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).

$3M Bonus Tied to BCBC and NHC Tournament Wins

The Breeders' Cup at Keeneland NHC TOUR INTRODUCES $3 MILLION BONUS FOR BREEDERS’ CUP BETTING CHALLENGE-NATIONAL HANDICAPPING CHAMPIONSHIP DOUBLE

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sunday, July 31, 2016) – – A $3 million National Handicapping Championship (NHC) Tour bonus – the largest prize ever offered in the handicapping contest world – will be awarded to any horseplayer who wins the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) November 4-5 and the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) next January 27-29, the NTRA and Breeders’ Cup announced today. The “NHC Tour $3,000,000 Double” starts with the $1 million-estimated BCBC, a lucrative live bankroll contest with a $10,000 buy-in, and continues with NHC 18, the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping contest, worth an estimated $2.8 million in cash and prizes.

The bonus was first announced during today’s NBC broadcast of the $1 million Betfair.com Haskell Invitational from Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J.

Last year’s BCBC winner earned more than $300,000 and first prize at the NHC is $800,000, meaning that successful completion of the NHC Tour Double would be worth more than $4.1 million. Participating individuals must be a member of the NHC Tour ($50) to be eligible to win the lucrative bonus.

“This bonus ties together and strengthens the two most prestigious handicapping contests in the world,” said NTRA Chief Operating Officer Keith Chamblin. “Winning the BCBC in November and the NHC in January would be unprecedented and a feat worthy of the richest pay day in handicapping contest history.”

Las Vegas sportsbook contest 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 breederscup.com/bcbc.

Qualifying for NHC 18 continues through January in scores of contests held on-site and online. Next weekend’s contest menu includes a Free-to-Play NHC online contest at NHCqualify.com offering four spots to the NHC. For more information on the NHC Tour and a complete contest schedule, visit NTRA.com/nhc.

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, the NHC is presented by Racetrack Television Network and Treasure Island Las Vegas.

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 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).

About Breeders’ Cup

The Breeders’ Cup administers the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Thoroughbred racing’s year-end Championships. The Breeders’ Cup also administers the Breeders’ Cup Challenge qualifying series, which provides automatic starting positions into the Championships races. The 2016 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, consisting of 13 grade I races and purses and awards totaling $28 million, will be held November 4-5 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., and will be televised live by the NBC Sports Group. Breeders’ Cup press releases appear on the Breeders’ Cup Web site, www.breederscup.com. You can also follow the Breeders’ Cup on social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube

Handicappers’ Tour Offers Increased Purse of 25% in 2015

nhc, nhc 2013, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, NTRA NHC 2015 eventThe 2015 NHC Tour officially kicks off Monday, Jan. 26, and continues through Dec. 31, 2015.   Overall prize money for the Tour has been increased 25 percent to $250,000 total.

The most significant change in the NHC Tour rules is a new bonus available to players who finish in the money on the 2015 Tour. The top 20 Tour finishers will be eligible for an additional $25,000 that will be awarded to the person among that group who finishes highest at the 2016 National Handicapping Championship (NHC). This individual also will earn a berth in the 2017 NHC.

“We hope this will motivate participation and play,” Chamblin said, “and we like the idea that more players will be eligible to qualify for an end-of-the-season competition. While it’s not incredibly lucrative, $25,000 isn’t chump change.”

The overall top Tour finisher will also receive an automatic entry into the 2017 NHC. “This is the first time in a number of years we’ve done this,” Chamblin said, “But it seems like a fair reward for such a difficult achievement.”

To participate in the NHC, one must purchase a $50 Tour membership. As was the case this year on the Tour, the top 150 Tour points leaders will be guaranteed entry into the 2016 NHC, where the overall, season-ending NHC Tour points leader will be eligible for a $2 million bonus should he or she capture the 2016 NHC.

A tentative schedule of 2015 NHC qualifying events will be released very soon. Tour Registration is already open. 

Tournament Tips for the 2012 Season

by Rich Nilsen

Before Louisiana political consultant Mark Beychok had even accepted his title and seven figure check for his NTRA Handicapper of the Year victory, many horseplayers were already plotting in their own minds how they were going to attack the tournament scene in 2012. Now that the winner of the National Handicapping Champion (NHC) earns a huge paycheck for two great days of picking the ponies, the interest in the year-long event has skyrocketed.

