Overflow Field for the Big Data Derby

Horse Racing NFT-game OHRAC: Own, Manage And WinA total of 106 submissions were received for the inaugural Big Data Derby, a competition requiring entrants to provide a machine-learning model to analyze all manner of data regarding horseracing tactics, strategies and path efficiencies.

Sponsored by the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) and the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA) in partnership with the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Equibase, The Jockey Club, Breeders’ Cup and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA), the Big Data Derby launched with a goal of better understanding the vast data set at hand to racing organizations, and to potentially develop new ways of racing and training in a highly traditional industry.

“Our main objective with this competition was to see if qualified data scientists could utilize horse-tracking data to improve the sport’s collective knowledge in key areas such as equine welfare and performance,” said NYTHA President Joe Appelbaum.

The Big Data Derby offers a total of $50,000 in prize money with $20,000 awarded to the winner and $10,000 each to the next three placings. The competition is held on Kaggle, a global data science platform with over 500,000 active users where participants compete by using machine learning to solve problems ranging from the trivial to the extremely complex.

A total of 9,349 potential competitors accessed the competition’s four data files providing NYRA racing data from 2019 along with in-race horse tracking information. A wide and varied range of submissions offered models that shed light on injury prevention, jockey decision making metrics, race tactics, track bias and more. An open notebook of user-created content and data can be viewed at: https://www.kaggle.com/competitions/big-data-derby-2022/code.

“The response in both participants and submissions highlights the interest in alternative data sets and bodes well for potential future applications. We are very much looking forward to the results of the competition,” said Joe Longo, NYRA’s General Manager of Content Services.

A judging committee will score the submissions based on four categories – Innovation [25 points], Relevance [30 points], Competence [25 points] and Presentation [20 points]. Winners will be announced in early December.

Source: NYRA

Horseshoe Las Vegas to Host National Horseplayers Champship (NHC) Through 2026

Bally's Casino Las VegasLexington, KY and Las Vegas, NV (October 25, 2022): The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) and Caesars Entertainment have announced a multi-year agreement for Bally’s, the soon-to-be Horseshoe Las Vegas, to remain host-site of the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) through 2026. This year’s contest will be held March 10-12, 2023, and future dates include:

2024: March 15-17, 2024

2025: March 14-16, 2025

2026: March 13-15, 2026

“We are delighted to secure a multi-year extension and continue our partnership with two iconic brands—Caesars and Horseshoe Las Vegas—to host hundreds of horseplayers in the heart of the Las Vegas strip at the world’s most prestigious horse racing handicapping contest,” said NTRA President and CEO Tom Rooney.

“We’re pleased to again partner with the NTRA to host the 2024, 2025, and 2026 National Horseplayers Championship at Horseshoe Las Vegas,” said Joseph Morris, Senior Vice President, Racing at Caesars Entertainment. “Hosting this event continues the Caesars commitment to horse racing and aligns well with the Horseshoe Las Vegas legacy of hosting championship-level events like the World Series of Poker.”


The NHC, presented by Caesars Entertainment, Racetrack Television Network, and Horseshoe Las Vegas, is the richest, most important, and most prestigious tournament for horseplayers in the world. This event is the culmination of a yearlong series of 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 in Las Vegas. Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards.

Established in 1999, the first NHC offered total purse money of $200,000. The 2022 NHC offered total prizes and awards of more than $3.5 million. David Harrison, a real estate appraiser from Webster, NY, topped a field of 643 entries to win the $725,000 first-place prize and earn an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year.

Next Year’s National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Is On This Date

Las Vegas sportsbook contestLexington, KY and Las Vegas, NV (April 6, 2022) – The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) in conjunction with Caesars Entertainment has set the date for the 2023 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC). The NHC will be held at the newly rebranded Horseshoe Las Vegas, the former Bally’s, on March 10-12, 2023.


“We’re excited to bring everyone back together in Las Vegas for all the excitement of the NHC,” said Tom Rooney, NTRA President & CEO. “The Horseshoe Las Vegas feels like it was made for this event, and we’re looking forward to the best NHC we’ve ever had.”


The NHC, presented by Caesars Entertainment, Racetrack Television Network, and Horseshoe Las Vegas, is the richest, most important and most prestigious tournament for horseplayers in the world. This event is the culmination of a yearlong series of 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 in Las Vegas. Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards.


Established in 1999, the first NHC offered total purse money of $200,000. The 2022 NHC offered total prizes and awards of more than $3.5 million. David Harrison, a real estate appraiser from Webster, NY, topped a field of 643 entries to win the $725,000 first-place prize and earn an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year.

