Over $2.8M on the Line for Horseplayers at the NHC

nhc final table vegasLAS VEGAS, Nevada (February 6, 2019) – An estimated field of 670 entries will compete for nearly $2.9 million in cash and awards – and horse racing’s official title of “Horseplayer of the Year” – at this weekend’s 20th NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Presented by Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens™ and Treasure Island Las Vegas. Both the field size and the purse are the second-largest in NHC history. The three-day tournament, Friday to Sunday at Treasure Island, will offer a first-place prize of $800,000.

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.

“We are delighted to play host to many of the nation’s top horseplayers at the historic 20th NHC,” said NTRA Chief Operating Officer and NHC Tournament Director, Keith Chamblin. “The NHC is a true celebration of the horseplayer—the individuals who fuel every aspect of the sport and business of Thoroughbred racing. We also thank the many organizations who hosted NHC qualifiers throughout 2018 s well as our sponsoring partners—Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens™ and Treasure Island Las Vegas—for their ongoing support.”

At the Races with Steve Byk will broadcast live on SiriusXM satellite radio (Sirius 219; XM 201) from Treasure Island and online at www.stevebyk.com daily, Thursday to Monday, with NHC coverage slated for 2-7:30p ET (11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. PT). Additional news and exclusive content will be shared on Twitter via the official NTRA account, @NTRA.

Defending NHC champion Chris Littlemore – who last month was honored with an Eclipse Award as “Horseplayer of the Year”– heads this year’s field, which is comprised of 669 entries (pending the outcome of Thursday’s Last Chance Contest at the Treasure Island). There are 118 rookies, representing 23 percent of the field. There are 138 dual qualifiers going into Thursday’s Last Chance Contest at the Treasure Island.

As the 2018 NHC winner, Littlemore of Whitby, Ontario, Canada, near Toronto, received an automatic berth into this year’s tournament to defend the title he won last February when he bested other entries. Littlemore amassed a winning score of $348.30 over the three-day tournament from 53 mythical $2 Win and Place bets – 18 each on Friday and Saturday, 10 in Sunday morning’s Semifinal round and seven in the dramatic Final Table contest exclusive to the overall top 10. He will seek to become the first-ever two-time winner of the NHC, as will six other past winners that have qualified. The other qualifying champions are: Ray Arsenault (2017), Paul Matties, Jr. (2016), Jim Benes (2013),Michael Beychok (2012), Richard Goodall (2008), and Stanley Bavlish (2007).

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

As the winner of the 2018 NHC Tour, David Gutfreund won $100,000 and an NHC berth. He also is eligible for a record $6 million in bonuses if he goes on to win at the 2019 NHC finals.

Chuck Grubbs, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC), is eligible for a $3 million BCBC/NHC Bonus. First prize at the NHC is $800,000, meaning that successful completion of the BCBC-NHC double would be worth $3.8 million.

In its 20th year, the NTRA National Horseplayers 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.

NHC players qualified via contests hosted by 34 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, BataviaBets.com, Belmont Park, Breeders’ Cup, Canterbury Park, Capital OTB, Century Bets, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Fair Grounds, Florida HBPA, Gulfstream Park, Hawthorne Race Course, Hollywood Casino at Penn National, Horseplayers.comHorseTourneys.com, Indiana Grand, Keeneland, Laurel Park, Lone Star Park, Los Alamitos Race Course, Meadowlands, Mohegan Sun, Monmouth Park, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga Race Course, Tampa Bay Downs, The BIG One, Treasure Island, TVG, Woodbine Entertainment Group 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 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 for the eighth straight year.

On Saturday, the NTRA also will host an invitation-only online tournament, the 5th Annual Tito’s $5,000 NHC Charity Challenge. A field of approximately 40 media and racing personalities will compete to have $5,000 donated in their name to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

About the NHC

In its 20th 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, visitNTRA.com/nhc.

About the NTRA

The NTRA, based in Lexington, Ky., 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).

Getting to Know the BCBC Boys – Tournament Players

Nice profile / handicapping piece from a few years ago by Ren Hakim Carothers

We’ve long marketed our sport as that of kings. While this packaging does reflect the money that goes into breeding, training, and running these majestic athletes, heightening the stakes and romanticizing the idea of triumph, it can also convey exclusivity. It’s no wonder why horses with blue collar backstories competing at elite levels have captured the imagination of those outside our industry on more than one occasion. David, meet Goliath.