Here we are in June and the contest season is in full swing. There are tournaments every week and tons of opportunities. Tournament players don’t even need to leave the luxury of home to compete against the best and earn their way to the coveted Las Vegas championship. However, in doing so, players typically give up the chance to win serious money. Most of the online tournaments fail to offer much in the way of cash prizes. Instead, the carrot dangling out in front of the players is the NHC berth, valued at roughly $7,000.

Online Opportunities

NHC Tour membership is mandatory in order to earn an entry into the NHC Finals, so make sure you have paid your $50 membership dues prior to playing in any online events. An added perk of the membership fee is that NHC Tour members get to play in exclusive, online qualifying events that are free to play. These tournaments offer a total of 10 seats to the 2013 NHC.

Longtime horse racing executive Mark Midland created a tournament site in 2011 at DerbyWars.com. Yours truly was one of the beta testers for this innovative contest platform. On DerbyWars contest players can chat with one another during the event. Members at DerbyWars can also “connect” with their friends via the contest interface, for example, knowing when one of their friends have registered for a contest on the site. It’s the first tournament platform to integrate social networking-type features.

“Since we started DerbyWars,” explained Midland. “One of the things that surprised us was how well newer racing fans took to the game.  Part of that speaks to the fun and interaction of DerbyWars, but part of that speaks to the fact that tournaments are fun and easy.  Since you’re not betting, you only have to pick a horse, and you can see many others picked the same horse you did.  So it’s a much easier learning curve than wagering.  That’s why we think it’s a perfect introductory game to create new horseplayers.”

DerbyWars offers numerous types of tournaments, many of which are cash games with a very low takeout, and contests are offered up to five days each week. If you haven’t tried Derby Wars, I highly recommend it.

McKay Smith, former NTRA Tournament Director, is the man behind HorseTourneys.com, another great site for players looking for online opportunities. With the generous sponsorship of Ron Geary from Ellis Park, HorseTourneys.com has many NHC and HPWS qualifiers throughout the year.

BCQualify.com is another favorite site of mine. This one gives players the opportunity to qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC), the big money tournament where the buy-in is a steep $10,000 fee. Last year Patrick McGoey won his way into the event via a $100 contest at BCQualify.com before parlaying that into an incredible six-figure score at Churchill Downs on Breeders’ Cup weekend.

There are several other online sites for players to choose from, including HorsePlayersQualify.com, NHQualify.com (which is the NTRA’s site), and some of the leading online ADWs such as TwinSpires.

NHC Tour Changes

The NHC Tour continues to evolve. In 2012 there were several changes put in place. First, the season is broken up into two halves for the first time, as prizes will be awarded half way through the year based on players’ performances.

The overall NHC Tour prize money has been increased to $250,000, which includes a $50,000 payout to the top finishers in the first half of the Tour year and another $50,000 to those who perform best during the second half of the year.

Point totals within each half year segment will be based on a player’s top four scores. The NTRA is requiring that a player must earn at least one of his or her four scores at a live, non-online event. I understand the logic behind this, but it an unfair rule for players who reside in states where either pari-mutuel racing does not exist or where contests are not available. A player not earning points in a live event would be credited with a zero for the fourth score. Also, winning at an on-track event will be worth more tour points than winning an online contest.

End-of-year payouts will total $150,000, with points based on a member’s top six scores.  Again, one of those six year-end scores must come from a live, non-online tournament.

Another interesting change for 2012 is that the top 100 players at the end of the year will be guaranteed entry into the 2013 NHC Finals. Last year 12 players would have benefited if that rule existed then. This year I anticipate that number being higher.

Also new for 2012 is an automatic $5,000 bonus paid to anyone who wins more than one NHC qualifying tournament (live or online). A small handful of players accomplish that impressive feat every year, so it would be a surprise if the NTRA did not have to pay out on that – multiple times.

Tournament Advice

I have learned a lot over the past decade about how to approach an upcoming tournament. For starters, it is critical to be prepared. You need to have handicapped all the races ahead of time. Doing so, you will know how the races later in the day shape up, which would likely affect your decision making during the afternoon. Let’s say you’re in a contest with a lot of optional plays, but the last couple of races on the day are short fields at the two West Coast tracks. Obviously, you would not want to “save” a play and end up having bullets in your holster for those races.

If you are at a live event, stay focused and don’t get influenced by the talk of players in the tournament. “So and so had that one.” Or, “So and so hit a $10 trifecta in that last race.” Unless you actually know this for a fact and seen the leaderboard reflect such a result, there is no sense letting “rumors” affect your play. Stick to your gameplan, and weed out the distractions. You and your game will be better off for it.

