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.



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.

FREE Online Tournament to follow Championship Event

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today that it will host a free, online handicapping contest at ntra.com that will allow fans to follow along with the action at next week’s $1.6 million Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) at Treasure Island Las Vegas. In its 13th year, the National Handicapping Championship is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers.

The one-day “Play Along With the Pros” contest will offer a $1,000 prize pool to the top five finishers plus free 2012 NHC Tour memberships to the top 20 finishers. There is a limit of one entry per person. “Play Along With the Pros” will take place on Saturday, January 28, which is the second and final day of the NHC. Contestants must make mythical $2 win and place wagers on eight designated mandatory races. The eight races selected will be same as those chosen for mandatory play on Day 2 at the NHC. For more information, visit http://games.ntra.com.

Prize Structure for “Play Along With the Pros” contest:

$1,000 pool

1st: $500


3rd: $150

4th: $100

5th: $50

“’Play Along With the Pros’ is designed to expose the NHC to players who may not be familiar with the excitement of tournament play,” said Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of the NTRA. “It also gives fans the chance to see how they stack up with some of the outstanding handicappers battling for the $1 million grand prize at Treasure Island.”

The NHC Tour is a yearlong bonus series offering additional prize money and qualifying berths to the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. Tour members receive NHC Tour points for top finishes in NHC qualifying events held during the year. Registration for the 2012 NHC Tour will begin shortly.

Finishing 10th on the 2011 NHC Tour Leaderboard

Rich Nilsen, founder of AGameofSkill.com, finished the year in 10th place overall on the NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) Tour leaderboard, based on 9,075 points. Designed to create added interest in handicapping tournaments throughout the year, the Tour is based on players’ best five finishes in contests. Tour membership costs $45/year from the NTRA, and this also gives players access to some free online tournaments during the course of the year.

Paul Shurman, an attorney from New York, accumulated over 13,000 points which earned him the title of the NHC Tour Champion. For his win Shurman earned the $75,000 grand prize. He is now eligible for a $2 million bonus as the Tour champ if he goes on to win the NHC at the end of the month.

“Winning the NHC Tour is certainly the highlight of my handicapping career,” said Shurman. “Many of the most respected handicappers in North America are Tour members and compete for the Tour championship.  It is very gratifying to know I can be competitive with some of the best and that on this occasion, I was fortunate enough to come out on top. Playing in handicapping tournaments and on the Tour has not only helped me hone my handicapping skills, but most importantly, has led to many friendships that I believe will last a lifetime.”

In past years Shurman and Nilsen were part of a 3-player expert panel that managed the Players’ Pool syndicate, a group wagering fund that would go after large Pick-6 carryovers.



“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

9 Step Plan to Grow Horse Racing

McKinsey & Company was commissioned to look at what the horse racing industry needs to turn things around. The result was a report titled “Driving Sustainable Growth for Thoroughbred Racing and Breeding”  which was released at the annual Round Table Conference at Saratoga Race Course in August.  The consulting company reported that  if changes aren’t made soon, by 2020 pari-mutuel handle will decline by 25%, owners’ losses will jump 50%, and only 25% fewer racetracks will be viable.


The Jockey Club – not the NTRA – is going to put five years of funding, which amounts to millions of industry dollars, ito this important project.

Some of the ideas include:
  • fewer but higher quality race days
  • innovative wagering platforms
  • integrated rewards systems
  • improved television coverage for racing
  • free-to-play online games to educate the public
Many, if not most, of these items have been discussed publicly before but little to no action has taken place. What else is new? It is good to see that a concrete plan is soon to be implemented. However one has to question the amount of funding that might be funneled into this project.

Read more: Full details from The Blood-Horse

Ray Paulick’s commentary on this “Common Sense” plan

UK’s “Rewards4Racing” Membership Program

Ascot racecourse in UKHow is this for simple yet innovative? Once you purchase a ticket to the track in the UK, you can join the Rewards4Racing club. Then, you can earn Rewards4Racing Points from purchases at over 200 top online retailers. All the points you earn can be used to pay or part pay for tickets, upgrades, parking, racecards, food and drink vouchers and unique racing experiences at each of The Jockey Club’s racecourses in the UK.

“The rewards program, which gives customers of Jockey Club Racecourses the opportunity to earn points which they can redeem at all 14 of the group’s racecourses, has broken the 75,000 member mark less than six months since its inception.”  When is the NTRA going to implement this type of program?

“Anyone who purchases a ticket for any meeting at one of The Jockey Club’s 14 racecourses can join Rewards4Racing for free.”  [READ MORE about this innovative horse racing marketing program]