Inside Horse Racing’s ‘Hunger Games’ in Las Vegas – Rolling Stone

NHC18 Champ Ray Arsenaul

NHC18 Champ Ray Arsenault

RollingStone.com: Inside Horse Racing’s ‘Hunger Games’ in Las Vegas

The NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas brings together an assortment of horseplayers from all over the world. and more »

Source: Inside Horse Racing’s ‘Hunger Games’ in Las Vegas – Rolling Stone

Easy Way for Bettors to Contact the United States Treasury Department

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) has announced that a system has been established at https://www.ntra.com/comment for individuals to submit an e-mail comment directly to the United States Treasury Department in support of newly proposed regulations related to withholding and reporting of pari-mutuel winnings.

Washington DC The proposed regulations, which would replace outdated regulations adopted nearly 40 years ago, more accurately reflect today’s pari-mutuel wagering environment and will positively impact a significant percentage of winning wagers, particularly those involving multi-horse or multi-race exotic wagers. It is believed that the proposed changes will result in tens of millions of dollars in additional pari-mutuel wagering annually. If adopted, the new regulations will not only  promote greater compliance and more accurate reporting and withholding by taxpayers but also reduce burdensome and needless paperwork system-wide.

Efforts spearheaded by the NTRA on behalf of the industry over the past two and a half years came to fruition on December 30 when Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published proposed guidelines designed to modernize withholding and reporting regulations. The 31-page Treasury document, “Withholding on Payments of Certain Gambling Winnings,” clarifies the phrase “the amount of the wager” to include the entire amount wagered into a specific pari-mutuel pool by an individual–not just the winning base unit as is the case today.

In the NTRA’s official response to Treasury on behalf of the industry, submitted Wednesday, NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop thanked the Treasury and IRS for recognizing the need to modernize regulations related to the withholding and reporting of pari-mutuel winnings and noted that the newly proposed regulations sufficiently address the industry’s concerns. Waldrop asked the Treasury and IRS to enact the new regulations as quickly as possible following a 90-day comment period that concludes on March 30.

This will positively impact a significant percentage of winning wagers, particularly those involving multi-horse or multi-race exotic wagers.

“With horseracing’s all-important Triple Crown season fast approaching, the NTRA urges Treasury and the Service to adopt the proposed regulations as final regulations as soon as it is administratively feasible. Horseplayers, tracks and other industry stakeholders, including governments, are eager to begin reaping the benefits that will result from these updated withholding and reporting rules,” Waldrop said.

The public comment system at NTRA.com/comment provides each person with a clear, consistent message asking the Treasury to adopt the proposed regulations and urging prompt action.

“A unified message of support is critical as the industry urges Treasury and the IRS to finalize the proposed regulations,” Waldrop added. “We ask all who participate in the horse racing industry to submit a comment to Treasury and the IRS using the NTRA system so that we can send the message loud and clear that all of horse racing supports these changes.”

2016 NHC Tour Comes Down to 5 Tournaments this Weekend

NHC TOUR LEADERBOARD ON THE LINE

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Thursday, December 29, 2016) – The 2016 NHC Tour’s cash prize pool of $315,000 as well as eligibility for additional bonuses at the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping tournament – the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC), Jan. 27-29 at Treasure Island Las Vegas – will come down to five final events this weekend. A Saturday contest on NHCQualify.com, three days of qualifiers at Del Mar’s Surfside Race Place, and a New Year’s Day grand finale at Monmouth Park represent the only remaining chances for players to accrue NHC Tour points and increase their potential prize money.

The top 20 finishers on the NHC Tour will share in $175,000 of prize money, with the 2016 NHC Tour champion taking home $75,000, a trophy, and an automatic berth to the NHC 19 in January 2018. Second place will take home $20,000 and a trophy. The remainder of the cash prize pool is scaled from $15,000 for third down to $1,000 for 20th.

nhc final table vegasNHC Tour veteran Cheryl McIntyre enters the final weekend of play in first place with 19,898 points, more than 1,000 ahead of Tony Zhou in second with 18,698.

A separate “Second Half” prize pool will pay $10,000 to each of the top five finishers based only on results posted after August 1. Sam Alipio holds the edge in that race, though any top-five finish returns the same prize amount.

The top 150 NHC Tour point leaders receive an automatic berth to NHC 18 in four weeks (those that have already qualified do not receive an additional berth). The top 40 NHC Tour finishers will compete for the $25,000 Tour Bonus, which goes to the individual within that group with the highest finish at NHC 18.