Source: NTRA.com

NTRA Statement on Suspension Against First Disqualified Player from the NTRA National Horseplayers Championship

NTRA NHC logoLEXINGTON, KY, February 8, 2022: The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today that the player disqualified from the 2022 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) will be suspended from the NHC and NHC Tour for a period of two years. At the end of the two-year suspension, the player may request to the NTRA to be reinstated to the NHC Tour.

The suspension was issued by the NTRA following discussions and a recommendation by the NHC Players’ Committee, a group of NHC players who act as a sounding board on NHC policy and rule matters. The suspension covers the 2022 and 2023 NHC Tour seasons and the 2023 and 2024 NHCs.

“Maintaining the integrity of the NHC is of the utmost importance,” said NTRA President and CEO Tom Rooney. “We look forward to making the 2022 NHC Tour and the 2023 NHC the best ever.”

Source: NTRA

New York Horseplayer Wins $725,000 NHC Grand Prize

LAS VEGAS (Sunday, January 30, 2022) – David Harrison of Webster, N.Y., topped a field of 643 entries to win the $725,000 first-place prize and an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year at this weekend’s 23rd annual National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) presented by Racetrack Television Network, Caesars Entertainment, and Bally’s Las Vegas.

Harrison amassed a winning score of $342 over the three-day tournament from 53 mythical $2 Win and Place bets – 18 on Friday, 18 on Saturday, 10 in Sunday morning’s Semifinal round, and seven at the climactic Final Table presented by Caesars Sportsbook and Global Tote, A BetMakers Company.

The 63-year-old Harrison, who makes his living as a real estate appraiser and collateral analyst, held a $30.30 advantage over A.J. Benton and the rest of the field entering the Final Table.

Other related NHC News: Industry personality Jonathan Kinchen is the first ever DQ in the NHC

Despite a tightening of the TVG Leaderboard from the first six of seven Final Table races, Harrison did enough to hold off his rivals late.

“This is an absolute life-changing score,” Harrison said. “I’m a middle-class, middle-income, hard-working guy. This is going to help me hopefully retire a little bit earlier than I’d planned. I’m totally overwhelmed and don’t even know what else to say.”

NHC 2022 Winner David HarrisonThe contest came down to the Baffle Stakes at Santa Anita – a 6 1/2-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-olds – with Harrison $16.60 ahead of Benton and $17.20 to the better of Ryan Patrick Scully. The other seven were at least $44 from the top.

VISN Reporter Dave Tuley reports on the 2022 NHC

“The guys in second and third only had a few options,” Harrison said. “Don’t Swear Dave went up to 4-1 and I thought, ‘If I don’t have that horse they could nip me. And my name’s Dave! I can’t let that horse beat me.’”

Even-money favorite Maglev hit the lead in upper stretch and drew off easily. To slam the door shut, Don’t Swear Dave closed for second, making it impossible for anyone to catch Harrison. As Maglev opened up Harrison did not wait to see him hit the wire before raising his arms in triumph and leaving the stage to celebrate with his friends in a far corner of the ballroom.

Harrison started the day in 14th and made his big moves in the morning’s Semifinals round. At the Final Table, no player moved more than one position.

“My goal was to creep up and I hit my first couple of races,” he said. “Then the one that really got my confidence up was the horse at Laurel – Let Me Finish. Every time I get into a discussion with my wife she’s always telling me that – let me finish. That was one of my hunch plays and that’s probably the reason I won.”

Harrison has been handicapping since the late 1970s, when he would frequent Belmont Park, and credits the late New York Racing Association broadcaster and handicapper Harvey Pack for teaching him how to handicap. After the trophy presentation, Harrison tossed his Daily Racing Form in the air in tribute to Pack.

“I’m an old-school guy,” he said. “I just use the Form.”

Scully ended up second with $324.80, good for a $200,000 prize, followed by Benton with $321, which was worth $150,000.