It’s time that mainstream audiences realized you need not be an owner of a horse, a trainer, or jockey to delight in the spoils of victory. Racing is not merely a spectator sport. It’s interactive. You simply need a ticket -a bet slip- to go along for the ride, and the fact that it’s not just the horses competing for seven figures this weekend puts an exclamation mark on that point.

BCBC Tournament Players

Again, the BCBC Bonus Boys are fascinating. Take Stephen Thompson, who is known as the “Undertaker” on the betting circuit, as an example. He is from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where he’s the owner and licensed director of Thompson Funeral Home, Inc, which was started by his great-grandfather in 1890. He fell in love with racing at the tender age of ten, going to the races with his family, and has won entry into the BCBC seven of the last eight years. Stephen says you get so pumped up in these tournaments, but he has to stay “flatlined” to stay focused, and that, should he win, the first check he’s writing is for $100,000 to benefit retired racehorses. “Without them, we have nothing!”

There are two entrants looking to pull off a BC/BCBC double. David Lanzman was hooked on racing after he and a couple of friends snuck under the fence at Hollywood Park as teenagers, having a security guard place what would be winning bets for them. He realized you could make life-changing scores playing the ponies when, with his $400 rent due and …

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.

 

All-in Approach Wins 2018 Del Mar Cash Tournament

Dennis Montoro, 32, from New York, went all-in in the last race with a $7,000 win bet on #2, 5-1 Raven Creek, to finish with $42,000. Montoro qualified to the Del Mar Challenge from a $400 feeder contest on HorseTourneys.com essentially turning a $400 investment into more than $135,000 in prizes.

Gary West from Rancho Santa Fe, CA and Florin Sima from Burbank, CA both cashed in the last race to finish second and third to round out the top three.

Montoro, an analytics player with years of experience in online contests was playing his very first “live money” contest. Prizes won include $75,000 cash, $10,000 entry in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) and entry in the $2.5 million National Horseplayers Championship (NHC). Montoro is also eligible for a $1 million bonus if he wins the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at Churchill Downs.

Players started with a $6,000 bankroll in the two day Challenge. The top eight finishers receive BCBC entries and the top ten receive entries in the $2.5 million National Horseplayers Championship or the Del Mar $4,500 Fall Challenge November 10 & 11.

PLACE NAME FINAL BANKROLL
1 Dennis Montoro $42,000
2 Gary West $29,070
3 Florin Sima $28,290
4 Kyle Fitzgerald $26,563
5 Jonathon Kinchen $25,689
6 Frank Mustari $23,332
7 Jim Videtic $20,800
8 Jim Meeks $20,240
9 Blake Jessee $19,240
10 Gary Broad $19,182

#LiveAtKyDowns Post Time Contest to Award Race Meet Packages

Kentucky Downs 2015Two grand-prize packages to 2018 race meet up for grabs

While the 2018 live meet isn’t until September, America’s most unique racecourse has launched a social-media contest where fans can earn a trip to Kentucky Downs by posting on Facebook and/or Twitter about the track.

The #LiveAtKyDowns Post Time Contest is free. Simply post on Facebook, Twitter or both why you want to attend Kentucky Downs’ live race meet for the first time or why you want to go back. To be eligible for the grand prize, posts must include the hashtag #LiveAtKyDowns and an entry blank must be filled out and returned for every submission, with the forms available on kentuckydowns.com, facebook.com/KyDownsGaming and twitter.com/KyDownsRacing. Direct link to form:

The #LiveAtKyDowns Post Time Contest will award two grand prizes: one for an entrant residing within 200 miles of the track on the Tennessee border and one going to an entrant residing more than 200 miles away. The contest begins immediately and ends July 31, with the winners to be announced Sunday, Aug. 5 at Ellis Park’s Kentucky Downs Preview Day, which features four $100,000 turf stakes funded by money transferred from Kentucky Downs’ purse account.

Kentucky Downs staff will select the two grand prize recipients on a purely subjective basis, including originality and passion exhibited in the winning posts. Judges may consider a series of posts collectively in determining a winner. The #LiveAtKyDowns Post Time Contest is not a sweepstakes and is not determined by random drawing.

The two grand prize winners will be Kentucky Downs’ guests for live racing Sept. 6, 8 and 9, including hotel accommodations for up to five nights. The regional winner will receive a betting voucher for $1,000 and up to four tickets in either the Turf Club Tent or Finish Line Pavilion for any or all of the three race days they are able to attend. The national winner will be reimbursed for airfare up to $600 for one person or up to $1,000 for two, a $500 betting voucher and two tickets in the Turf Club Tent or Finish Line Pavilion for any or all of the three race days they are able to attend.