Speaking of distractions, tournaments are fertile ground for just that. It is very easy to get distracted, especially when one is playing at a live event. You run into people you know. You’re talking to other players at your table. You’re trying to get comfortable and figure out the best view of the tv’s. Most likely you are in a different environment that you are used to when playing the races. Something as simple as getting “late changes” for today’s races is different, especially for players used to clicking a couple of buttons on their computer at home. Stay focused and anticipate the distractions that could occur…because they will.

Fully understand the format of the contest you are playing. You shouldn’t have to look up anything up in the rules during the course of the tournament. Read the rules multiple times, just in case you missed something the first time. And just because you played the contest last year, doesn’t mean the rules are the same this year.

When you understand the rules and the format, you’ll be best prepared to have a game plan going in. You should have a good idea of what it takes to win the contest. What scores have previous winners had? Knowing the scores of previous winners and qualifiers will provide you an excellent barometer of what it will take to succeed in this year’s event. Little details can mean a lot, especially in handicapping tournaments.

I suggest mapping out a schedule for the year based on your budget, life schedule, willingness to travel, and overall passion for the handicapping tournament scene. One of the many advantages of doing this is that if you are attending a contest at an unfamiliar track, you can start following that circuit in the month or two leading up to the event.

Make sure you are not at a disadvantage when it comes to information. There are many sources of great handicapping resources in this day and age, and a horseplayer trying to win a tournament cannot afford to be in the dark. For example, there are some excellent private workout services such as the National Turf Clocker’s Report. You can’t afford to be ignorant about the fact that the favorite in the 7th at Santa Anita has been training like a slug, when some of your fellow tournament contestants are fully aware of this.

Finally, play to win. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a contestant make their final play to finish somewhere “in the money.” This has become even more prevalent since the NHC Tour was started. It’s true that in some tournaments, like at NHQualify.com, it may not matter at the end of the day if you are first or fifth. However, in most tournaments it does matter. When you have the chance to win a tournament with a lucrative grand prize, take the shot. It doesn’t come around every day.

Join BetPTC

Update on the 2012 NHC Tour

Tour Prize Money Increased to $250,000; $5,000 Bonus for Multiple Qualifying Wins

February 1, 2012 Press Release

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced that signups for the 2012 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour are being accepted at http://www.ntra.com/nhcregistration The Daily Racing Form NHC Tour is a yearlong bonus series offering additional prize money and qualifying berths to the 14th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) to be held in January 2013 at Treasure Island Las Vegas.

As was the case in 2011, NHC Tour membership is mandatory in order to earn an entry into the NHC Finals — the lucrative culmination of the year’s qualifying schedule. The recently concluded NHC 13 on January 27-28 saw Michael Beychok of Baton Rouge, La., emerge as the first-ever million-dollar winner of a horse racing handicapping contest.

Highlighting the changes for the 2012 Tour year is an increase in overall NHC Tour prize money to $250,000, including a $50,000 payout to the top finishers in the first half of the Tour year and another $50,000 to those who do best during the second half of the year.  Point totals within each half year segment will be based on a player’s top four scores, with one of those four scores having to come from points earned at a live, non-online event. (A player not earning points in a live event would be credited with 0 for his fourth score.) End-of-year payouts will total $150,000, with points based on a member’s top six scores.  One of those six year-end scores must come from a live, non-online event. The top 100 players at the end of the year will be guaranteed entry into the 2013 NHC Finals and the season-ending points leader will be eligible for a $2 million bonus should he or she capture the 2013 NHC.

Also new for 2012 is an automatic $5,000 bonus paid (up to a maximum of three bonuses) to anyone who wins more than one NHC qualifying tournament (live or online).

Membership in the 2012 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour is open to adults 21 years of age or older and requires a one-time membership fee of $50. Membership in the 2012 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour is mandatory in order for top finishers of sanctioned NHC qualifying events to be eligible to compete in the January 2013 NHC Finals in Las Vegas. The NHC Tour membership must be in place prior to the start of any given qualifying tournament in order for one to qualify for the NHC Finals at that qualifying tournament.

Among the other benefits of 2012 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour membership are free, online qualifying tournaments that are restricted to NHC Tour members and offering a total of 10 seats to the 2013 NHC.