Two lucrative bonuses restricted to specific players will also be decided this weekend. Friday’s NHCQualify.com tournament, the year’s final online qualifier, will determine shares of a $25,000 “Cyber Stars” bonus pool for the top five players based on NHC Tour points earned on NHCQualify.com, with $10,000 to the winner plus eligibility for a $1 million bonus should that player go on to win NHC 18. A $15,000 “Rookie” bonus pool will go to the top five player that signed up for the NHC Tour for the first time in 2016, with $5,000 to first.

George Chute, 15th in the overall NHC Tour standings, leads the “Cyber Stars” standings, while Peter Dresens, 47th overall, is the “Rookie” leader.

Full standings for the 2016 NHC Tour and the bonus divisions can be accessed online via the NTRA website at https://www.ntra.com/nhc/leaders.

Online registration for the 2017 NHC Tour opens Sunday, Jan. 1, at nhctour.com.

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

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

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).

$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

The Evolution of the NTRA/DRF National Handicapping Championship (NHC)

NHC star and NTRA’s Players Committee member Ross Gallo takes a comprehensive look at the history of the National Handicapping Championship.

The Beginning
Once upon a time, near the end of the last century, a group of horse racing dignitaries* that included my brother Randy Gallo, Steve Crist and Mandy Minger of the DRF, and professional handicapper Dave “The Maven” Gutfreund among others, gathered in a room at The Orleans in Las Vegas.  This distinguished group would go on to lay the groundwork for what would become the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), a tournament like no other that was designed for the players.

 

NHC generic logo The basic idea was for racetracks and OTB facilities around the country to host handicapping tournaments that produced four qualifiers.  These tournaments would pay back 100% of all entry fees, and the qualifiers would receive an all-expenses paid trip to the NHC finals in Las Vegas to participate in one big money final tournament.  At long last, we the players, the backbone of the industry but invariably treated as the ugly step-child, had something created with just our interests in mind. This premise was very appealing to horseplayers on a financial and ego basis.  With only about 200 spots available in the early years, qualifying was quite an accomplishment, and to this day the NHC is still our only tournament that you must qualify for to play in.

 

That first tournament offered a top prize of $100,000, which was great, but payoffs only went down to 10th place.  This pales in comparison to where we are now (which I’ll be covering soon), but still more than decent money.  I’d like to relate a story from that inaugural event, that is an illustration of how having our own national championship immediately changed the psyche of everyone involved.  Maury Wolff is a friend of my brothers.  He is/was one of the most respected horse handicappers in this country, and has made a great living in this game.  He qualified for that first NHC, but he wasn’t a tournament player per se and the $100,000 wasn’t going to change his life.

 

Maury had a dismal first day, I think he had $15 or something close to that, and at dinner that night I asked him if he was disappointed.  He replied, “I can’t express to you how little I care about this tournament.”  Well, on day two, Maury had one of the best days the NHC has ever seen, and in the last race of the contest, he correctly chose the winner, a 9-1 shot if I recall correctly.  He proceeded to jump with joy like a child as the horse crossed the finish line, thinking he won the tournament.  Unfortunately (for him), Steven Walker, a great player from the Midwest, had the same horse and he would become a worthy first champion.  Maury had to settle for second, but I will never forget the unbridled display of emotion that he showed that day, something I had never seen before or since from him.  I am not telling this story to make Maury look contradictory in his words and actions, and please if you’re reading this Maury, don’t take it that way.  I’m certain he really didn’t care all that much, but when he realized he may have won the NHC?  That is an ego boost that none of us could resist.  Do you know a horseplayer without an ego?  I don’t, and guilty as charged.

 

The NTRA
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association was formed in 1998, and their goals were simple and clear and paved with good intentions.  They were going to promote racing and try to attract some new fans to our great game.  Also, they would attempt to bring some uniformity to an industry that couldn’t be more splintered, with racing jurisdictions in Kentucky, New York, Illinois, Florida and California et al, playing by their own individual rules.

 

Imagine football, baseball or basketball games where the rules change every night depending on where the games are played.  In any other walk of life that would be called anarchy, but we call it Thoroughbred racing.  At first the tracks were all for it, with nearly all of them signing up with the NTRA and paying their dues. It didn’t take long for everyone involved to realize that the undertaking of getting these different interests to agree on anything was akin to herding cats.  And after just a few years their “Go baby go!” slogan unfortunately got up and went.

