NHC Super Qualifiers by the Big Three in Horse Racing

nhc final table vegasThe New York Racing Association, Churchill Downs Inc., and The Stronach Group are set to host three brand-new “NHC Super Qualifiers” in coming months, offering dozens of berths to February’s $3 million (estimated) NTRA National Horseplayers Championship in Las Vegas. The live-money contests, in which players compete to turn $1,000 of their own cash into the largest nut, are set for Sept. 29 at Belmont Park, Dec. 22 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, and Jan. 5 at Santa Anita Park (or online at Xpressbet.com).

Each on-track Super Qualifier will award one NHC berth per every 15 entries, meaning roughly the top 7 percent of entrants will move on to Treasure Island Las Vegas for the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping contest, Feb. 8-10, 2019.

Registration for each contest costs $1,500, with $1,000 going to the starting bankroll and $200 to a cash prize pool for the Super Qualifier (the remaining $300 goes to the NHC purse and travel). The format will consist of 10 mandatory $50 Win-Place wagers. Players will keep 100 percent of their winnings and the leaders will share in the cash prize pool, with the number of winners and amounts determined (on a sliding scale) by the number of entries. Players are limited to two entries for each on-track Super Qualifier.

“These new Super Qualifiers allow us to offer a much more favorable ratio of berths to entries for players,” said NHC Tournament Director Keith Chamblin. “We’re also excited to offer live-money formats that allow players to keep their winnings and put money through the windows of the host tracks, while maintaining the traditional Win-Place format that rewards consistent excellence.”

Each winning prize package includes NHC entry, four nights at Treasure Island, and airfare reimbursement up to $400.

As added incentive, a $500,000 bonus will be up for grabs in Las Vegas for any of the three on-track Super Qualifier winners who go on to win #NHC19.

For more information on entering any of the four Super Qualifiers, contact Michele Ravencraft of the NTRA at mravencraft@ntra.com. Online and/or phone registration will be available via the host racetracks in coming weeks.

Low-cost “feeder” contests will be available for each Super Qualifier on HorsePlayers.com.

NHC Tour points, which determine year-end Tour prizes, as well as NHC entry for the top 10 percent of finishers, will be awarded in NHC Super Qualifiers. For the Santa Anita/Xpressbet.com contest only, players already double-qualified for #NHC19 can earn a first berth to #NHC20 in February 2020.

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

 

Big Weekend of NHC Handicapping Tournaments – Results from 8/18-19

McFarland Wins Another Real-money Contest

Kevin McFarland, from Solana Beach, CA, vaulted to first place on the strength of two daily double payouts on his way to earning $20,000 in prizes in the Pacific Classic Betting Challenge.

David Snyder from Mission Viejo, CA and Tyler Hoffman from San Gabriel, CA finished second and third to round out the top three. David and Tyler both win entries in the $2.5 million National Horseplayers Championship as well as cash prizes of $7,000 and $3,500 respectively.

McFarland scored with the early double in races one and two to build up the Challenge starting $300 bankroll and vaulted to the lead with a $100 double in races 7 and 8, a $4,700 payout. From there he held on to ride out the fantastic 11 race card which set a one-day handle record at Del Mar. Winnings include $10,000 cash and a $10,000 entry in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

Ed Abel of Des Moines, IA and Walt Tendler of San Diego finished 4th and 5th earning entries into the Del Mar $4,500 Fall Challenge November 10 & 11.

FINAL STANDINGS

1 Kevin McFarland (3) $7,511.50
2 David Snyder (3) $5,577.00
3 Tyler Hoffman $5.249.00
4 Ed Abel (1) $5,103.00
5 Walt Tendler (2) $4,440.00
6 Scott Johnson (3) $4,243.70

Harryman Scores at Laurel NHC contest

Jeffrey Harryman of Baltimore finished with a bankroll balance of $2,214.50 to capture the fall session of the Maryland Jockey Club Champions Handicapping Tournament held on Maryland Pride Day, Saturday, Aug. 18 at Laurel Park.