Other 2012 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour benefits include:

Eligibility to compete for a seat at the January 2013 NHC at Treasure Island Las Vegas;

  • Twice monthly e-newsletter featuring photos and recaps of previously held tourneys; schedules and links to upcoming tournaments; and tourney tips from previous NHC Champions and qualifiers;
  • Special offers from Daily Racing Form; including 10% off on 10- and 20-card Past Performance plans (Classic or Formulator); and
  • Eligibility to receive benefits and discounts from NTRA Advantage partners.

In its 14th 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 Treasure Island Las Vegas and Sovereign Stable.

Winning at the Races. It doesn’t get any better than this.

So why is horse racing so much more exciting than other forms of gambling?  Why is the typical horseplayer not some degenerate low life, but very often a well educated person or professional businessman or woman?  Take a gander at political consultant Michael Beychok winning the 2012 National Handicapping Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/6vr6OMVJ1RY[/youtube]

 

Here was the scenario. After nearly two full days of selecting horses against nearly 500 other players, Beychok was in second place, $11.00 behind the leader. The last race of the day on Saturday, January 28 was the finale at Golden Gate Fields in San Francisco, and Beychok used his last optional play on a 3-1 shot in that race. The horse got up by a nose and paid $8.20 to Win and $3.80 to Place, for a grand total of $12.00. The previous leader, Dave Flanzbaum, used a 9-1 shot in the same race who ran a close third. Flanzbaum lost by both a nose on the racetrack and in the contest. He won $150,000 for second and $5,000 in additional prize winnings for having the day two leading bankroll.

Michael Beychok became the first ever winner of one million dollars in a horse racing handicapping tournament!

In 13 years the National Handicapping Championship (NHC) has grown from a grand prize of $100,000 to ten times that amount. Qualifying events are held throughout the country as well as online. Entry fees for those events range from free to $10,000, but the majority are usually about $100.  This year’s championship event was held for the first time at Treasure Island resort in Las Vegas.

Several years ago the event was televised on ESPN. This year racing will need to rely on social media and word of mouth to deliver the message about Beychok’s sensational victory at the NHC.

“A Game of Skill” wins NHC Qualifier at DerbyWars.com

Derby Wars contest

Highly recommended contest website

So, I got in the DerbyWars.com tournament that I had been telling visitors about over the past couple of weeks. At only $25 per entry, and with the site paying out more than they were taking in, it was a great value this past Friday to play. Well, through the first 6 races of the 12 mandatory events, I was tied for dead last. My score was easily to calculate. I had zero. That’s when I went on a tear, scoring with 4 nice winners in the second half of the contest, including a big-priced winner in a turf sprint at Keeneland. I moved into first place with one race to go, a claiming race at Keeneland that ended up being won by the obvious choice and favorite. The standings up top did not change and I had held on to defeat 206 other players.

Since I am already qualified for the “Big Dance” – the $2 million National Handicapping Championship (NHC) – the main prize was given to the 2nd place finisher, some guy with the handle “Frank S.” However, in addition to the $115 cash prize I won, I earned 3,000 NHC Tour Points.  What’s that? Players who pay a $45 annual fee not only get to play in some free online contests hosted by the NTRA, but they get to compete on the “Tour.” The Tour points for the year are calculated by taking the 5 best finishes by contest players during the year.

I now have finishes of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th in 2011, which gives me over 9,000 Tour points, good enough for 8th place overall on the Tour.  The overall Tour winner gets $75,000 cash and the Tour pays out to the top five. Thanks to my win in the $25 DerbyWars.com tournament, I am now in position to possibly get in the top five. If there are more opportunities like this at DerbyWars, I will be in them.

Rich Nilsen

Discover a Great Aspect of the Handicapping Scene

By Ross Gallo

I’ve been going to the track since I have memory.  Fell in love with this grand game of horse racing at first site, even loved the smell of the Daily Racing Form.  (I know, crazy right?)  So, I’ve been making a living playing the horses for the better part of thirty years, but it wasn’t until around 1997 that I discovered a wonderful and often overlooked alternative way to play and enjoy the races.  It is the reason I’m writing this article and it is for those of you that are either not familiar with, or have not ventured into, the world of handicapping tournaments.