 

The NHC was a noble creation, but in the early years it was more of an annoyance to the NTRA.  They had bigger fish to fry.  This is only my opinion, but I was around for most of them and I believe they felt their time was better spent on the bigger issues, not securing venues and overseeing such a large undertaking every January.  I suppose I can’t blame them for that, but fortunately that mood changed as more and more tracks began pulling out of the NTRA.  Ultimately, the NHC became top priority, and I think few would argue that the NTRA would have ceased to exist without it.

 

Times are changing
The landscape of the NTRA was changing, and even more so the NHC.  The practice of 100% payback to the players at qualifying tournaments was short-lived.  I for one wasn’t happy about it, but I absolutely understood the reason.  At first, if you could get 100 players or more into your building to play in a tournament, you could count on serious handle through the windows.  This would offset costs and often times the tracks or OTB’s would make money or at least break even from the one or two-day event.

 

Las Vegas sportsbook contest Unfortunately a perfect storm was on the horizon.  The emergence of rebate shops led to the handle at tournaments falling off precipitously.  Most players were gambling on the phone or online, and it was at this same time that online tournaments began to take hold.  The convenience of playing from home could not be ignored.  As a result attendance at the brick and mortar tournaments began to wane as well and they were now looking to make money from the players through entry fee drags to cover expenses.  It was either that or cancel their tournaments completely, which many did.  So most live tournaments weren’t paying back anything close to 100-percent of entry fees and the online tournaments were all making money.  [Editor’s Note: One of the few exceptions are the NYRA tournaments which still pay back 100% of the entry fees].   This practice angered many, including yours truly; but this country was built on free enterprise, and the growth that resulted for the NHC was immediate and substantial.

 

With the revenue generated by NHC Qualify and other sites, the NTRA could charge higher fees per qualifying spot.  The original purse was $200,000, the top prize $100,000 and it remained that way for the first five years.  When the internet became a major player, the increases were immediate and have continued every year since with new sites popping up out of the woodwork. This year’s NHC will have an estimated purse of over $2.6 million.  The original 200 entry field will swell to over 600!  Personal value has decreased though, and this is not up for debate.  If you play and qualify on NHC Qualify, you get the trip and entry into the tournament but no prize money.  This is bad personal value, and I for one do not participate in any tournaments that choose to take this route.

 

My brother drummed in my head to play value from a young age.  He has made a living playing jackpot carryovers where your dollar is worth more than a dollar.  At NHCQualify.com your dollar is worth about 70 cents.  However, there is also no denying that they are one of the main contributors to the NHC’s massive growth.  The prize money is huge now and interest is at an all time high and shows no signs of slowing down; even a cynic cannot argue that the current direction is not successful.  They built it and we have come.

 

I am a member of the NTRA’s Players Committee and have been since it was formed.  We are a varied group of knowledgeable horse players from all points of the compass.  We are not paid.  We rarely agree on everything, but one thing we are all in agreement on is trying to make the both NHC and this game better.  We have meetings and debate many subjects and eventually come up with a consensus, and at the end we all support the majority even if it wasn’t the idea we personally had in mind, because we believe it is for the greater good.  The NTRA always has final say, but very often they relent, if they can, to our suggestions.

 

Ron Rippey (Left), Mike Mayo (Right)

Ron Rippey (Left), Mike Mayo (Right)

Mike Mayo was our original chairman, and he was a wonderful leader.  He passed away in 2014 and I miss him everyday.  He left his mark all over the NHC and last year he was one of the two original inductees into the newly formed NHC Hall of Fame with former NHC Champ, the late Ron Rippey.  Chris Larmey, one of the best players in the world is our leader now, and he has continued Mike’s legacy of excellence.  The NHC has changed drastically over the last several years and one could argue that most of the changes have been for the better.

 

The creation of the NHC Tour has increased interest and NTRA memberships have gone up every year since it began.  The NHC itself has been expanded to three days from two, with only the top 10% surviving to play on day three, and finally the top ten entrants midway through day three, making for a seven-race dash to the wire.

