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.

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

Ray Arsenault holds off Wolfson to win Handicapper of the Year title

NHC18 Champ Ray Arsenaulby Rich Nilsen

Two friends of mine, Ray Arsenault and Stephen Wolfson Jr., finished 1-2 in the 2017 National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas.  They are two of the most liked guys on the NHC tournament scene.  Arsenault, a veteran of the tournament scene from Canada, takes homes $800,000 and the Handicapper of the Year title!

Ryan Scharnowske barely made the top 66 to reach day three and then catapulted all the way to a third place showing, proving you should never give up.  Congrats to all the money winners this weekend, as well as everyone who made it to the Big Dance in Vegas.  Here is a link showing the final contest race and Ray’s celebration.

2017 NHC LUXAIR Jets Leaderboard – Final Table

As of Mandatory 7 – OFFICIAL

1 Ray Arsenault-1 407.7
2 Stephen Wolfson, Jr.-1 361.1
3 Ryan Scharnowske **-2 320.2
4 Louis  Filoso-2 309.3
5 Dan Kovalesky-1 308.7
6 Steve Hartshorn-1 299.4
7 Joe Jarvie-2 284.1
8 Frank Mustari-1 279.4
9 David Bernal-1 270.8
10 Michael Caposio-1 265.4

Day 3 Finalists for the 2017 National Handicapping Championship

The following individuals were in position to move on and have a chance at the $800,000 grand prize in Las Vegas on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.  This is the leaderboard in the closing hour of today’s contest.

1 Dan Kovalesky-1 260.8
2 Ray Arsenault-1 254.3
3 Frank Mustari-1 251.4
4 Eliot Honaker-1 248.5
5 Michael Ray-1 246.5
6 Sheldon Usprech-1 243.9
7 Kevin Jones-1 231.8
8 Travis Pearson-1 227.3
9 Paul Matties, Sr.-1 221.3
10 Brendan Fay-1 220.4
11 Stephen Wolfson, Jr.-1 220.3
12 Pat Nufrio-1 217.7
13T John Nichols-1 217.1
13T Ken Seeman-1 217.1
15 Louis  Filoso-2 214.7
16 Cheryl Kaufman-1 211.8
17 Dan Flanigan-1 208.2
18 David Bernal-1 207.2
19 Matthew Rentze-1 206.6
20T Dennis Johnson-1 206.5
20T Chris  Olsson-1 206.5
22T Paul Fishman-1 206.4
22T Duke Matties-1 206.4
24 Anthony Altomonte-1 206.1
25 Harlan Malter-1 206
26 Michael Caposio-1 203
27 Sally Goodall **-2 202.9
28 Paul Hughes-1 202.5
29 George Duarte-2 201.8
30 Geoffrey Schutt-1 201.3
31 Mitch Schuman-2 201.2
32 Steve Arrison-2 200.3
33 Bill Rendino-2 200
34 Kevin Willett-1 199.7
35 Matthew Reid-1 198.1
36 Allan Sadler **-2 197.6
37 Gary Russell-1 194.9
38 Lawrence Bergen-1 194.6
39 Greg DuBos-1 194.4
40 Gwyn Houston-1 194.3
41 Bobby Shoemaker-1 193.2
42 Thomas O’Connor-1 192.4
43 Richard Goodall-1 191.7
44 Gary Gristick **-2 191.3
45T Chris Larmey-1 191
45T Timothy Downs-2 191
47 Steve Hartshorn-1 190.4
48 John Osterbauer-1 189.9
49 Jason Avila-1 189.6
50 Randy Bauer-1 189.5
51 Derek Dickson-1 189
52 David Conover-1 188.6
53 Allan Sadler **-1 187.1
54 Stanley  Bavlish-1 186.7
55 Shawn Heron-2 186.3
56 Peter McFarland-1 186.1
57 Darrell Stanley-1 184.2
58 Bryan Carney-1 183.8
59 Peter Dresens-1 183.6
60 Jeffrey Jolliffe-1 183.4
61 Ryan Scharnowske **-2 183
62 Allan Schaffer-1 182.6
63 Jon Hurd-1 181.8
64 Mike Coutu-1 181.5
65T Ron  Tackett-1 180.8
65T Tony Zhou **-1 180.8

Texas Gastroenterologist Wins 1st Half of NHC Tour



 LEXINGTON, Ky.  – Joe Johnson, of San Antonio, Texas, rode the lone speed of Laoban all the way to a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry as the winner of the National Handicapping Championship (NHC) Tour’s “First Half,” which concluded Sunday, July 31st.

By pegging that 27-1 winner of the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga Race Course, Johnson vaulted himself to an 11th-place finish in a Free-to-Play online qualifier presented by the NTRA on NHCQualify.com, good for 2,851 points on the day and a final tally of 13,578 points on the “First Half” leaderboard. The “First Half” top five – each of whom received either a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry worth $10,000 or the equivalent in cash – was rounded out by Gary McMaster (12,969 points), Cheryl McIntyre (12,617), Rick Broth (12,555), and Kevin Engelhard (12,199).

“First Half” totals are comprised of points earned in a player’s top four finishes, at least one of which must have come in an on-site contest, through July 31. Results became official Wednesday at the conclusion of a three-day audit period.

NHC generic logoJohnson, 59, a gastroenterologist, amassed his score with a March 13 win on HorseTourneys.com (in a field of 290 entries) worth 3,688 points; a March 20 win on BetAmerica (281 entries) worth 3,631 points; a third-place finish in the July 23 live contest at Woodbine (86 entries) worth 1,908 points; and the 11th-place finish on Saturday against a field of 1,810 other entries in the final major contest of the First Half.

