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.

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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

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

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;; 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, Twitter (@ntra) and Facebook (

Second-Half Surge Propels David Gutfreund to NHC Tour Championship

LEXINGTON, Ky. (January 17, 2019) – One of the most remarkable stretches in the history of the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Tour propelled longtime contest player David Gutfreund to five tournament victories in the second half of the year en route to earning 24,123 points to win the 2018 NHC Tour, which ended Saturday.

Gutfreund earned $100,000, a 2020 NHC seat, a trophy, and the chance to play for an additional $6 million in bonuses at NHC 19, plus the $800,000 winner’s share, Feb. 8-10, at Treasure Island Las Vegas.

“It’s beyond incredible and I’ve been around gambling a long time,” Gutfreund said of his Tour win. “I won $90,000 on a 20 cent (Rainbow Six) bet and I’d argue that this is more unexplainable and more difficult odds wise than that was.”

Twice a top-10 finisher at the NHC, Gutfreund put together a body of handicapping work in the last couple of months in 2018 that even the veteran himself counts as one of his most improbable gambling achievements. Having already double qualified for the NHC by virtue of a pair of on-track tournament victories at Hawthorne Race Course in July and the Meadowlands in September, chasing a Tour title was not exactly something the Chicago resident and longtime successful poker player and horseplayer had as an objective.

Gutfreund didn’t play in another Tour event until Thanksgiving weekend at Hawthorne, with a confidence boost being his main goal rather than points. When he notched on-track win No. 3, some prodding from comrades and re-examination on his part convinced him that ending up atop the 2018 Tour Leaderboard wasn’t such a far-fetched notion.

“Quite frankly, my poker and my gambling had gone pretty much south since I had won that tournament at the Meadowlands in the middle of September and I needed a little bit of a slump buster, a little bit of a confidence builder,” Gutfreund said of his Hawthorne Tour win on Nov. 24. “I had had success at that Hawthorne tournament over the years and I was in Chicago over Thanksgiving weekend. There was no entry fee and I decided to support the local racetrack who had done a great job over the years hosting NHC qualifiers.

“Later that night, a couple of my cronies gave me a call. They mentioned the Tour and I felt as if I needed to do a little bit of due diligence to see where I actually stood. With the three live bankroll wins that I had already accomplished, I was like what the heck. Maybe I can get into the top 20 or maybe sneak into the top five. Running down (First Half winner and NHC Hall of Famer) Paul Shurman was never a thought in my mind until quite a ways through the process.”

Overall NHC Tour standings are determined by totaling a player’s top seven scores from NHC-sanctioned qualifying contests, which must include at least one live, on-site event. Gutfreund earned 20,225 of his winning point total in the second half of the season. Following his November victory at Hawthorne, he won another on-track Tour event at Los Alamitos on Dec. 8 and grabbed another 3,891 points with yet another on-track triumph at Monmouth Park on Dec. 29.

“There are so many things that had to go right for me to win those five tournaments,” Gutfreund said. “I was really taking it one tournament, one day at a time, focusing on what I could focus on in the moment as opposed to looking at it as a big picture.”

Shurman, a resident of Dix Hills, N.Y., and the 2011 Tour Champion, finished in second place in the 2018 Tour with 23,425 points and earned $50,000.

Finishing third on the NHC Tour in 2018 with 22,460 points was Philip Lam of Fresh Meadows, N.Y. Lam earned $25,000 in purse money.

The top five overall Tour leaders were rounded out by fourth-place Tour finisher Karen Carey of Saratoga Springs, NY (22,002 points), and fifth-place finisher Kevin Willett of Hastings, Neb. (21,688 points).

The top five finishers on the second-half year Tour LeaderBoard were: Gutfreund (14,516 points), Lam (13,205), Shurman (13,009), Joe Petit (12,966) and Alan Levitt (12,433). The top five won a berth into the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge or $10,000.

Keeping his focus at the same razor’s edge it has been in recent months will be key to Gutfreund’s NHC preparations. While besting a field of 650 takes a perfect storm of astute handicapping and good fortune, the momentum Gutfreund is taking with him to Las Vegas is something he is acutely mindful of.

“I’m just incredibly grateful and incredibly excited. To steal a line from Dan Fogelberg, this is my chance of a lifetime in my lifetime of chance,” Gutfreund said. “I know it’s a 650 person tournament. I know how difficult it is to win. But I’ve had two top 10s, I’ve had four top 20s. It’s difficult but it’s not impossible. And I’d love to be back there on day three just swinging for the fences and giving it a run.

“I truly from the bottom of my heart have so much gratitude for this opportunity and I’m just so stoked.”