 

Perhaps the biggest and most significant change occurred two years ago when players were allowed to qualify twice a year, a move I was very much against because it took away the level playing field the NHC had always had, one entry one person.  But again, I understood the reasoning, and it, of course, worked quite well.  In the past players that would qualify earlier in the year would oftentimes shut it down, but now with the opportunity to qualify again, they would keep playing.  Couple that with the guys chasing the Tour prizes, the monster purse in Vegas, the new players that have been brought to the game, and tournament participation stays vigorous throughout the year.

 

What does the future hold?
The future looks bright for the NHC.  The Daily Racing Form purchased NHC Qualify last year and they qualified a record amount of players, I’m sure you can count on more and more qualifying tournaments this coming year.  More spots equals a bigger purse for the NHC, but also bigger profits for the parties involved.  This tournament that was created FOR the players, has been built BY the players.  I am ecstatic that the NHC has grown to what it is and am excited to see where it can eventually go, but it should be renamed, The Players Championship.  The NTRA, DRF, NHC Qualify and others deserve credit for the vision they showed adapting to the times and persevering to success, but never lose sight of the fact that it is your dollars that are funding the growth.

 

Players Brad & Howard at the 2015 NHC

Players Brad & Howard at the 2015 NHC

The NHC is still played under hypothetical rules, which means, scores are accumulated using track payoffs, and correct picks add to the player’s score.  In recent years, real money tournaments have become popular with players and the venues.  The reasons for the venue are obvious; the players are being “forced” to put their money through the windows, the scores are actually the player’s bankroll and the venue gets the handle.  Real-money has been directly responsible for some tracks and OTB’s to get back into the tournament game.  Theses tournaments are popular with the players because they have much more control of their fates during the tournament.

 

In hypothetical contests, if you get behind, many times you’re stuck playing hopeless longshots.  If you bring exactas and trifectas into the mix, your options increase exponentially, and real-money tournaments are more like day-to-day wagering.  I believe real-money is the future, and in turn attracting television could bring the NHC full circle, back to a tournament for the players.

 

If the prize money could be provided by a sponsor and not have to be generated by the players, then you would have a tournament that the people who came up with the idea in the first place, envisioned all along.  The change to a “Final Table” of ten was designed with TV in mind.  Keith Chamblin and Michele Ravencraft of the NTRA,  are always trying to look to the future to make the NHC bigger and better.  They work very well with The Players Committee and as I said before, they take our advice and implement suggestions when they can.

 

Poker has been our business model.  They blew up when they began to show the players hole cards.  We started that a couple of years ago at the final table, showing everyone which horse each player selected before the race went off.  The increasing excitement was palpable in the room and a great step in the right direction.  Poker focused on their colorful characters, and we can certainly hold our own with them on that front.  One thing they do have that we don’t is a mindless game.  Take the people reading skills out of it, anybody can learn the rules.  Anyone can play pocket rockets.

 

Horse racing is a cerebral game, ‘a game of skill,’ as my friend Rich Nilsen is telling you everyday.  That, unfortunately is our biggest obstacle in this short attention span, instant gratification world that we live in.  Eventually, we’ll figure it out, but until then things are not so bad.  The winner received $800,000 last year!  The overall purse has increased over ten times in just 16 years.  Where else in this game have they seen growth like that?  Nowhere.

 

If you didn’t make it to Vegas this year, check out the live podcast.  It really is pretty good and watching it will make you try harder to get there next year, I guarantee it!

* Editor’s note: Steve Wolfson, Sr., well known horseplayer and son of Harbor View Farm owner Louis Wolfson, was also instrumental in the creation of the NHC.

Record $2 Million Purse for the 2015 National Handicapping Championship (NHC)

NEW YORK CITY (Thursday, June 19, 2014) – The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) today announced that the estimated purse for the 16th Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC), presented by Racetrack Television Network, Sovereign Stable and Treasure Island Las Vegas, has been increased 25 percent to a record $2 million. The 2014 NHC purse was $1,590,000.

An additional $200,000 in previously announced prize money will be distributed as part of the 2014 NHC Tour, bringing the estimated NHC and NHC Tour purses to $2.2 million.