His effort north of the border was Johnson’s first and only attempt of the year in an on-site tournament.

“I played at Woodbine just so I could get that in-person score,” he said. “I’ve been pushing for this for some months now and it feels good to have it happen.”

Johnson also backed Laoban on multiple entries in another contest Saturday, on DRF Tournaments, finishing first and second while earning his second BCBC entry of the year as a result. With the maximum of two BCBC entries in his own name already secured, Johnson will receive $10,000 cash for his NHC Tour “First Half” exploits.

“I hate to say I had some luck because we like to think it’s all skill but things broke just right for me,” Johnson said. “It really worked out well. I was only aiming for the top five but to win feels great.”

Now Johnson will turn his attention to the overall, year-long NHC Tour leaderboard, where he sits in second with 16,616 points, just behind Engelhard, the current leader with 16,783. The overall NHC Tour leaderboard incorporates a player’s top six scores. First prize for the NHC Tour is $75,000 and comes with a trophy and the chance to play for a $2 million bonus should the NHC Tour winner go on to win NHC 18 in January. There is also a new “$3,000,000 NHC Tour Double” bonus for anyone that can complete a sweep of the BCBC and the NHC.

“Of course I’ve got to go for all of that,” Johnson said. “That’s what we do this for.”

The top 150 NHC Tour finishers earn automatic berths to the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping contest, the NHC, set for Jan. 27-29, 2017, at Treasure Island Las Vegas, provided that each individual has not already won an NHC entry. The top 20 share in a $175,000 prize pool, from $75,000 (plus a trophy and an automatic berth to NHC 19) for the NHC Tour champion to $1,000 for 20th, and the top 40 get to play for a $25,000 bonus that goes to the qualifier with the highest finish at NHC 18.

Here’s more of what we know about the rest of the top five “First Half” finishers after Johnson and whether they’re accepting a BCBC entry or taking $10,000 cash:

McMaster, of Etobicoke, Ontario, won live contests at Woodbine and Arlington Park this summer. He already holds a BCBC spot and has elected to take $10,000 cash.

McIntyre, of Massillon, Ohio, is an eight-time NHC qualifier. She has already earned four BCBC entries in 2016 (although only two can be played in her name) and will, therefore, receive $10,000 cash.

Broth, of Dunwoody, Ga., is a sales manager for an acoustical tile manufacturer. The 58-year-old made his NHC debut in January at NHC 17. He has co-owned several quality horses with trainer Ronny Werner, including Lady of Shamrock, a multiple Grade 1 winner after they sold her as a 2-year-old. Broth already held a BCBC berth he earned by winning Keeneland’s Grade One Gamble in April and will take $10,000 cash.

Engelhard, of Franklin Park, N.J., is a seven-time NHC qualifier. The 63-year-old is the current NHC Tour leader. He has accepted a BCBC entry.

On the compact “First Half” leaderboard, eight players – including elite names like Joe Pettit, Bill Shurman, Garett Skiba, Eric Moomey and Sally Goodall – finished within 1,000 points of making the top five.

The complete final “First Half” standings with scores for all 2,633 NHC Tour members that earned points so far this year can be viewed online.

The NHC Tour’s “Second Half” starts this weekend with a clean slate separate from the overall standings. The top five on the NHC Tour leaderboard from Aug. 1 toJan. 1 will each be awarded a $10,000 cash prize. This weekend’s plethora of contest offerings include the two-day (Friday and Saturday) $200,000-guaranteed Wynn Las Vegas Handicapping Challenge (2 NHC spots); Saturday’s “All-Optional” contest on HorseTourneys.com (3 spots minimum); Saturday’s “Second Chance” contest (a qualifier for the 2-spot championship Oct. 1) at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas; Sunday’s Free-to-Play online contest (4 spots) presented by the NTRA at NHCQualify.com; and another Sunday contest (2 spots guaranteed) at NHCQualify.com.

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

About the NHC

In its 18th year, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers and is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino race books, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping Web sites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals. Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards. In addition to the founding title sponsor, the NHC is presented by host casino Treasure Island Las Vegas.

About the BCBC

Now entering its eighth year, the $1 million-estimated BCBC has become one of the most sought after prizes on the tournament calendar. The BCBC, which offers 15 seats to the NHC in addition to cash prizes, is a highly lucrative and exclusive live bankroll handicapping contest with a $10,000 buy-in required to participate. Players enjoy first class access to the two best days of racing in the world with VIP seats that include buffet lunch each day and other amenities. Online and on-site qualifying tournaments, offering $10,000 berths into the BCBC as prizes, continue throughout the summer and fall leading to the November Breeders’ Cup. For more on the BCBC, visit www.breederscup.com/bcbc.

About the NTRA

THE NTRA is a broad-based coalition of more than 100 horse racing interests and thousands of individual stakeholders consisting of horseplayers, racetrack operators, owners, breeders, trainers and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity, welfare and integrity of Thoroughbred racing through consensus-based leadership, legislative advocacy, safety and integrity initiatives, fan engagement and corporate partner development. The NTRA, Based in Lexington, Ky., owns and manages the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance; NTRA.com; the NTRA Top Thoroughbred and NTRA Top 3-Year-Old weekly media polls; the Eclipse Awards; the National Handicapping Championship; NTRA Advantage, a corporate partner sales and sponsorship program; and Horse PAC, a federal political action committee. NTRA press releases appear on NTRA.com, Twitter (@ntra) and Facebook (facebook.com/1NTRA).

$25 NHC Qualifier Friday (Oct. 14) at DerbyWars.com

Win a spot to the $2 million NHC at DerbyWars.com this Friday for only $25. There are prizes down to 68th place which makes this contest an incredible value.