NTRA National Horseplayers Championship Goes to Paul Calia

After a weekend of nail-biting handicapping prowess, Paul Calia, of Kansas City, Missouri, toppled a field of 779 entries to take home the grand prize of $800,000, in addition to finishing in 4th place, and an Eclipse Award crowning him Horseplayer of the Year. This is the first contest that Calia has ever won.

Calia amassed a winning score of $362.50 on his first entry, and $305.50 on his second entry, 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 7 at the exciting Final Table which ultimately yielded his victory. He is the first winner to also finish in the top ten with a second entry.

“I started a little slow on Friday, thought I handicapped okay with some seconds and thirds. But Saturday I was pretty hot, and pretty much hit every long shot. It’s hard to put into words how many winners I picked on Saturday,” Calia said.


When asked his approach to playing two cards in the final table he said, “I don’t know how to describe it. I didn’t switch a lot of picks, I don’t let the odds affect me. I only switched about 10-15% of my picks between cards, one or two a day that’s it.”

His strategy obviously paid off. Calia will take home $800,000 for his first-place finish in addition to taking home $150,000 for his fourth-place finish. With this victory, Calia also earns an exemption into next year’s NHC and a berth to the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge worth $10,000. In lieu of winning a second BCBC entry, which he won from finishing first on day two (Saturday), he will instead take home $10,000 cash. That makes his full earnings from the weekend a whopping $960,000 and a 2024 BCBC seat valued at $10,000.

“There are three pillars to the sport of Thoroughbred racing – you have the horse and its connections, the racetracks, and the horseplayer,” said NTRA President and CEO Tom Rooney. “So, if horse racing is a three-legged stool, we aren’t anything without the horseplayer. My family’s relationship with this sport and with football all traces back to playing horses. The excitement at the NHC is vital to everything we do as an industry. This year’s NHC is bigger than ever before and I’m proud that the NTRA has this unique opportunity to showcase the best of the best in handicapping and celebrate what it means to be a horseplayer.”


The official Top 10 finishers of the 2023 NHC are:

1. Paul Calia (first entry), $362.50, Kansas City, MO, 2nd NHC Appearance

2. Francis Boustany, $330.30, Lafayette, LA, 7th NHC Appearance

3. Gary Fenton, $309.60, Sherman Oaks, CA, 4th NHC Appearance

4. Paul Calia (second entry), $305.50, Kansas City, MO, 2nd NHC Appearance

5. David Browning, $302.80, Lexington, KY, 3rd NHC Appearance

6. George Novick, $290, Pocono Pines, PA, 2nd NHC Appearance

7. Steven Wells (second entry), $289.40, Fordville, ND, 5th NHC Appearance

8. Joseph Paese, $288.50, Middletown, PA, 2nd NHC Appearance

9. Steven Wells (first entry), $281.60, Fordville, ND, 5th NHC Appearance

10. Steve Nemetz, $281.50, Vancouver, BC, 11th NHC Appearance


NTRA National Horseplayers ChampionshipThe 2022 NHC paid out the top 68 finishers. This year, the top 78 finishers will take home prize money. Total cash prizes to be offered over the three days was a record $3,115,350, a 33% increase over last year. The full prize structure can be found online.

In a separate Consolation Tournament on Sunday for players that did not reach the Semifinals round, Karen Richards of Pembroke Pines, FL, won the $10,000 top prize with a bankroll of $130.40 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 concluded with the annual Champions’ Dinner, featuring the presentation of prizes and the induction of the 2022 NHC Hall of Fame class: Jose Arias, Dennis Decauwer, Jim Goodman, and Bill Shurman.

Retired Disability Advisor for Social Security from Kansas City Takes First and Fourth for $960,000 in cash and Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year

The NHC, the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping contest, featured 779 entrants competing for more than $3.1 million in cash and prizes. All qualifiers received a complimentary four night stay at the Horseshoe Las Vegas and travel reimbursements which totaled more than $1 million.

The tournament format for the NHC is meant to be the best possible test of overall handicapping ability by picking winners. 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 announced at least 36 hours prior to each contest day via direct e-mail to players and publicly on Twitter (@NTRA) and NTRA.com.

In addition to its three presenting sponsors ― Caesars Entertainment, Horseshoe Las Vegas and RTN ― the NHC is supported by official partners Daily Racing Form, EquinEdge, Four Roses Bourbon and Race Lens.

For the complete Caesar’s Race and Sports Book NHC Leaderboard and other contest information, please visit NTRA.com. To sign up for the NHC Tour, go to www.ntra.com/membership.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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