Lam earned $2,790 in prize money and ended with a comfortable margin over runner-up Sean Nolan of Alexandria, Va., who closed the day with a bankroll balance of $1,786.40 and took home $1,860 in prize money.

The tournament was open to players for $300, which covered a $100 entry fee and $200 bankroll. In addition to prize money, the top four finishers qualified for automatic berths to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) or The BIG ONE.

NTRA NHC logoFor the second straight year, the tournament was held in Laurel’s refurbished second-floor clubhouse sports bar. There were no mandatory races during the contest but players were required to make a $20 minimum wager on races from Laurel, Gulfstream Park, Saratoga Race Course, Monmouth Park and Woodbine.

Given his choice of four tournament berths, Harryman selected the BCBC to be held Nov. 2-3 at Churchill Downs, while Nolan selected a berth in the BIG ONE Sept. 22-23 at Laurel Park.

Third place went to John Kousouris of Towson, Md., who finished with a balance of $1,404 and earned $930 in prize money, while Gary Wright of Staten Island, N.Y. was fourth with a balance of $1,381 and earned $558. Both players also earned berths in the NHC, to be held in February 2019 in Las Vegas.

Rounding out the top 10 finishers were Kevin Sweeny with a tournament balance of $1,253, Anthony Laurino ($1,110), Steve Anderson ($1,105), Pete Manzo ($1,027.50), John Verdin ($703) and Bob Bandzwolek ($700.90). Each player took home $558 in prize money.

The spring session of the MJC Champions Handicapping Tournament held March 3 at Laurel was won by Brian Conley of Columbia, Md., who chose a berth in the BCBC. Other winners from the spring tournament were Coleen Curley (NHC), Carol Johnson (BIG ONE) and Shawn Turner (NHC).

Veteran Player Davis Takes Downs Indiana Grand Event

One horse made all the difference in the outcome of the third annual National Horseplayers Qualifier (NHC) at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino Saturday, Aug. 18. Given Favorite, ridden by Angel Moreno and trained by Tony Granitz, surprised a maiden claiming field in the eighth race of the night to pay $72.60. Several people in mid-pack of the 125 entry contest selected Given Favorite and catapulted into the lead positions. Stephanie Davis of Brooklyn, N.Y. was the biggest winner off that longshot to take the top prize for the night. Steve Arrison of Point Pleasant Beach, N.J. finished second while Dan Weisenburger of Stow, Ohio came in third. Mike Gillum of Indianapolis finished fourth.

Stephanie Davis (center) defeated a field of 125 entries in the third annual NHC Qualifier Saturday, Aug. 18 at Indiana Grand. Steve Arrison (left) finished second while Dan Weisenburger (right) finished third. (Photo by Tammy Knox)

Davis had two entries in the contest. She completed the 12-race required format with total accumulated earnings of $132.00. Arrison completed the event with a tally of $129.60 over Weisenburger, who accumulated earnings of $128.00. Gillum had a total of $113.50.

The NHC Qualifier at Indiana Grand was played over 22 races from three racetracks, which included Saratoga, Del Mar and Indiana Grand. All players had to utilize five of the eight Thoroughbred races from Indiana Grand to meet the requirements. All players began with a mythical bankroll of $48 and placed $2 win and place wagers on one horse in 12 of the races during the five-hour contest.

The NHC Qualifier had a cap of 125 entries and reached capacity. Several of the players had two entries. There were 80 total individuals in the contest from all across the United States. Players came into Indiana Grand from coast to coast, including individuals from Washington State, Florida, New York, Maryland, Texas, Wisconsin and all points in between.

