Day 1 Notes from the Re-scheduled 2021 NHC in Las Vegas

Handicapper Colin Cummings leads the way into day two of the NHC after scoring $165.90 on Friday (day 1 of the NHC).  Track the live action during the day with the NTRA leaderboard link.

Top Trainer Broberg Makes Second NHC Appearance

Karl Broberg, among the winningest active trainers in North America and 13th all-time, is an NHC qualifier for the second year in a row.

“I feel about as confident as I did last year, which is not at all,” Broberg said. “You just have to catch fire on the right day.”

The prolific horseman had a six-year run as the continent’s top trainer from 2015 to 2020 and was second last year to Steve Asmussen. As of Friday afternoon Broberg had 273 wins in 2021. His career mark stands at 4,090.

According to Broberg, any perceived advantages that trainers might have – like inside intel on other horses – are irrelevant in handicapping contests.

“Trainers are the worst touts in the world,” he said. “You love your horse and you get tunnel vision. If anything, I think it’s a detriment, unfortunately.”

Broberg owns and trains Bustin Bay in Friday’s Race 6 at Saratoga, the NHC’s second mandatory race. By rule Broberg is not allowed to participate in that race and will instead play an alternate, the Race 8 finale at Del Mar.

Over the three days of the NHC, Broberg has horses entered at six different tracks, including Saratoga, where he has stalls for the first time this summer. The majority of Broberg’s training wins have come in Texas and Louisiana but his success has also allowed him to attract better stock from new owners.

Broberg has amassed a significant following on Twitter (@KarlBroberg) as a result of his unusually candid posts, which often include tips on his own horses and photos of winning tickets.

New Caesars/William Hill Rewards Program at Bally’s Las Vegas

NHC qualifiers who bet into the pari-mutuel pools will get more bang for their buck thanks to a new partnership between Caesars Entertainment, parent company of Bally’s Las Vegas, and William Hill, who operates the race and sports books at Caesar’s properties in Nevada. In addition to the traditional Caesar’s Rewards program, horseplayers can also participate in the William Hill Rewards Club, with 4% of one’s handle returned in the form of comps throughout the property.

NHC qualifiers who sign up for the William Hill Rewards Club will receive 5,000 credits for their first $50 wager. Those points can be used at the newly rebranded Caesars Race & Sportsbook or for dining and other perks around the Bally’s Las Vegas property.

“A lot of these NHC players are accustomed to rebates so I’m glad we can offer them something substantial while they are here playing with us,” said William Hill’s Director of Race Operations Steve Alford. “

“I’m sure I’ll reach out to these players and invite them back out here to see us again a few times during the year,” Alford said.

Gulf Coast Players Keep One Eye on Developing Hurricane

Louisiana always boasts a strong presence at the NHC and this year is no exception, with seven players from the Bayou State, led by past champions and perennial qualifiers Judy Wagner (2001) and Michael Beychok (2012). The Louisiana delegation is having a hard time concentrating, though, as Hurricane Ida bears down on the Gulf Coast with landfall expected Sunday afternoon, around the same time the DraftKings Final Table will get underway.

“It weighs on you,” said Beychok. “You always hope the news will get better but it’s getting worse. This looks like a really bad one. We’ve all been working the phones constantly, trying to figure out where and when we can get back. I’ve been worried about family, first of all, and then working with clients trying to make sure their connections are solid.”

Most of the Louisiana-bred NHC players sit together at their usual spot, Table 1, in the Bally’s Event Center. For Ryan Berni, a political consultant who served as Deputy Mayor of New Orleans under Mayor Mitch Landrieu, his first NHC appearance is not playing out at all like he’d imagined.

“My family’s headed to Florida right now,” Berni said. “I’m going to try to get back as soon as I can. I haven’t hit anything so far. I’ve been watching this storm all week; a lot more than I’ve been watching the races.”

Ida is expected to grow into a Category 4 hurricane. The projected path anticipates landfall somewhere along the Louisiana coast, with the eastern edge stretching into Mississippi.

Jon “Hurricane” Hurd is a New Orleans native and all too aware that his longtime nickname lands a little differently under the circumstances. Part of his strategy for dealing with the news from back home has been to submit his plays early in the day. That way he can monitor odds fluctuations and adjust as needed but has already made clear-headed decisions if he has to take calls from clients or kin. Hurd’s parents are contemplating whether to evacuate to their son’s home in Little Rock, Ark.

“It’s hard because everyone’s calling and they have so much going on,” Hurd said. “You can’t take hurricanes lightly. I’ll be praying for my family and friends but also doing everything I can to stay focused on winning the NHC.”

BCBC Winner Gramm Will Take a Swing at $3 Million Bonus

As the winner of last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, where he took home $492,750 between the prize pool and live-money earnings, Marshall Gramm is eligible for a $3 million bonus, the largest prize ever offered for a handicapping contest. The economics professor at Rhodes College in Memphis has pondered the potential windfall but tries to remain realistic about his chances of taking it.

“I made sure I did a little more work,” Gramm said. “You have to have a lot go right though. I didn’t want the bonus to create a lot of pressure for myself. This is still a great weekend to just enjoy Vegas and see friends.”

Gramm insists this NHC is not suited to his personal gambling style because he only follows a few favorite tracks – especially Oaklawn Park – and strongly prefers dirt racing. Nonetheless, as economist who obsesses over EV (“expected value”), Gramm has considered how his strategy might be impacted with the bonus in play. The added money incentivizes him to go all-out for the Final Table even if he risks giving up ground in the overall standings.

“I want to play to win the thing but at some point that usually becomes a lost cause” Gramm said. “But [Saturday] afternoon I’ll still be playing longshots because I might get lucky.”

New Sportech Contest Platform Debuts

Behind all of the personalities, hospitality, and drama of a top-class handicapping tournament is the infrastructure that actually keeps the contest running. Thursday’s “Last Chance/Next Chance” qualifier at Bally’s marked the debut of a completely new, state-of-the art tournament platform developed by Sportech, the international betting technology company.

The new platform is similar to that seen at contest sites like Monmouth Park, Hawthorne Race Course, and Lone Star Park. However, the software had to be updated to accommodate the mythical bankroll format of the NHC.

Among the innovations that players can’t miss are a real-time leaderboard that displays how many mandatory and optional races each entrant has completed. The full TVG Leaderboard suspended in the center of the Bally’s Las Vegas ballroom displays the top eight on the left side and a rotating look at the entirety of the field, in descending order, on the right.

“The NTRA has been working with Sportech, William Hill, and Caesars Entertainment for more than six months on a new contest platform,” said NTRA COO and NHC Tournament Director Keith Chamblin. “We are very pleased with the initial results and appreciate the investment by our partners in delivering what we hope will be a much-improved contest experience for our customers.”
For the first time, all contest plays must be made on self-service terminals dedicated for contest use, eliminating the possibility of teller error.

“Our ultimate goal in the future is to allow participants to play from their table in the Events Center on their phone or tablet,” Chamblin said.

A less-apparent feature that can have big ramifications for certain players is an improved process for canceling tickets. If a selection scratches from an optional race, for instance, that ticket is completely canceled so there is no risk of suddenly ending up on a post-time favorite the player never liked in the first place.

“We will learn some things from this weekend and continue to make improvements going into the 2022 NHC,” Chamblin said.

Soure: NTRA

Share this with your horse racing friends
Handicapping tips from


* indicates required

Email Format

About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More in Horse Racing contests & tournaments
NHC Begins Friday in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (Wednesday, August 25, 2021) – The calendar tells us the 2020 renewal of the National Horseplayers Championship was...