There’s No Question Who the Best Real-Money Tournament Player Is

Tommy Massis relaxing back home at Woodbine

It’s This Guy

I was one of the guys who got crushed by The Hammer, the best real-money tournament player in the country.  Tommy Massis of Toronto is not only the King of Keeneland Contests but also the one to fear most in any real-money tournament.  On Sunday (10/14/18) in Lexington Kentucky, he placed a $1,000 win bet on 19-1 shot Bella Noire in Keeneland’s 4th race to claim another real-money victory at Keeneland.  Tommy’s winning total of $20,800 bested 2nd place finisher Blake Jessee by nearly $8,000.

Tommy loves Keeneland, with good reason.  He won the Breeders’ Cup Betting Championship (BCBC) at Keeneland in 2015, and this is his second win in a big Keeneland live money contest.  For his most recent victory, in addition to his final bankroll, he takes home $30,000, a fully paid $10,000 berth in the BCBC at Churchill Downs, and a fully paid entry plus expenses into the 2019 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas.

According to the Keeneland press release, Tommy played the tournament from the Green Room at Keeneland, and when Bella Noire stormed down the stretch he jumped up and declared, “You have a new leader!”

The $3,000 buy-in tournament drew 167 entries and awarded BCBC and NHC spots to the top five finishers, NHC spots to places 6 through 8, and prize money to 15th place.

Three years ago I got the pleasure of interviewing The Hammer, so check out the link below to view Tommy’s insight into his first real-money tournament score at Keeneland:

Interview with Tommy Massis

Months after this interview, The Hammer turned around and won the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Betting Championship (BCBC) by absolutely crushing the exacta in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.  A couple weeks later he won the Del Mar real-money tournament, taking down another grand prize and leaving his competition in the dust.

It was truly the year of The Hammer, and this past weekend proved that he is still pounding his competition, and making some men (like myself) look like boys.  Great job Tommy!

 

Did You Miss This Gem?

How to Win a Handicapping Tournament

How to Win a Handicapping Tournament

By Rich Nilsen

For the last 10 years or more, the handicapping tournaments in the horse racing world have been all the rage.  The popularity has increased with each passing year, and the overall tournament landscape has changed significantly.  Whereas in the past nearly all contests featured a $2 win/place format using mythical money, the larger real-money tournaments have now taken over.  The good news is that there is still something for everyone.  There are small entry-level contests where the buy-in may be as a low as $9, and there are huge tournaments where you need $10,000 or more to get in the front door.

Handicapping tournaments are a lot of fun, but to win one you have to be more than just a good handicapper.  You have to be prepared and have a plan.  Today we’ll look at the steps I believe you need in order to succeed in horse racing contests.  Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences at the end on what you think it takes to win a handicapping tournament.

REALLY KNOW THE RULES

Yes, that seems pretty obvious.  But understanding the basic rules and really knowing the rules are two different things.  There are many contests out there that have ‘fine details’ and those fine details can be the difference between winning and losing.

I highly recommend reading through the rules of an upcoming contest multiple times.  In doing so, you may just catch something you missed the first time around.  For example, in 2016 I was fortunate to win into the Kentucky Derby Betting Championship, a brand new, real-money contest that featured a $20,000 buy-in.  You had to bet a certain amount of money on a minimum number of Churchill Downs races on both Friday and Saturday of Kentucky Derby weekend.  What could easily be missed in the rules is that you could wager LESS than the required amount on any given race.

This omission was actually significant.  Why?  The reason being that you could take a swing at a race that maybe you didn’t want to go all-in on per the minimum race requirements.  So, instead of wagering the required $400 minimum, for example, you could take a shot with $50-100 in bets.  If you lost, no big deal.  If you hit an exacta or trifecta that paid well, this could help you make a move on the leaderboard.  If you sat out the race entirely, because you failed to understand the rule, and then a horse you were strongly considering won, this could also wreck havoc on your mental game.

There are other contests where if you fail to make a bet or meet the minimum requirements, you’re disqualified.  I’ve seen this happen even to veteran tournament players.  By reading the rules and really understanding the ins and outs of the contest, you’re much less likely to make a critical mistake.

FOLLOW THE CONTEST TRACK(S)

In the week leading up to a contest that features specific tracks, you should definitely follow the action at those tracks in the days prior.   There are several benefits to doing that.  For one you may catch on to a prevailing track bias.  You may notice certain trainers or jockeys that are ice cold, or red-hot for that matter.

