NTRA THOROUGHBRED NOTEBOOK
|News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled
by NTRA Communications, (212) 907-9280.
TRASH TALKING BEGINS PRIOR TO DAILY RACING FORM/NTRA NATIONAL HANDICAPPING CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA TOURNAMENT
When 204 of the most successful - and luckiest - horseplayers in North America gather in Las Vegas on January 12-13 to play in the $212,000 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship at the MGM Grand, the stakes will be high with a grand prize of $100,000 and the title of DRF/NTRA Handicapper of the Year on the line.
When 16 members of the media and four Daily Racing Form experts similarly gather to play in the first annual DRF/NTRA National Media Handicapping Championship, on the line will be the respective reputations, dignities and egos of the participants - not to mention $10,000 for charity to the winning team.
DRF/NTRA National Media Handicapping Championship, which will be held concurrently with - and under the same rules as - the main National Handicapping Championship, will pit four teams of four media members, each captained by a DRF handicapper. The winning team members will split the $10,000, with half donated to NTRA Charities in their name and the other half to each player's designated charity.
DRF Editor and Publisher Steven Crist will lead the Team National foursome of Mike Brunker (MSNBC.com), Mike Kane, (ESPN.com), Ed Gray (Boston Herald) and Fred Faust (Rolling Good Times Online).
DRF National Handicapper Mike Watchmaker captains the morning line favorite Team Industry Pubs of Bill Heller (Thoroughbred Times), Dan Liebman (Blood-Horse), Andy Plattner (Backstretch Magazine) and Tom Quigley (Horseplayer Magazine).
"The Industry Pubs Team is odds-on," admitted Crist. "Anything less than crushing, runaway victory by these savvy industry professionals over the Scribblers, Beach Bums and Cal-Texes will be a stunning humiliation for Watchmaker & Co."
"Very clever of Steve, painting his team as the rank outsider," said Watchmaker. "He can pick and back all the 8-1 shots he wants. It doesn't matter if they don't win. My team will crush Steve's team into a fine powder."
Brad Free, DRF Southern California correspondent, will head the mixed breed Team Cal-Tex, which includes California based Jason Levine (Foxsports.com) and "Thoroughbred Hotline" radio host Felix Taverna (KOGO 600 AM in San Diego) and Texans Fred Faour (Houston Chronicle) and sportstalk radio host Norm Hitzges (KTCK 1310 AM in Dallas).
Las Vegas-based Lauren Stich, DRF's pedigree handicapping columnist, is captain of a Team Vegas squad that features Dave Tuley (Daily Racing Form), Chuck Di Rocco (Gaming Today), Rich Eng (Las Vegas Review Journal) and "RaceDay Las Vegas" radio host and columnist Ralph Siraco (Las Vegas Sun).
"From a publication that bases its heart and soul strictly on past performances, the ONLY team that has two proven tournament winners in Grade I events is Team Las Vegas," said Stich. "Bring on the shippers."
Said Brad Free: "Based on overall team strength, one expects nothing short of clear victory by the Cal-Tex handicappers. From the West Coast savvy of Levine, Taverna and yours truly, to the Texas intellect of Faour and Hitzges, Cal-Tex is prepared to deliver a handicapping lesson not likely to be forgotten by its overmatched opponents. This contest may look like a four-horse race on paper, but it has all the makings of a virtual walkover."
Each individual entrant must place a mythical $2 Win and $2 Place wager on 15 races each day. Eight mandatory races will be selected by Daily Racing Form, and all players must wager on these races. The remaining seven races will be selected by each individual entrant from the eligible tournament races. The team with the most accumulated mythical winnings will be declared victorious.
2001 DRF/NTRA NHC MEDIA TEAMS:
Team Industry Pubs:
Live updates of all the tournament action will be available starting Friday at drf.com and ntra.com. Last year's DRF/NTRA Handicapper of the Year, Steven Walker of Lincoln, Neb., will be back to defend his title against the the 203 other contestants gunning for the $100,000 top prize.
BAZE WINS 2000 ISAAC MURPHY AWARD
Jockey Russell Baze has won the Isaac Murphy Award presented by the National Turf Writers Association for the sixth consecutive year, but by the slimmest margin yet.
The award, given to the jockey with the highest winning percentage (with a minimum of 500 mounts) during the year, was inaugurated in 1995 and has been presented to Baze each year since its inception.
In 2000, the Northern California-based rider won 412 races from 1,513 mounts (27.2%), according to Daily Racing Form statistics. Jerry Bailey, for the third straight year, ranked second, with 27.1%, winning 246 of 907 mounts.
Baze has ridden 400 or more winners eight of the past nine years. He would have likely reached that level again in 1999, except an injury caused him to miss part of the year. He became the sixth rider to reach 7,000 victories in 2000.
Baze won with 29.1% of his mounts in 1995, 28.3% in both 1996 and 1997, 27.6% in 1998, and 28.1% in 1999.
The Isaac Murphy Award is named in honor of the legendary 19th century black jockey who won with 44% of his career mounts.
Baze will receive his award later this year.
RACING ON THE AIR (all times Eastern)
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SATURDAY, JANUARY 13
SUNDAY, JANUARY 14
MONDAY, JANUARY 15
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