The top four players will advance to the NHC Final slated for Las Vegas February 8 – 10, 2019. The players will receive hotel, airfare and entry fees for their trip to the final, which included over 600 entries last year vying for prize money in excess of $2 million. The top four also received a gift certificate to Stats Race Lens courtesy of Equibase. The computer program, which was on display during the contest with demonstrations provided by Tom Kudla, offers in-depth handicapping assistance with race replays and additional statistics not found in general racing publications. The value of the gift certificate for the quarterly subscription is $299.

Source: Press Releases

Fall Keeneland 2018 Tournament Schedule

Keeneland painter photo by Richard J. Nilsen

copyright AgameofSkill.com

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

On Saturday, October 13, we will conduct a live bankroll tournament, the Keeneland $400 Fall Challenge, a $400 buy-in with a live bankroll of $250 and $150 prize fund fee. Players will be able to wager any amount on any race at Keeneland, with no minimum wagers or minimum number of races. This tournament may be played from anywhere on the track; all tickets and admissions must be handled separately by the player. Please see rules here.

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

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

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

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

Source: Keeneland

Incredible $5M Bonus Offered via Monmouth and Woodbine

Monmouth Park by Rich Nilsen

copyright 2016 AGameofSkill.com

Monmouth Park Racetrack and Woodbine Entertainment have partnered on an unprecedented $5-million bonus that will be the highlight of the Jersey Shore track’s handicapping contest schedule in 2018.

The bonus will be awarded to a player who finishes in the Top 10 of the $400 Monmouth/Woodbine handicapping contest on June 30, then wins the $250 Monmouth/Woodbine handicapping contest on October 13, then goes on to win the 2019 National Horseplayers Championship at the Treasure Island in Las Vegas.

“We pride ourselves on running the best handicapping contests in the country,” said Brian Skirka, Monmouth Park’s Marketing Manager and Contest Director. “That includes innovating new contest formats such as our Pick Your Prize Handicapping Challenge and bonuses such as this. A bonus of this magnitude is unprecedented and I thank the management of Woodbine Entertainment not only for their years of partnership with our contests but also for their partnership and support on this exciting bonus.”

The bonus’ first leg will be a $400 handicapping contest on Saturday, June 30 featuring races from Monmouth Park and Woodbine. Monmouth Park’s card that day will be anchored by the Grade 1, $300,000 United Nations, while the historic $1,000,000 Queen’s Plate highlights Woodbine’s biggest day.

Should a player finish in the Top 10 on June 30 and proceed to win Monmouth’s October 13 contest featuring races from Woodbine’s Pattison Canadian International Day, that player will head to the 2019 NHC alive for a $5 million bonus.

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“We are pleased to announce our continued partnership with Monmouth Park. The first of the dual series taking place on June 30 will give horse players the action of Woodbine’s 159th running of the Queen’s Plate,” said Alex Fanti, Woodbine Entertainment’s U.S. Marketing Manager. “Monmouth Park provides a great tournament atmosphere for fans to take part in, plus a multitude of other track offerings. With their commitment to innovation and their dedicated staff, we are confident they will create a memorable experience for those who attend.”

An innovative event in its own right, Monmouth Park’s $2,000 Pick Your Prize Handicapping Challenge will be back for its third year on Saturday, June 2. Registration is now open for one of the most lucrative contests in the country – with last year’s prizes consisting of 17 NHC seats, five Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seats and over $65,000 in cash. Players can earn a spot by qualifying at www.horsetourneys.com or www.drf.com or can register by contacting Skirka at bskirka@monmouthpark.com.

In total, Monmouth Park will host 13 handicapping contests in 2018 – including the already-underway Simulcast Series Challenge. The Oceanport track will award approximately 43 seats to the 2019 NHC over the next eight months. In addition, eight players will win full entry into the 2018 BCBC.

For the complete 2018 Monmouth Park handicapping contest schedule, log-on to www.monmouthpark.com.

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.