The official Top 10, with placing, final bankroll, name, hometown (and prize):

1. $342.00, David Harrison, Webster, N.Y. ($725,000 + Eclipse Award + BCBC spot)
2. $324.80, Ryan Patrick Scully, Montgomery, Ill. ($200,000)
3. $321.00, A.J. Benton, Manchester, N.H. ($150,000)
4. $293.80, Frank Paros, Jupiter, Fla. ($100,000)
5. $286.00, David McCarty, San Diego ($75,000)
6. $260.00, Sally Goodall, Las Vegas ($70,000)
7. $253.20, Mike Somich, Raleigh, N.C. ($65,000)
8. $252.30, Shirley Wolff, Holmdel, N.J. ($60,000)
9. $243.50, Kevin Smith, Coral Gables, Fla. ($55,000)
10. $240.00, Dale Day, Yukon, Okla. ($50,000)

By virtue of his victory, Harrison also earns an exemption into next year’s NHC and a berth to the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge worth $10,000.

The full NHC and Consolation Tournament standings can be accessed at NTRA.com.

The NHC was held for the third straight year in the historic Bally’s Event Center, which for three days was transformed into the world’s largest race and sports book. The next NHC in 2023 will be at the same property but it will bear a new name, Horseshoe Las Vegas.

The NHC finals awarded cash prizes to 64 players—the top 10% of finishers—from a total cash prize purse of $2,339,550. An additional $50,000 went to the top 20 in today’s Consolation Tournament. Including $355,000 paid out to top finishers in the year-long NHC Tour, NHC Tour travel awards, RTN subscriptions, and the $10,000 Charity Challenge tournament prize, plus $30,000 worth of Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge prizes in the form of entry fees, airfare, and hotel, the aggregate value of payouts this weekend in NHC cash and prizes totaled $3,568,592.

To make the Semifinals cut, the 509 individual NHC players were required to place 36 mythical $2 Win and Place wagers – 18 on Friday and 18 on Saturday. The highest 10 cumulative scores after the Semifinals round on Sunday morning moved on to the Final Table. Bankrolls amassed during Day 1, Day 2 and the Semifinals round rolled over to the Final Table, with the 10 finalists settling the NHC score in seven “mandatory” assigned races.

Final Table participants were relocated to a single table in the middle of the Bally’s Event Center that served as NHC headquarters.

Final Table Race Results
Race: Winner ($2 Win, $2 Place), Second ($2 Place)

Gulfstream, Race 10: 8-Skyro ($11.80, $5.60), 5-Mid Day Image ($3.40)
Fair Grounds, Race 7: 8-Citizen West ($7.40, $4.20), 1-Abuelo Nuno ($6)
Sam Houston, Race 6: 11-Red Run ($12.80, $6), 1-Bloodline ($8.40)
Fair Grounds, Race 8: 10-Big Agenda ($6, $3.40), 3-Forever Mo ($3.60)
Sam Houston, Race 8: [Dead Heat] 9-Another Mystery ($23.60, $16.80), 6-Fantasioso ($10.80, $9.80)
Sam Houston, Race 9: 2-Greeley and Ben ($9, $4.60), 10-Mr Money Bags ($5.20)
Santa Anita, Race 9: 1-Maglev ($4.40, $2.80), 6-Don’t Swear Dave ($4.40)

NHC Tour winner Kevin Costello advanced to the Semifinals with both of his entries, finishing 19th ($206) with Entry 1 and 53rd with Entry 2 ($173.60), which was the one eligible for a $5 million bonus if he could have won the NHC. Costello was the only player with two entries in the Semifinals round.

Defending champion Justin Mustari checked in at 108th ($137.20).

In a separate Consolation Tournament for players that did not reach the Semifinals round, David Wolff of Holmdel, N.J., husband of Final Table player Shirley Wolff, won the $10,000 top prize with a bankroll of $141.60 from 10 optional races. The Consolation Tournament started with bankrolls reset to zero. Cash prizes totaling $50,000 were awarded, from the $10,000 first prize down to $1,000 for 20th.

NHC weekend concludes this evening with the annual Champions’ Dinner, featuring the presentation of prizes and the induction of the 2022 NHC Hall of Fame class: Michael Beychok, Stanley Bavlish, J. Randy Gallo, David Gutfreund, and Paul Matties Jr.

The 2022 NHC was the culmination of 310 qualifying contests held online and at racetracks and OTBs in 2021. From those contests, there were 44,553 entries played in hopes of making it to Bally’s Las Vegas.

In addition to its three presenting sponsors – RTN, Caesars Entertainment, and Bally’s Las Vegas – the NHC is supported by official partners Daily Racing Form, EquinEdge, FanDuel Group, Four Roses Bourbon, NYRA Bets, Race Lens, TVG, and 1/ST Bet. The Final Table, where only the top 10 players advance to determine final placings based on seven climactic races, is sponsored by Caesars Sportsbook and Global Tote, A BetMakers Company.

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.