Horse Racing Handicapping Tournament

Popular Bankroll-based Tournament founded by Ross Gallo

In a game that has declining attendance and handle nearly across the board.  Has tracks closing their doors.  Questions surrounding drug use by super-trainers, odds changes during the running of races, questionable stewards decisions, and a myriad of other problems; there is one cross section that is growing and thriving, handicapping tournaments.  The NTRA/DRF National Handicapping Championship (NHC), our U.S. Open so to speak, which was introduced in 2000 with a purse of $200,000, offering $100,000 to the winner; will be having it’s 13th rendition in January of 2012 at Treasure Island In Las Vegas. 

You can only participate by qualifying, which is unlike any other tournament we have and what makes the NHC so special; well that and the fact that this year the purse has grown to $2,000,000 with $1,000,000 going to the winner!  That kind of growth in a mere 13 years, and for some reason we’re not singing it’s praises to the rafters?! 

I’m not much of a preacher, but this is a worthy cause.  You love the game of horse racing like me?  Good.  Then do the game and yourself a favor and start playing handicapping tournaments.  They are eventually going to pull the game back into the mainstream of Americana.  You don’t know me, but I know what I’m talking about so take a leap of faith, you won’t be sorry.  There are so many different formats out there, I’m positive you can find one you like.  Don’t want to leave your couch?  Well there are probably, on average, 10 opportunities a week, maybe more to play online.  There are low-end, high-end and in-between entry fees.  There are even some free tournaments that offer trips to the NHC.  There are tournaments away from the NHC and its Tour as well.  So many opportunities to have fun, win money, and many times for a very small investment.  Go to ntra.com or horseplayersqualify.com or nhcqualify or bcqualify or twinspires or drf or derbywars or horsetourneys or publichandicapper (note I stopped with the .coms they’re all .coms got sick of .com-ing) or even your local tracks website.  There are sooooo many places to get started, and you don’t have to do anything but turn on your computer.  What are you waiting for?  Go.  Play.

“…over the last decade-plus I have met some of the best people on this planet.  Men and women I consider lifelong friends.”

Okay, so I’ve hooked you a little, admit it.  Now I’m playing my trump card.  Online tournaments are great, but you know what’s even better?  Going to a venue for a tournament.  Awesome!  When I first started, there weren’t any online tournaments, you had to travel.  It was the best thing that ever happened to me, in my professional life at least.  You see there is an amazing phenomenon attached to handicapping tournaments; they attract the highest class of human beings I’ve ever met in any walk of life.  In what I call “real” life, I’d say the percentage of how can I put this? (I’m not a fisherman but it rhymes with bass poles).  The percentage of “bass poles” is really high, maybe 75%.  Hey, takes one to know one right?  But anyway, at handicapping tournaments it’s like 2% counting me. 

Allow me to illustrate further.  If you put 800 tournament players into a ballroom or two at the Orleans in Vegas for a three day event, you MIGHT be able to ferret out 16 “bass poles” if you try hard.  Put 800 conventioning doctors, lawyers, funeral home directors, bricklayers, writers, plumbers etc in the same couple of rooms and guaranteed you’ll have three quarters “bass poles.”  Three.  Quarters.  Bass.  Poles.  Just saying!

Seriously though, over the last decade-plus I have met some of the best people on this planet.  Men and women I consider lifelong friends.  Some I talk to nearly every day, others I just catch up with when we get together and others somewhere in between. 

You see handicapping tournaments draw thinking people.  Ours is a cerebral game.  Any shmoe can sit down with two cards in front of him or her and play poker.  Horse racing requires more use of the brain, and what the hell is wrong with that?  Let me tell you something else about these people.  We go to tournaments and try to beat each other’s brains out, but when we get to the point where we know we can’t win, we GENUINELY root for our friends to win.  No lie.  Find that in a poker room or your local boardroom.  I haven’t been to a tournament in ten years where a bunch of us haven’t gone out for dinner after the last races were run.  I would like to mention names, but they wouldn’t mean anything to many of you, and if I left anyone out, I’d feel like a crumb. 

The bottom line is this: handicapping tournaments are fun, convenient to play from home, can offer value, trips to Vegas and also the opportunity to meet some of the finest people you’ll meet in your life.  Eventually someone will figure out how to bring them to television in an entertaining way (YEAH I know how already, just ask me!!!) and that is when we will rejoin the “real” world, and return to the glory days of the early to mid-part of the 20th century.  If you care about horse racing, be a part of the solution while improving your quality of entertainment at the same time, and maybe enriching your life while you’re at it.  Once you go to a handicapping tournament, you’ll no never go back.