Collusion? Aqueduct Handicapping Tournament Won by Teammates

Press Release

Entering the Aqueduct Challenge Handicapping Tournament after winning both days of the Saratoga Challenge tournament this summer, Terrence “Terry” Cook was the prohibitive favorite to take first place honors again and did not disappoint, compiling a bankroll of $2,277 on Saturday to win his third tournament on the NYRA circuit.

The Baltimore, Maryland native, who routinely plays tournaments with partners Mark Komen, Mark Saperstein and Bob Schmidt, deployed the same strategy that has garnered wins in the last three NYRA live-money handicapping tournaments.

“We use the same strategy we use in every cash tournament,” said Cook. “We try to hit one big bet.”

Cook and his partners capitalized in Race 6 on Saturday’s card at the Big A cashing in on a $20 12-9 exacta box, with $55 winner Time on Target over post-time favorite Unleveraged.

“That race put us on top, returning $2,000, and we just shuffled our way from there watching everybody else to hang on,” said Cook.

Winning $7,613 in total prize money, Cook elected to capture a seat to the National Handicapping Championships in February having won two seats to the Belmont Stakes Challenge via his wins in the Saratoga Challenge tournament.

Konrad Kleinbub finished second with a bankroll of $2,071, winning $3,698 and a seat at to the 2018 Belmont Stakes Challenge. Charles Welch took third-place with a bankroll of $1,951 and a total of $2,828 in prize money. Having already double qualified to the National Handicapping Championships, the remaining NHC seat went to Nicole Cox, who finished in fourth with $1,655 and $2,393 in prize money.

 

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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.

Los Alamitos Racing Association to Offer 3 NHC Seats this Saturday

NTRA NHC logoPress Release

The Los Alamitos Racing Association will offer a cash prize, three seats to the 2018 National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas and more with a live money handicapping contest Saturday, Sept. 23.

In addition to the berths in the NHC, there will be also be five spots available for the Autumn Handicapping Contest at Santa Anita (Oct. 6-8) as well as three to next year’s NTRA Last Chance Horseplayers Championship Qualifier in Las Vegas.

Cost to enter the Los Alamitos Fall Qualifier is $500. Of that amount, $100 will be placed in the contest prize pool with the remaining funds going towards a live-money wagering card.

Contestants must enter prior to 2 p.m. – post time for the first race – Sept. 16. Players can begin entering the contest once track gates open at 9:30 a.m. that morning and participants can purchase a maximum of two entries.

Tournament races will include the entire card at Los Alamitos with permitted wagers including win, place, show and exactas. Each entry must bet at least $100 on four races, but there is no wagering limit.

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).

Players can sign up for the handicapping contest at losalamitos.com as well as review complete contest rules. For any further questions, contact larace@losalamitos.com or by telephone at 714-820-2690.

Tournament Veteran Lam Captures Laurel Champions Handicapping Tournament

Press Release

Phillip Lam of Fresh Meadow, N.Y. finished with a bankroll balance of $4,359.70 to capture the fall session of the Maryland Jockey Club’s Champions Handicapping Tournament held Saturday at Laurel Park.

Lam earned $3,030 in prize money ended with a comfortable margin over runner-up Gwyn Houston of Fallston, Md., who ended the day with a bankroll balance of $3,106.80 and took home $2,020 in prize money.

The tournament was open to players for $300, which covered a $100 entry fee and $200 bankroll. In addition to prize money, the top four finishers qualified for automatic berths to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) or The BIG ONE.

A total of 201 entries were accepted from 139 players for the tournament, held for the first year in Laurel’s newly refurbished second-floor sports bar. There were no mandatory races during the contest but a $20 minimum wager on races from Laurel, Gulfstream Park, Saratoga Race Course, Monmouth Park and Woodbine.

Given his choice of four tournament berths, Lam selected the BCBC to be held Nov. 3-4 at Del Mar while Houston selected a berth in The BIG ONE Sept. 23-24 at Laurel Park.

