited to partner with DRF and celebrate the inaugural running of The Everest.”

The Tournament is only open to U.S. and Canadian residents 21 years or older.

Los Alamitos Racing Association to Offer 3 NHC Seats this Saturday

NTRA NHC logoPress Release

The Los Alamitos Racing Association will offer a cash prize, three seats to the 2018 National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas and more with a live money handicapping contest Saturday, Sept. 23.

In addition to the berths in the NHC, there will be also be five spots available for the Autumn Handicapping Contest at Santa Anita (Oct. 6-8) as well as three to next year’s NTRA Last Chance Horseplayers Championship Qualifier in Las Vegas.

Cost to enter the Los Alamitos Fall Qualifier is $500. Of that amount, $100 will be placed in the contest prize pool with the remaining funds going towards a live-money wagering card.

Contestants must enter prior to 2 p.m. – post time for the first race – Sept. 16. Players can begin entering the contest once track gates open at 9:30 a.m. that morning and participants can purchase a maximum of two entries.

Tournament races will include the entire card at Los Alamitos with permitted wagers including win, place, show and exactas. Each entry must bet at least $100 on four races, but there is no wagering limit.

The player with the highest bankroll at the end of the day will be declared the winner and the player with the second highest bankroll will be the runner-up.

The winner will receive 50% of the prize pool, which will be capped at $10,000. The remaining payoffs: 20% (2nd place), 15% (3rd place), 10% (4th place) and 5% (5th place).

Players can sign up for the handicapping contest at losalamitos.com as well as review complete contest rules. For any further questions, contact larace@losalamitos.com or by telephone at 714-820-2690.

Tournament Veteran Lam Captures Laurel Champions Handicapping Tournament

Press Release

Phillip Lam of Fresh Meadow, N.Y. finished with a bankroll balance of $4,359.70 to capture the fall session of the Maryland Jockey Club’s Champions Handicapping Tournament held Saturday at Laurel Park.

Lam earned $3,030 in prize money ended with a comfortable margin over runner-up Gwyn Houston of Fallston, Md., who ended the day with a bankroll balance of $3,106.80 and took home $2,020 in prize money.

The tournament was open to players for $300, which covered a $100 entry fee and $200 bankroll. In addition to prize money, the top four finishers qualified for automatic berths to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) or The BIG ONE.

A total of 201 entries were accepted from 139 players for the tournament, held for the first year in Laurel’s newly refurbished second-floor sports bar. There were no mandatory races during the contest but a $20 minimum wager on races from Laurel, Gulfstream Park, Saratoga Race Course, Monmouth Park and Woodbine.

Given his choice of four tournament berths, Lam selected the BCBC to be held Nov. 3-4 at Del Mar while Houston selected a berth in The BIG ONE Sept. 23-24 at Laurel Park.

Third place went to Michael Webb of Westminster, Md., who finished with a balance of $2,395.40 and earned $1,010 and an NHC berth. Jason Jubb of Pasadena, Md. was fourth with a balance of $2,248 and earned $606.

Since Jubb is not a member of the NHC Tour, fifth-place finisher Joseph McKay of Gaithersburg, Md. earned the final NHC berth. He ended with a balance of $1,594.50 and prize money of $606.

Rounding out the top 10 finishers were David Hertz with a tournament balance of $1,450, Roger Kurrus ($1,358), Barry Howard ($1,192), David Stone ($1,089.50) and Jeffrey Harryman ($1,000). Each player earned $606 in prize money.

The spring session of the MJC Champions Handicapping Tournament was won by Thomas Camann of Providence, R.I., who chose a berth in the BCBC. Other winners from the spring tournament were Frederick Cipriano (BIG ONE), Hewett Andrews (NHC) and Steven Scalco (NHC).

A First Time Starter at the Wynn Handicapping Challenge

“Here were two tournament veterans wanting in on my action.  A far cry from just wanting to avoid embarrassing myself. “

By Justin Dew

A social media friend of mine pointed out to me that when one’s name is misspelled publically, it’s thought to be a sign of good luck.  Perhaps that’s what led to my 7th place finish in the Wynn Handicapping Challenge.  Or perhaps it was “Misspelled Name’s Luck” better known cousin, Beginner’s Luck.  Regardless, my experience in my first ever $2 Win/Place format tournament with an actual cash prize on the line has brought me to the conclusion that I am going to be taking part in these events for a long time to come.

The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge was my first handicapping tournament of any kind, and since then I have participated in several online qualifiers.  But the 2017 Wynn Handicapping Challenge was the first time I had ever competed for real money, other than the live money BCBC.  I am typically not a big goal setter, so I aimed low for the Wynn event: don’t embarrass yourself.  With $64 in mythical wagers each of two days, I would have been perfectly happy earning a score of $128.10 and looking at my lost $2,000 entry fee as an investment in my education.  Seriously.  My expectations were that low.  Especially after trying and failing to qualify for the event online four times at an additional cost of about $800.