You may also notice a horse that was victorious who ran against a horse entered on the upcoming contest date. That happened to me many years ago when I was involved in a handicapping tournament in Kentucky.  The day before the contest, I had wagered on a horse that won impressively at Keeneland and had done so at nice odds.  The following day a runner that had been very competitive with that winning horse was entered to run.  The horse made sense to me, for a variety of reasons, and I knew he was coming out of a sneaky good race.  He crushed the field and scored at 50-1 odds!  I had him in the contest and, although I didn’t win the grand prize, I was among the top finishers at the conclusion of the contest.

BE AGGRESSIVE

It’s very hard to win a contest with a conservative approach.  Playing the favorites, for example, throughout the majority of the card isn’t going to get you into the winner’s circle very often.  You may feel good cashing several races, but it simply won’t ‘cut it.’

I’m not suggesting that you just take stabs at big longshots.  However, it is advisable to find some value plays that make sense and can propel you up the leaderboard if you’re right.  Just a couple of victorious 6-1 shots can oftentimes put you in the hunt to win a tournament.

If you’re playing a tournament with mandatory races, then everyone is required to play the same race(s).  If a big price comes in, unless it’s a very small field of players, someone is going to have the longshot, and you’re toast.

The chances of just picking the logical favorites and being successful in most tournaments is low, as this player found out a few years ago.

How not to play a contest

In this live, online tournament featuring 10 mandatory races, there were 105 players and the top 12 won prizes.  This player had an awesome day, selecting six winners in a row!  The problem was that only one of those winners paid more than 2-1 and that was the 4-1 winning selection at Hawthorne.  Unfortunately for this sharp handicapper, a big price came in late in the tournament and blew him and his great day out of the water.  He plummeted to 15th place, out of the prize spots.  SIX winners in a row in a 10-race contest against only 104 other entries, and he finished completely out of the money.  Incredible.

MAP OUT YOUR CONTEST PLAYS

When you enter a contest, whether it’s on-track or online, you should handicap and make your selections (or structure your wagers) as far in advance of the first race as possible.  Then, check the scratches when they get posted and make appropriate revisions.

If you enter a contest and just plan to ‘wing it’ at the event, or during the online contest, I wish you the best of luck. To me, one of the worst aspects of ‘winging’ a contest and playing it as it goes, is that you are not prepared for the later races.  And, more times than not, the later races will play the biggest part in determining the final results.

My friend Paul Shurman, who is currently leading the NHC Tour (again), explained his thoughts on this in an interview with Eric Wing: “I think you need to have handicapped all the races before you enter the room. You have to know what you like later on in the day to know whether what you’re looking at right now represents good contest value. I also handicap backwards. I’ll start at the end of the card and work my way to the beginning. This way, if I don’t finish, and I wind up having to handicap on the fly, at least I’ll be handicapping on the fly early, knowing what I like later.”

The other benefit of mapping our picks or wagers ahead of time is that you are more likely to stick to your guns.  How many times have you heard a player say, “every time I change a pick, it loses,” or “I should have stuck with my original pick.”  I can attest that when I change my original pick it is usually a mistake.  It’s rare that I have a good reason to go against my original handicapping.

Now, of course, if there is a sudden downpour and the track has become a muddy mess, that is one example where changing your picks is not only a good idea but probably advisable (assuming you didn’t handicap for a wet track).  There are other scenarios and most are common sense.

Where it is not advisable is when you hear the paddock commentator say something negative about your selection, and so now, you’re looking at going a different direction.  Stick to your guns.  If you put a lot of work into your original selections, don’t be easily swayed from them.

SUMMARY

Winning any handicapping tournament is not easy.  Chances are you need to follow the advice presented herein and then proceed to have a really good day on top of that.  In many big contests, you also may need to catch a few breaks, e.g. winning a photo, surviving an inquiry, etc.  Winning is not easy, but if you lay the proper foundation, you enhance your chances greatly.  Best of luck!

 

Rich Nilsen handicapperRich Nilsen is the founder of A Game of Skill.  He is a 15-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) and a winner of 8 major handicapping tournaments.  He is currently ranked 6th on the new NHC Lifetime Player Rankings system.

Rich will be on the panel discussing handicapping tournaments at the Equestricon Conference in Louisville, KY.

 

Fall Keeneland 2018 Tournament Schedule

Keeneland painter photo by Richard J. Nilsen

copyright AgameofSkill.com

Continuing a long tradition of support for the National Horseplayers Championship and the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, Keeneland is proud to announce the dates of two big handicapping tournaments during the 2018 Fall Race Meet.

On Saturday, October 13, we will conduct a live bankroll tournament, the Keeneland $400 Fall Challenge, 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. This tournament may be played from anywhere on the track; all tickets and admissions must be handled separately by the player. Please see rules here.

Based on an estimated 250 entries, one BCBC and four NHC spots will be awarded.