Third place went to Michael Webb of Westminster, Md., who finished with a balance of $2,395.40 and earned $1,010 and an NHC berth. Jason Jubb of Pasadena, Md. was fourth with a balance of $2,248 and earned $606.

Since Jubb is not a member of the NHC Tour, fifth-place finisher Joseph McKay of Gaithersburg, Md. earned the final NHC berth. He ended with a balance of $1,594.50 and prize money of $606.

Rounding out the top 10 finishers were David Hertz with a tournament balance of $1,450, Roger Kurrus ($1,358), Barry Howard ($1,192), David Stone ($1,089.50) and Jeffrey Harryman ($1,000). Each player earned $606 in prize money.

The spring session of the MJC Champions Handicapping Tournament was won by Thomas Camann of Providence, R.I., who chose a berth in the BCBC. Other winners from the spring tournament were Frederick Cipriano (BIG ONE), Hewett Andrews (NHC) and Steven Scalco (NHC).

A First Time Starter at the Wynn Handicapping Challenge

“Here were two tournament veterans wanting in on my action.  A far cry from just wanting to avoid embarrassing myself. “

By Justin Dew

A social media friend of mine pointed out to me that when one’s name is misspelled publically, it’s thought to be a sign of good luck.  Perhaps that’s what led to my 7th place finish in the Wynn Handicapping Challenge.  Or perhaps it was “Misspelled Name’s Luck” better known cousin, Beginner’s Luck.  Regardless, my experience in my first ever $2 Win/Place format tournament with an actual cash prize on the line has brought me to the conclusion that I am going to be taking part in these events for a long time to come.

The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge was my first handicapping tournament of any kind, and since then I have participated in several online qualifiers.  But the 2017 Wynn Handicapping Challenge was the first time I had ever competed for real money, other than the live money BCBC.  I am typically not a big goal setter, so I aimed low for the Wynn event: don’t embarrass yourself.  With $64 in mythical wagers each of two days, I would have been perfectly happy earning a score of $128.10 and looking at my lost $2,000 entry fee as an investment in my education.  Seriously.  My expectations were that low.  Especially after trying and failing to qualify for the event online four times at an additional cost of about $800.

I downloaded the Saratoga and Del Mar past performances on Thursday before my flight from Orlando to Las Vegas, but other than a cursory glance to get a feel for what the respective cards had in store, I didn’t do one second of handicapping before the event.  Not one second.  I am a huge believer in avoiding paralysis through analysis, and my limited experience in online qualifies has shown me how frustrating it can be to warm up to a horse at 12-1 on the morning line, see that horse open at 6-1, find another horse at better odds, and then watch the first horse win at 10-1.  So I knew I didn’t want to make any emotional commitments to any horse before I had a chance to see the tote board.  And with more than 30 minutes between races at Saratoga, I knew I’d have plenty of time to handicap.  So I essentially went in blind.

Me and my iPad arrived at the Wynn Sportbook about an hour before the Friday opener at the Spa.  There was no assigned seat for me since I had just registered that morning.  I was placed at a small table with two other guys who would become friends by the end of the weekend.  We will call them Scott and Brian since I neglected to get their permission to use their real names for this little story.  Scott and Brian were playing as a partnership.  I had seen Scott’s name on tournament leaderboards before.

With 30 selections over two days, I’ll spare you a breakdown of each horse I used and stick to the highlights.  After running last and second last with my first two plays, I used my one daily $4 Win and Place wager in the 3rd from Saratoga [Wynn rules allow one ‘double bet’ each day].  I wish I had kept the PPs from both days so I could tell you why I picked the horse, but I didn’t.  Anyway, Hardened won and paid $18.80 and $7.90.  Since I “fired my big bullet,” that horse was worth $53.40 to me.  After only three races, I knew I was near the top of the leaderboard, which I wouldn’t be able to actually see until the end of the day, per Wynn rules.  The Saratoga card would end with me only scoring on one other horse: Petrov, who paid $7.60 and $4.40.