The purse increases are fueled by robust participation in NHC qualifying contests by NHC Tour members (Tour membership is a requirement to be eligible to qualify for the NHC).    
“Virtually all of our qualifying tournaments – onsite and online – continue to perform very well,” said Keith Chamblin, Senior Vice President of the NTRA. “We have more than 1,350 new Tour members thus far in 2014. The NHC will only grow as more people are introduced to tournament contests and experience the thrill of competing for a spot in Las Vegas and a chance at the winner’s share of $2 million in prize money. These are life-changing sums being offered to the top finishers.”
The 16th NHC will be held January 23-25, 2015 at Treasure Island Las Vegas. The 2014 NHC Tour schedule and the official rules for the 2015 NHC have been posted online at NHCTour.com. For the second year in a row, the Championship will feature a three-day format with a Final 50 and Final Table of 10.
Three tournaments scheduled for Saturday, June 21, offer NHC berths, including two online contests currently open for registration. DRF Bets (DRFBets.com) hosts the first of two Super Summer Challenge preliminary rounds leading to a July 5 final with four NHC spots up for grabs and HorseTourneys.com presents a “Live Format” NHC Qualifier with three guaranteed NHC entries available. The Belmont Park Handicapping Challenge at Belmont Park is sold out.
About the NHC
In its 16th year, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, Presented by Racetrack Television Network, Sovereign Stable and Treasure Island Las Vegas is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers. There are no “buy-in” entries at the NHC. It is the culmination of a yearlong series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino racebooks, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping websites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals. Every year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards. The 15 NHC Champions since the event’s inception, in chronological order, are Steven Walker, Judy Wagner, Herman Miller, Steve Wolfson Jr., Kent Meyer, Jamie Michelson, Ron Rippey, Stanley Bavlish, Richard Goodall, John Conte, Brian Troop, John Doyle, Michael Beychok, Jim Benes and Jose Arias.
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New Format Announced for $1.5M National Handicapping Championship in Vegas

“Final 50” and “Final Table” Segments to Highlight the New Third Day of Competition

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today the format for the $1.5 million- guaranteed Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) held at Treasure Island Las Vegas January 24-26, 2014.

Next January’s 15th annual renewal of the NHC will feature a number of firsts. The competition has been expanded to three days and will feature a “Final 50” and “Final Table” on Day 3 of the tournament. Players reaching the “Final 50” will each be guaranteed prize money and compete for a seat at the “Final Table,” which will feature a five-race competition. The individual advancing to the Final Table and accumulating the highest individual cumulative bankroll from his or her 45 mythical win-and-place wagers placed over the three days will receive an estimated $750,000 grand prize and an Eclipse Award as the Handicapper of the Year.

“The new three-day format is designed to preserve the many aspects of NHC competition that our players have said they appreciate most—including two full days of robust tournament play featuring both mandatory and optional plays—while generating new points of intrigue and excitement on Day 3, including the ‘Final 50’ and ‘Final Table’,” said Keith Chamblin, Senior Vice President of the NTRA. “These changes to the NHC have been some 18 months in the making and are being undertaken after extensive research, input and feedback from thousands of NHC tournament players. In particular, I want to thank the NHC Players’ Committee and its chairman, Mike Mayo, for the important work the committee performed in helping us identify and develop this new format.”

The first two days of the tournament will have a familiar feel to past NHC contestants. Each of the first two days—Friday, January 24 and Saturday, January 25—will consist of 15 mythical $2 win and place wagers from among contest tracks. On Days 1 and 2, eight of the 15 plays will be on designated mandatory races, and seven will be on optional races of each player’s choosing. There will be no $4 best bet wagers at the upcoming NHC.

The top 50 individual scorers at the conclusion of Day 2 will move on to the “Final 50” on Day 3. A player may earn as many as two entries into next January’s NHC. However, there will be a maximum of one entry per individual in the “Final 50”.  If a player has two entries placing among the top 50 scores after Day 2, the higher-scoring entry will move on to the Final 50, and the player will receive a cash bonus for his other entry.

Fiftieth place will serve as the NHC’s “money line”—which means that all 50 Day 3 finalists will be assured of a cash prize. All Day1/Day2 scoring totals will carry over to Day 3 for these finalists.

All those not in the top 50 at the end of Day 2 will have their scores reset to zero and be entered into a free, 10-race,  $60,000-guaranteed consolation tournament on Day 3.

The “Final 50” and Consolation competitions on Day 3 will take place simultaneously from approximately 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. local Pacific time. Each of the competitions will consist of $2 win and place plays on 10 races.  Three of the 10 plays will be on mandatory races, and seven will be optional race plays. The Final 50 and Consolation tournaments will utilize the same contest tracks and same mandatory races.