On Sunday, October 14, the prestigious BCBC-NHC Challenge returns, with a $3,000 buy-in and as many as 6 spots in the BCBC and 10 in the NHC up for grabs. This tournament will be held in the Lexington/Kentucky Room with the best seats in the house. This year we have use of the entire room, so your guest may sit with you, and the dress code has been relaxed to business casual; no more ties required! Please see rules here.

Entries became available online on August 13, 2018, and players registering for the BCBC-NHC Challenge may also enter the Saturday tournament with one process.

We hope that the Saturday tournament will complement the BCBC-NHC Challenge, and that many players will take advantage of the scheduling to compete in both tournaments and have a great Keeneland weekend.

Source: Keeneland

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.

Suspicious Horseplay? Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge under Review

Decision Expected to Be Made Soon

Suspicious horseplay? The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at Del Mar under review

VSiN Full coverage

Source: Suspicious horseplay? Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge under review

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]

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).

Champions Handicapping Tournament in Two Weeks at Laurel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Major Handicapping Tournaments to Now Feature $3M Rolling Bonus

A New Twist: NHC, BCBC $3 Million Bonus To Become ‘Rolling Double’

NTRA:
The $3 million NHC Tour Bonus – the largest prize ever offered in the handicapping contest world – added a new twist when the National Thoroughbred Racing Association today announced that the winner of January’s Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas will be eligible for a $3 million bonus if he or she goes on to win the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at Del Mar.

This year’s BCBC winner, Joe Appelbaum, is already eligible for the bonus should he win NHC 17. Today’s announcement makes the NHC Tour Bonus a “rolling” double, as every BCBC and NHC winner will be eligible as long as they win each major contest successively, but in either order.

nhc final table vegas NHC 18 is set for January 27-29 at Treasure Island Las Vegas. The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge will be held Nov. 3-4 and based at the Breeders’ Cup host site, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club near San Diego.

Appelbaum earned $364,000 at this year’s BCBC and first prize at the NHC is $800,000, meaning that successful completion of the NHC Tour Double would be worth more than $4.164 million. Players must be current members of the NHC Tour ($50) to be eligible to win the lucrative bonus.

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

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

Now entering its ninth year, the $1 million-estimated BCBC has become one of the most sought after prizes on the tournament calendar. The BCBC, which offers 15 seats to the NHC in addition to cash prizes, is a highly lucrative and exclusive live bankroll handicapping contest with a $10,000 buy-in required to participate. Players enjoy first class access to the two best days of racing in the world with VIP seats that include buffet lunch each day and other amenities. Online and on-site qualifying tournaments, offering $10,000 berths into the BCBC as prizes, continue throughout the summer and fall leading to the November Breeders’ Cup. For more on the BCBC, visit www.breederscup.com/bcbc.

Texas Gastroenterologist Wins 1st Half of NHC Tour

JOE JOHNSON WINS NHC TOUR FIRST HALF,

TOP FIVE PLAYERS EARN $10,000 BREEDERS’ CUP BETTING CHALLENGE ENTRIES

 LEXINGTON, Ky.  – Joe Johnson, of San Antonio, Texas, rode the lone speed of Laoban all the way to a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry as the winner of the National Handicapping Championship (NHC) Tour’s “First Half,” which concluded Sunday, July 31st.

By pegging that 27-1 winner of the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga Race Course, Johnson vaulted himself to an 11th-place finish in a Free-to-Play online qualifier presented by the NTRA on NHCQualify.com, good for 2,851 points on the day and a final tally of 13,578 points on the “First Half” leaderboard. The “First Half” top five – each of whom received either a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry worth $10,000 or the equivalent in cash – was rounded out by Gary McMaster (12,969 points), Cheryl McIntyre (12,617), Rick Broth (12,555), and Kevin Engelhard (12,199).

“First Half” totals are comprised of points earned in a player’s top four finishes, at least one of which must have come in an on-site contest, through July 31. Results became official Wednesday at the conclusion of a three-day audit period.

NHC generic logoJohnson, 59, a gastroenterologist, amassed his score with a March 13 win on HorseTourneys.com (in a field of 290 entries) worth 3,688 points; a March 20 win on BetAmerica (281 entries) worth 3,631 points; a third-place finish in the July 23 live contest at Woodbine (86 entries) worth 1,908 points; and the 11th-place finish on Saturday against a field of 1,810 other entries in the final major contest of the First Half.

His effort north of the border was Johnson’s first and only attempt of the year in an on-site tournament.

“I played at Woodbine just so I could get that in-person score,” he said. “I’ve been pushing for this for some months now and it feels good to have it happen.”