In the 4th at Del Mar, Into Rissa (if I remember correctly) was moving into state-bred company from open maiden special weights company at about 12-1.  She ran 2nd and paid $10.20 to place.  I had used a short-priced winner earlier on the card and then blanked from there.  So I scored with four of 15 picks and had a Day 1 score of $85.80, good for 16th place out of 241 contestants.  When the Day 1 results were posted, I was identified at J. Drew.  My social media friends had a field day.

I approached Day 2 pretty much the same way.  Minimal prep and low expectations.  And I struck early and hard.  After initially planning to skip the first three races, I ended up playing them and making a move that would make me a contender for the victory.  In the 2nd race at Saratoga, an Al Stall Churchill shipper caught my eye, so I fired my $4 bullet and he won at 6-1.  Behavioral Bias paid $15.60 and $6.60, times two.  And in the very next day, me and my tablemates Scott and Brian both used 9-1 winner Estrechada.  Javiar Castellano had now won two in a row for me, and I was up to $74.00 for the day and $159.80 for the tournament.  The table celebrated together.

It was after the next race, the 4th from Saratoga, that things got interesting.  Scott and Brian used a Mott first-timer named Trumpi who won and paid $47.40 and $20.20.  This put them up near the $150 range, and right into contention with me.  Just then, as I started to handicap the 5th race, I noticed Scott motioning Brian to follow him out in to the casino.  I figured they were going to come back and inform me that tournament protocol dictated that we had to either switch tables or stop talking openly about our opinions since both parties were now in contention for some serious cash.  I was wrong.  They returned to the table and a fresh round of Diet Cokes (I think both of them combined for between 30-40 Diet Cokes over the weekend).  Scott said “So Justin.  We figure you are in the lead and we are in the Top 5.  How about we each agree to hedge for 10% of each other’s winnings, and we keep playing openly like we have been?”  Wow.  Here were two tournament veterans wanting in on my action.  A far cry from just wanting to avoid embarrassing myself.  I agreed, and it was on to the rest of the Saratoga card.

I would only hit three more horses from my remaining 11 selections.  The highlight for me was a D. Wayne Lukas runner in the 11th race named Warrior’s Club, who almost stole the race at 26-1 before Neolithic ran him down.  That extra $54 would have come in handy, but I settled for the $11.60 place payout.  I did manage to score with my final two picks, adding about $20 or so.  After two days, I had accumulated a score of $189.20.  Scott and Brian were in the low $160 range.  It was all over.  Time to wait.

It took about 45 minutes for the final results to be posted.  The people sitting around me speculated that I had a shot at the Top 20.  I was letting myself dream about maybe the Top 15.  Though I was fully prepared to be disappointed by a 25th-place finish, which would have been out of the money and out of the Top 10 percent.

But I was not to be disappointed.  I had finished in 7th place overall.  Scott and Brian also cracked the Top 20 and took home some cash.  My finish was worth $8,500, minus the 10% cut for Scott and Brian, plus 10% of their winnings to me.  I was absolutely stunned.  I never expected to perform so well.  It was truly beyond my wildest expectations.   In a room full of people who had done this many, many times before and who in some cases were viewing multiple laptops at once as they analyzed replays and charts, I had somehow managed to finish 7th without even looking at the past performances until there were 30 minutes to post.  I’ll say it again: I was stunned.

Scott and Brian invited me to the Wynn buffet, where I literally pinched myself half-a-dozen times just to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming.  To be honest, while the money was nice and will fund my return to the BCBC this year, what I really was excited about was knowing that I can compete with the best handicappers on the tournament circuit.  Maybe not every time.  Maybe not even most of the time.  But at least this time.  For at least a race or two, I was in the lead against 241 other handicappers.  And I ended up beating 97% of the field.  Was it Beginner’s Luck?  I guess time will tell.