I downloaded the Saratoga and Del Mar past performances on Thursday before my flight from Orlando to Las Vegas, but other than a cursory glance to get a feel for what the respective cards had in store, I didn’t do one second of handicapping before the event.  Not one second.  I am a huge believer in avoiding paralysis through analysis, and my limited experience in online qualifies has shown me how frustrating it can be to warm up to a horse at 12-1 on the morning line, see that horse open at 6-1, find another horse at better odds, and then watch the first horse win at 10-1.  So I knew I didn’t want to make any emotional commitments to any horse before I had a chance to see the tote board.  And with more than 30 minutes between races at Saratoga, I knew I’d have plenty of time to handicap.  So I essentially went in blind.

Me and my iPad arrived at the Wynn Sportbook about an hour before the Friday opener at the Spa.  There was no assigned seat for me since I had just registered that morning.  I was placed at a small table with two other guys who would become friends by the end of the weekend.  We will call them Scott and Brian since I neglected to get their permission to use their real names for this little story.  Scott and Brian were playing as a partnership.  I had seen Scott’s name on tournament leaderboards before.

With 30 selections over two days, I’ll spare you a breakdown of each horse I used and stick to the highlights.  After running last and second last with my first two plays, I used my one daily $4 Win and Place wager in the 3rd from Saratoga [Wynn rules allow one ‘double bet’ each day].  I wish I had kept the PPs from both days so I could tell you why I picked the horse, but I didn’t.  Anyway, Hardened won and paid $18.80 and $7.90.  Since I “fired my big bullet,” that horse was worth $53.40 to me.  After only three races, I knew I was near the top of the leaderboard, which I wouldn’t be able to actually see until the end of the day, per Wynn rules.  The Saratoga card would end with me only scoring on one other horse: Petrov, who paid $7.60 and $4.40.

In the 4th at Del Mar, Into Rissa (if I remember correctly) was moving into state-bred company from open maiden special weights company at about 12-1.  She ran 2nd and paid $10.20 to place.  I had used a short-priced winner earlier on the card and then blanked from there.  So I scored with four of 15 picks and had a Day 1 score of $85.80, good for 16th place out of 241 contestants.  When the Day 1 results were posted, I was identified at J. Drew.  My social media friends had a field day.

I approached Day 2 pretty much the same way.  Minimal prep and low expectations.  And I struck early and hard.  After initially planning to skip the first three races, I ended up playing them and making a move that would make me a contender for the victory.  In the 2nd race at Saratoga, an Al Stall Churchill shipper caught my eye, so I fired my $4 bullet and he won at 6-1.  Behavioral Bias paid $15.60 and $6.60, times two.  And in the very next day, me and my tablemates Scott and Brian both used 9-1 winner Estrechada.  Javiar Castellano had now won two in a row for me, and I was up to $74.00 for the day and $159.80 for the tournament.  The table celebrated together.

It was after the next race, the 4th from Saratoga, that things got interesting.  Scott and Brian used a Mott first-timer named Trumpi who won and paid $47.40 and $20.20.  This put them up near the $150 range, and right into contention with me.  Just then, as I started to handicap the 5th race, I noticed Scott motioning Brian to follow him out in to the casino.  I figured they were going to come back and inform me that tournament protocol dictated that we had to either switch tables or stop talking openly about our opinions since both parties were now in contention for some serious cash.  I was wrong.  They returned to the table and a fresh round of Diet Cokes (I think both of them combined for between 30-40 Diet Cokes over the weekend).  Scott said “So Justin.  We figure you are in the lead and we are in the Top 5.  How about we each agree to hedge for 10% of each other’s winnings, and we keep playing openly like we have been?”  Wow.  Here were two tournament veterans wanting in on my action.  A far cry from just wanting to avoid embarrassing myself.  I agreed, and it was on to the rest of the Saratoga card.

I would only hit three more horses from my remaining 11 selections.  The highlight for me was a D. Wayne Lukas runner in the 11th race named Warrior’s Club, who almost stole the race at 26-1 before Neolithic ran him down.  That extra $54 would have come in handy, but I settled for the $11.60 place payout.  I did manage to score with my final two picks, adding about $20 or so.  After two days, I had accumulated a score of $189.20.  Scott and Brian were in the low $160 range.  It was all over.  Time to wait.

It took about 45 minutes for the final results to be posted.  The people sitting around me speculated that I had a shot at the Top 20.  I was letting myself dream about maybe the Top 15.  Though I was fully prepared to be disappointed by a 25th-place finish, which would have been out of the money and out of the Top 10 percent.

But I was not to be disappointed.  I had finished in 7th place overall.  Scott and Brian also cracked the Top 20 and took home some cash.  My finish was worth $8,500, minus the 10% cut for Scott and Brian, plus 10% of their winnings to me.  I was absolutely stunned.  I never expected to perform so well.  It was truly beyond my wildest expectations.   In a room full of people who had done this many, many times before and who in some cases were viewing multiple laptops at once as they analyzed replays and charts, I had somehow managed to finish 7th without even looking at the past performances until there were 30 minutes to post.  I’ll say it again: I was stunned.

Scott and Brian invited me to the Wynn buffet, where I literally pinched myself half-a-dozen times just to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming.  To be honest, while the money was nice and will fund my return to the BCBC this year, what I really was excited about was knowing that I can compete with the best handicappers on the tournament circuit.  Maybe not every time.  Maybe not even most of the time.  But at least this time.  For at least a race or two, I was in the lead against 241 other handicappers.  And I ended up beating 97% of the field.  Was it Beginner’s Luck?  I guess time will tell.