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Contacts: Eric Wing, NTRA (212) 907-9283
Tim O'Leary, O'Leary & Cosentino Communications (914) 592-5020
Scott Cooper, O'Leary & Cosentino Communications (609) 391-8166


Defending champion Judy Wagner of New Orleans heads a stellar field of 177 horseplayers who will gather at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on January 25-26 to vie for horseracing's official title of "Handicapper of the Year" and a first-place prize of $100,000 in the $212,000 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC)-the U.S. Open of Thoroughbred racing handicapping tournaments.

As the 2001 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship winner, the 51-year-old Wagner receives a special exemption into the tournament to defend the title she earned in last January's two-day competition. Wagner, whose husband Bryan also is in the field, won last year's tournament by accruing $237.70 in mythical winnings from a total of 30 $2 win and place bets pared from a mind-numbing menu of more than 150 races run at eight different tracks. Also returning for the third straight year is Steven Walker of Lincoln, Nebraska, who won the inaugural event in January 2000.

In just its third year, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship already is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers, the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino racebooks, off-track betting facilities and horseracing and handicapping Web sites, each of which sends its top four qualifiers to the national finals. The finalists advanced from one of 48 local sites, which conducted 65 different qualifying events from February through December 2001 at locations throughout the U.S.

The DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship is represented by the crème de la crème of Thoroughbred racing horseplayers. But the tournament also features an interesting mix of $2 bettors, lucky novices and other recreational players who buck long odds to advance from local qualifying contests. In its first two years, the event has seen its share of interesting finalists, including:

  • a 65-year-old blind horseplayer and former world blind chess champion from St. Paul, Minnesota who qualified for the inaugural finals by winning a local tournament at Canterbury Park - the first handicapping contest he had ever entered.
  • a 68-year-old grandmother and retired kindergarten teacher from Massachusetts who was in second place after the first day of competition in the inaugural NHC.

Horseplayers come from all walks of life and among this year's qualifiers are an animal trapper, dishwasher, environmentalist, longshoreman, music teacher, novelist, nuclear submarine technician (retired), pawnbroker, psychologist, racetrack announcer, restaurant owner, veterinarian and Webmaster.

In the two-day event, entrants must place a mythical $2 win and $2 place wager on 15 races each day. Eight mandatory races are selected by Daily Racing Form, and all players must wager on these races. The remaining seven races are selected by each individual entrant from the eligible tournament races. This year, nine racetracks have been designated as "tournament tracks": Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Laurel Park, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Sam Houston Race Park, Santa Anita Park, Turf Paradise and Turfway Park.

Of the $212,000 in total prize money, the top 10 finishers in the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship will divide $158,000. In addition to the individual prize pool, 176 participants will also be playing in a separate team competition, with the top-finishing foursome splitting a top prize of $20,000. This year's 44 local tournament teams will be representing 31 racetracks, five off-track betting facilities, two casinos, two Web sites, one organization and one horseplayer's club (one racetrack and one casino are each fielding two teams). There is also an additional $12,000 in prize money to be awarded incrementally to the three best finishers within each day, as well as $5,000 for the winners of a daily exotic bonus play competition.

The event also will host a $10,000 charity media tournament, which will mirror the main tournament. Four media teams, each captained by a Daily Racing Form handicapper, will battle in a winner-take-all competition, with the victorious team splitting the purse, which will be divided equally between NTRA Charities and the designated charity of each member of the winning team. Daily Racing Form's Steven Crist, Mike Watchmaker, Lauren Stich and Mike Hammersly each will captain a media team.

MGM Grand, "The City of Entertainment," features 5,034 newly renovated, art deco-themed guest rooms and suites, world-class entertainment venues,signature restaurants with celebrity chefs, the must-see Lion Habitat and the $100 million Conference Center for meetings/conventions. MGM Grand is a wholly owned subsidiary of MGM MIRAGE. For room availability and information, call (800) 929-1111 or (702) 891-7777 or log onto the World Wide Web at

Daily Racing Form, "America's Turf Authority since 1894" for Thoroughbred racing horseplayers and professionals throughout North America, is the only daily national newspaper in the U.S. devoted exclusively to the coverage of a single sport. The publication was purchased in August 1998 by a group of investors led by the Alpine Capital Group of New York, and Steven Crist, editor and publisher of the Form.

The NTRA is a broad-based coalition of horseracing interests, including the American Quarter Horse Association, charged with increasing popularity of horseracing and improving economic conditions for industry participants. The NTRA and Breeders' Cup Limited also conduct the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, Thoroughbred racing's year-end Championship consisting of eight races and $13 million in purses and awards, and the Breeders' Cup Stakes Program, which are funded by the industry's owners and breeders. The NTRA has offices in Lexington, Ky., and New York City. NTRA press releases appear on the NTRA Web site,, and at the Web site for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, Contact the NTRA at



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