From a National Thoroughbred Racing Association release
A record field of 606 entrants will compete for the largest purse in handicapping tournament history – $2,363,000 – and an Eclipse Award as “Horseplayer of the Year” at this weekend’s 16th Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) Presented by Racetrack Television Network, Sovereign Stable and Treasure Island Las Vegas. The three-day tournament, Friday to Sunday at Treasure Island, will offer a first-place prize of $800,000.
The total cash prizes of $2,363,000 to be awarded at NHC 16 represent a staggering 49% increase over the 2014 NHC purse, when prize money totaled $1,585,000. The cash prize pool, including money already won by top finishers in the 2014 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour and other prizes and travel awards, totals $2,681,000, a 37 percent increase over last year’s then-record purse of just over $1.99 million. Each of the top four finishers will receive six-figure payouts, with $250,000 to second, $125,000 to third and $100,000 to fourth.
“We are extremely proud to offer the largest purse in handicapping tournament history,” said Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of the NTRA. “Interest in the NHC is exploding on every level, from registration in qualifying tournaments around the country and online to the expansion of the year-long NHC Tour. None of this growth would be possible without the support of horseplayers and our tournament partners.”
For the second consecutive year, the tournament field will be reduced to the top 50 players after the first two days. A Final 50 Contest on Day 3 will determine the 10 spots at the Final Table. Bankrolls amassed during Day 1, Day 2 and the Final 50 Contest will roll over to the Final Table, with the 10 finalists settling the NHC score in seven “mandatory” assigned races.
The Final Table drama will be shown live on HRTV, The Network for Horse Sports, from 2-5 p.m. PST Sunday afternoon, between coverage of live racing. A live stream and news updates will be available throughout the contest at DRF.com’s NHC page. At the Races with Steve Byk will broadcast live on Sirius XM satellite radio from the Treasure Island during the show’s regular hours, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. EST, Friday and Monday mornings, while bonus coverage from At the Races will be available Saturday and Sunday at NTRA.com.
A full scoreboard will be updated regularly at NTRA.com, where fans and players can also find each day’s contest race menu and news updates. Additional updates will be shared on Twitter via the official NTRA account, @NTRA.
The top 50 finishers earn cash awards on a gradually decreasing scale from the $800,000 grand prize to $10,000 for 50th. The increased total purse had a significant impact on the prizes for every top 50 spot. For example, the 10th place prize of $50,000 was $11,600 last year. And the 50th place prize of $10,000 is up from $4,000 last year. For the first time, all NHC participants will receive a $100 Treasure Island poker chip.
Bonus prize money is offered for Day 1 and Day 2 winners – $15,000 per day to the top five scores, with $5,000 for that day’s highest score.
Players who do not make the cut for the Final 50 on Sunday are eligible for a Consolation Tournament with a $65,000 purse for the top 20 finishers, including $10,000 in prize money and a $10,000 entry into the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge to the winner.
Defending champion Jose Arias heads the NHC’s record field. For the first time, Future Bet Wagering is available at the Treasure Island on each of the competitors in NHC 16.
As the 2014 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship winner, Arias, of Bell Gardens, Calif., received an automatic berth into this year’s tournament to defend the title he won last January when he bested 500 other entries to win a $750,000 first prize. The 37-year-old environmental safety engineer won by amassing a mythical bankroll of $338.20 from a total of 45 mythical Win-and-Place wagers pared from a mind-melting menu of more than 150 races run at seven different tracks. Arias will seek to become the first-ever two-time winner of the NHC, as will nine other past winners that have qualified. The other qualifying champions: Jim Benes (2013), Michael Beychok (2012), John Doyle (2011), Brian Troop (2010), John Conte (2009), Richard Goodall (2008), Stanley Bavlish (2007) Jamie Michelson Jr. (2005) and Steve Wolfson Jr. (2003). (Former NHC Champion Judy Wagner also qualified to NHC 16 along with her husband, 2009 NHC Tour winner Bryan Wagner, but both had to relinquish their seats when Judy was elected to the NTRA Board of Directors.)
Contestant Eric Moomey, of Trenton, N.J., will hope to make NHC history of a different kind. As the winner of the seventh annual Daily Racing Form NHC Tour in 2014, Moomey not only earned $75,000 for leading the overall standings in the year’s NHC qualifying events, he is eligible to receive a $2 million bonus should he emerge victorious in this weekend’s competition. Therefore, a win by Moomey in Las Vegas would result in a payday of $2.8 million ($800,000 first-place NHC purse + $2 million NHC Tour bonus).
In its 16th year, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) 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 year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino racebooks, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping Web sites, 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.
A record 4,875 people signed up for the 2014 NHC Tour and participated in local and online tournaments, hoping to win a coveted spot in the NHC Finals.
The tournament format for the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship 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, three in the Final 50 Contest and five at the Final Table – will be selected by a panel comprised of NTRA Director of Media and Industry Relations Jim Mulvihill, Treasure Island Director of Race and Sports Tony Nevill, Daily Racing Form National Handicapper Mike Watchmaker, and Daily Racing Form Advertising Director and longtime NHC emcee Eric Wing.
The remaining seven races on Day 1 and Day 2 are optional plays to be made on races at one of seven designated NHC tournament tracks: Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Oaklawn Park, Santa Anita Park and Tampa Bay Downs.