Winners will have a race named after them and present a trophy to the winning connections.

Got Rebates?  Get instant cash rewards through this wagering website.

“We receive so many endearing comments from people around the country saying why they love visiting Kentucky Downs or why it’s on their bucket list that we decided to give our fans a chance to win a trip here,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs senior vice president and general manager. “We wanted to have two grand prize winners because Kentucky Downs has so many loyal guests in the region, but we also want to recognize the people betting on our horse races from across the nation who have led to our record-setting meets. We think we can have a lot of fun with our #LiveAtKyDowns Post Time Contest and encourage people to enter early and often.”

There is no limit to the number of entries a person can make, though the social-media posts must be different in at least one aspect, such as phrasing, photo or video. The same post can be used on both Facebook and Twitter.

All posts must be visible to the general public and have the ability to be “retweeted” or “shared.” By entering the contest, participants agree to let Kentucky Downs use all or parts of any posts, including photos, videos and memes, for publicity or news purposes.

Kentucky Downs reserves the right to tailor the trip to accommodate winner’s travel schedules. Contest participants must be at least 18 years old. Complete rules available below and at KentuckyDowns.com.

#LiveAtKyDowns Post Time Contest

Two grand prizes:

National (outside 200 miles):
Airfare for one up to $600; airfare for two up to $1,000 to attend Kentucky Downs’ live race meet Sept. 6-9, 2018 (live racing that Thursday, Saturday and Sunday). Winner will be reimbursed upon arrival at Kentucky Downs.
Hotel room for up to five nights, Sept. 5-9, 2018, at Hampton Inn-Franklin KY or Comfort Suites, Portland TN. Value $500.
$500 betting voucher
Two tickets each race day in either the Turf Club Tent or Finish Line Pavilion
Race named after the winner

Regional (within 200 miles):
Hotel room for up to five nights, Sept. 5-9, 2018, at Hampton Inn-Franklin KY or Comfort Suites, Portland TN. Value $500.
$1,000 betting voucher
Four tickets each race day in either the Turf Club Tent or Finish Line Pavilion
Race named after the winner

Rules:

Must be 18 years old to enter.  Free to enter.

Contest starts immediately and runs through July 31, with winners to be announced Aug. 5 during Kentucky Downs Preview Day at Ellis Park.

Contest participants post on Twitter and/or Facebook about why you want to go to Kentucky Downs for the first time or why (if you’ve been) you want to go back.

Must use hashtag #LiveAtKyDowns on either Twitter or Facebook.

All Twitter and Facebook posts must be able to be shared publicly, with Kentucky Downs having the ability to retweet or share, in order to count as an entry.

Participants must fill out an official entry form on facebook.com/KYDownsGaming/, twitter.com/KyDownsRacing or kentuckydowns.com, specifying whether post appears on Twitter or Facebook or both, date of posting, your name, address, phone number, email and birthdate, along with direct link to the post and the text of the post. Entrants have the option of including professional or personal information (such as how long you’ve been a racing fan, or how you became a fan).

Entrants must be able to establish proprietary right to photos and/or video. By submitting an entry, the entrant gives Kentucky Downs the right to use all or parts of the social-media posts, including any photos or video, for news and promotional use both in 2018 and beyond.

No limit on number of entries by a single participant.

The same post can be on Twitter and Facebook.

Kentucky Downs reserves the right to add sponsors to the contest or clarification of the rules at any time.

This is not a sweepstakes or drawing. Grand prize winners will be selected by a panel of Kentucky Downs employees, with judging completely subjective. Factors can include — but are not limited to — originality, passion, visual appeal and information about the entrant. Kentucky Downs’ decision on the winners is final.

Entries using profane or distasteful language or characterization will not be considered.

Kentucky Downs reserves the right to tailor the package to an individual winner.

If winner cannot attend during the 2018 live meet, efforts will be made to offer prize package to another participant.

Entry form to go with each post

The $750,000 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup, won last year by Oscar Nominated, is one of the many stakes #LiveAtKyDowns Post Time Contest winners will see. Grace Clark/Reed Palmer Photography

About Kentucky Downs
Located near the Kentucky-Tennessee border off Interstate 65, the year-round entertainment center offers live racing on its unique 1 5/16-mile European-style turf course in September. Simulcasting is available seven days a week, as well as pari-mutuel wagering on Historical Horse Racing, charitable gaming, dining and other events. Racing has been conducted at the facility since 1990, when it was called Dueling Grounds.
2018 live race meet: Sept. 1, 6, 8, 9, 13

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.

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.