Johnson also backed Laoban on multiple entries in another contest Saturday, on DRF Tournaments, finishing first and second while earning his second BCBC entry of the year as a result. With the maximum of two BCBC entries in his own name already secured, Johnson will receive $10,000 cash for his NHC Tour “First Half” exploits.

“I hate to say I had some luck because we like to think it’s all skill but things broke just right for me,” Johnson said. “It really worked out well. I was only aiming for the top five but to win feels great.”

Now Johnson will turn his attention to the overall, year-long NHC Tour leaderboard, where he sits in second with 16,616 points, just behind Engelhard, the current leader with 16,783. The overall NHC Tour leaderboard incorporates a player’s top six scores. First prize for the NHC Tour is $75,000 and comes with a trophy and the chance to play for a $2 million bonus should the NHC Tour winner go on to win NHC 18 in January. There is also a new “$3,000,000 NHC Tour Double” bonus for anyone that can complete a sweep of the BCBC and the NHC.

“Of course I’ve got to go for all of that,” Johnson said. “That’s what we do this for.”

The top 150 NHC Tour finishers earn automatic berths to the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping contest, the NHC, set for Jan. 27-29, 2017, at Treasure Island Las Vegas, provided that each individual has not already won an NHC entry. The top 20 share in a $175,000 prize pool, from $75,000 (plus a trophy and an automatic berth to NHC 19) for the NHC Tour champion to $1,000 for 20th, and the top 40 get to play for a $25,000 bonus that goes to the qualifier with the highest finish at NHC 18.

Here’s more of what we know about the rest of the top five “First Half” finishers after Johnson and whether they’re accepting a BCBC entry or taking $10,000 cash:

McMaster, of Etobicoke, Ontario, won live contests at Woodbine and Arlington Park this summer. He already holds a BCBC spot and has elected to take $10,000 cash.

McIntyre, of Massillon, Ohio, is an eight-time NHC qualifier. She has already earned four BCBC entries in 2016 (although only two can be played in her name) and will, therefore, receive $10,000 cash.

Broth, of Dunwoody, Ga., is a sales manager for an acoustical tile manufacturer. The 58-year-old made his NHC debut in January at NHC 17. He has co-owned several quality horses with trainer Ronny Werner, including Lady of Shamrock, a multiple Grade 1 winner after they sold her as a 2-year-old. Broth already held a BCBC berth he earned by winning Keeneland’s Grade One Gamble in April and will take $10,000 cash.

Engelhard, of Franklin Park, N.J., is a seven-time NHC qualifier. The 63-year-old is the current NHC Tour leader. He has accepted a BCBC entry.

On the compact “First Half” leaderboard, eight players – including elite names like Joe Pettit, Bill Shurman, Garett Skiba, Eric Moomey and Sally Goodall – finished within 1,000 points of making the top five.

The complete final “First Half” standings with scores for all 2,633 NHC Tour members that earned points so far this year can be viewed online.

The NHC Tour’s “Second Half” starts this weekend with a clean slate separate from the overall standings. The top five on the NHC Tour leaderboard from Aug. 1 toJan. 1 will each be awarded a $10,000 cash prize. This weekend’s plethora of contest offerings include the two-day (Friday and Saturday) $200,000-guaranteed Wynn Las Vegas Handicapping Challenge (2 NHC spots); Saturday’s “All-Optional” contest on HorseTourneys.com (3 spots minimum); Saturday’s “Second Chance” contest (a qualifier for the 2-spot championship Oct. 1) at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas; Sunday’s Free-to-Play online contest (4 spots) presented by the NTRA at NHCQualify.com; and another Sunday contest (2 spots guaranteed) at NHCQualify.com.

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

About the NHC

In its 18th year, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship 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 Web sites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals. Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards. In addition to the founding title sponsor, the NHC is presented by host casino Treasure Island Las Vegas.

About the BCBC

Now entering its eighth year, the $1 million-estimated BCBC has become one of the most sought after prizes on the tournament calendar. The BCBC, which offers 15 seats to the NHC in addition to cash prizes, is a highly lucrative and exclusive live bankroll handicapping contest with a $10,000 buy-in required to participate. Players enjoy first class access to the two best days of racing in the world with VIP seats that include buffet lunch each day and other amenities. Online and on-site qualifying tournaments, offering $10,000 berths into the BCBC as prizes, continue throughout the summer and fall leading to the November Breeders’ Cup. For more on the BCBC, visit www.breederscup.com/bcbc.

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, Based in Lexington, Ky., owns and manages the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance; NTRA.com; the NTRA Top Thoroughbred and NTRA Top 3-Year-Old weekly media polls; the Eclipse Awards; the National Handicapping 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).