About the NTRA
The NTRA is a broad-based coalition of more than 100 horse racing interests and thousands of individual stakeholders consisting of horseplayers, racetrack operators, owners, breeders, trainers, and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity, welfare, and integrity of Thoroughbred racing through consensus-based leadership, legislative advocacy, safety and integrity initiatives, fan engagement, and corporate partner development. The NTRA owns and manages the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance; NTRA.com; the Eclipse Awards; the National Horseplayers Championship; NTRA Advantage, a corporate partner sales and sponsorship program; and Horse PAC®, a federal political action committee. NTRA press releases appear on NTRA.com, Twitter (@ntra) and Facebook (facebook.com/1NTRA).

Turf Pick-3 Wager to Debut at Keeneland Fall Meet

Keeneland has announced a number of wagering opportunities, including the new Keeneland Turf Pick 3, for handicappers of all levels during the Fall Meet from Oct. 8-30.

The Keeneland Turf Pick 3 wager will be offered on the final three turf races each race day. The minimum wager is $3 and will follow the same rules as the traditional Pick 3. (The Keeneland Turf Pick 3 will be available only as a separate event on wagering terminals or on ADWs due to the unique $3 minimum and the fact that Keeneland has rolling Pick 3s on each race.)

The new wager has a 15 percent takeout, the same low takeout as Keeneland’s popular Pick 5 wager.

“We believe the Keeneland Turf Pick 3 to be the first wager of its kind to be offered to horseplayers,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing Gatewood Bell said. “With Keeneland’s deep turf schedule and the caliber of racing we expect to see during the Fall Meet – combined with a $3 minimum bet amount and lower takeout of the Keeneland Turf Pick 3 – this innovative wager should be appealing to handicappers.”

Post time for the first race during the Fall Meet, which marks Keeneland’s 85th anniversary, is 1 p.m. ET.

Got rebates? Wager on Keeneland, Santa Anita and more – apply for info.

Keeneland Select Handicapping Challenge, Super High 5 every race day

Every race day: Sport of Kings, the free horse racing contest website, has a new free online handicapping contest, the Keeneland Select Fall Handicapping Challenge, which will appeal to casual fans and serious horseplayers alike. The contest requires participants to make mythical selections on two Keeneland races for each day of the meet. Two seats to the 2022 NTRA National Horseplayers Championship will be awarded. To sign up, click here.

Also, the Super High 5 wager will be offered on the final race of the day and no longer be available as a jackpot wager. Therefore, it will return to traditional Super High 5 rules.

Special Pick 4, 5 and 6 opportunities

Friday, Oct. 8, 15, 22: $200,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 Presented by TVG.

Saturday, Oct. 9 and Sunday, Oct. 10: Breeders’ Cup Challenge Pick 6, featuring races from Belmont Park and Keeneland.

Saturday, Oct. 9: $300,000 Guaranteed All-Stakes Pick 5, $400,000 Guaranteed All-Stakes Pick 4

Saturday, Oct. 16, 23: $300,000 Guaranteed Pick 4

Saturday, Oct. 16, 23, 30: NYRA-Keeneland Cross Country wagers, featuring races from Belmont Park and Keeneland.

Handicapping contests for horseplayers of all levels

Wednesday, Oct. 13, 20, 27: WINS-Day Challenge Sponsored by Malone’s. This is an inexpensive way for beginning handicappers to test their skills and give handicapping contests a try. The contest has a $2,500-guaranteed pool. Enter for $10 at Wagering Central on the first floor Grandstand and place a mythical $2 win and place wager – no actual money required – on Keeneland races 3-8. Limit three entries per person. The first 200 participants receive a card for a free Malone’s appetizer and a complimentary copy of Daily Racing Form.

Saturday, Oct. 16: Fall BCBC/NHC Challenge. Registration is open for in-person and remote participation in the handicapping contest, which features Keeneland’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) Presented by Dixiana. Awarding berths in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and the NHC Challenge, the live-money contest is held in cooperation with XpressBet, NYRA Bets, 4NJ Bets and TVG. Click herefor more information and to register.

Sunday, Oct. 17: Fall $400 Challenge. Registration is open for Keeneland’s live bankroll handicapping tournament, which has a $400 buy-in with a live bankroll of $250 and $150 prize fund fee. Players will be able to wager any amount on any race at Keeneland with no minimum wagers or minimum number of races. The tournament is only available at Keeneland. Click here for more information and to register.

Source: Keeneland.com (edited Press Release)

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.