At the approximate 1:00 p.m. PT cutoff time, the Consolation tournament will conclude. Also at that point, the top 10 scorers (including any contestants tied for 10th place) will move on to the final segment of the NHC—the Final Table.  Those Top 50 contestants not advancing to the Final Table will have their final finishing positions determined based on their scores as of the 1:00 p.m. Day 3 cutoff.

Final Table participants will again have their running score totals carry over into the Final Table.  The Final Table segment will begin at approximately 2:00 p.m. PT (following a scoring audit) and consist of five $2 win and place selections—all on mandatory races.  All Final Table selections must be made no later than approximately three minutes to post time, and all selections will be publicly announced in advance of the race. Contestants will not know their opponents’ selections at the time their own selections are entered. Updated standings will be announced following each Final Table mandatory race.

NHC Tour membership is mandatory in order to earn an entry into the NHC Finals—the lucrative culmination of the year’s qualifying schedule. Signups for the 2013 NHC Tour are now being accepted. There is a one-time 2013 membership fee of $50.

Click here for the complete format and rules for NHC 15

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New Competitions Represent Final Opportunities to Qualify Online for NHC 14

“LAST CHANCE ONLINE TOURNEYS”—OFFERING UP TO 22 NHC SEATS—SLATED FOR JANUARY 5 AND JANUARY 12 AT NHCQUALIFY.COM

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today that NHCQualify.com will host two “Last Chance Online Tourneys” on Saturday, January 5 and Saturday, January 12. The tournaments will be the final chances for horseplayers to qualify online for the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship at Treasure Island Las Vegas on Friday and Saturday, January 25-26. The entry fee for both mythical-wager contests is $400. Players may purchase a maximum of two entries and the total number of entries for the tournament will be limited to 220.  One NHC seat will be offered for every 20 entries received. If each event sells out at 220 entries, then a total of 22 NHC seats will be awarded to the top finishers. Each person who qualifies for the NHC via the “Last Chance Online Tourney” will also receive hotel accommodations for three nights at Treasure Island and $500 in travel reimbursement. Registration for the “Last Chance Online Tourneys” is now open at NHCQualify.com.

nhc, nhc 2013, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, NTRA The “Last Chance Online Tourneys” will not count for 2012 or 2013 NHC Tour scoring purposes.

As is customarily the case, the absolute final opportunity to qualify for the upcoming NHC will be at the live, “Last Chance Tournament” at the NHC host venue, Treasure Island Las Vegas, on Thursday, January 24.

In just its 14th year, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship presented by Sovereign Stable and Treasure Island 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 is no option to “buy in” to the NHC Finals—all competitors must have earned the right to compete. 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. The 13 NHC Champions since the event’s inception, in chronological order, are Steven Walker, Judy Wagner, Herman Miller, Steve Wolfson Jr., Kent Meyer, Jamie Michelson, Ron Rippey, Stanley Bavlish, Richard Goodall, John Conte, Brian Troop, John Doyle and Michael Beychok.

The NTRA is a broad-based coalition of horse racing interests consisting of leading thoroughbred racetracks, owners, breeders, trainers, horseplayers and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity of horse racing and improving economic conditions for industry participants. The NTRA has offices in Lexington, Ky., and New York City. NTRA press releases appear on the NTRA web site, NTRA.com.

Horseplayers May Be Affected with Fiscal Cliff Negotiations

From the NTRA News Desk:

As part of the fiscal cliff negotiations, members of Congress and President Obama have recently proposed capping or otherwise limiting itemized deductions in an effort to raise revenue for the U.S. government. Some horseplayers may be negatively impacted if they are unable to fully deduct pari-mutuel wagering losses as itemized deductions.

Under current tax law, winnings from pari-mutuel wagering are fully taxable and must be reported on the taxpayer’s federal tax return. For most horseplayers, losses from pari-mutuel wagering in any tax year are only deductible as a miscellaneous itemized deduction and only up to the amount of their winnings in the same tax year. This is already a very burdensome requirement for horseplayers.

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) recently proposed a $50,000 maximum on total itemized deductions. Other proposals include limiting itemized deductions to a value of no more than a tax rate of 28 percent. Any of these proposals could be harmful to horseplayers unless all wagering losses are eligible to be deducted against winnings.

Congress has excluded gambling losses from past limitations on itemized deductions. The NTRA is working to ensure similar treatment in the current situation.

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.

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