Chicago Barn to Wire

NTRA THOROUGHBRED NOTEBOOK

News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications, (212) 907-9280.

THE NATION'S BEST HORSEPLAYERS SET TO SQUARE OFF IN VEGAS

A first-place prize of $100,000 and the title of "Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association Handicapper of the Year" will be on the line when 204 of the most successful - and luckiest - horseplayers in North America gather in Las Vegas to play in the $212,000 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship on January 12-13 at the MGM Grand.

The "DRF/NTRA Handicapper of the Year" will be crowned at Thoroughbred racing's 30th annual Eclipse Awards ceremony on January 30, 2001 at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans.

In just its second year, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship already is the most ambitious handicapping tournament ever attempted, the culmination of a season-long series of NTRA-sanctioned tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino racebooks, off-track betting parlors and horse racing and handicapping Websites. The finalists advanced from one of nearly 90 qualifying events held from February through December at 51 sites in the United States and Canada.

The 204 finalists represent not only the creme de la creme of Thoroughbred racing horseplayers - from the top national tournament professionals to the best veteran local handicappers - but a large collection of lucky novices who bucked long odds to win their local qualifying tournaments. Heading the field is Steven Walker of Lincoln, Neb. A supervisor with the State Department of Environmental Quality, Walker bested 159 others to win the inaugural event last January 7-8 at the MGM Grand.

"Daily Racing Form is delighted to be involved with this exciting tournament," said Steven Crist, editor and publisher of Daily Racing Form. "This event has very quickly become the U.S. Open of handicapping tournaments, where every finalist, from the most veteran professional players to weekend handicappers to dedicated racing fans, earned his or her trip to Las Vegas and a chance to be crowned the sport's official 'Handicapper of the Year.'"

"We knew we had a tremendous concept when we first began discussions with Daily Racing Form about launching a national handicapping championship, but the response we've witnessed from horseplayers the first two years has been overwhelming," stated Keith Chamblin, vice president of industry relations and marketing for the NTRA. "The qualifying events have been well-received across North America, and we added nearly a dozen new sanctioned tournaments this year, which generated an additional 44 competitors for the Championship. We're very excited about the growth of this tournament and our return to the MGM Grand, which is an outstanding host."

The field also includes three other top 10 finishers from last year: Steve Terelak (third) of Culver City, Calif.; Brian MacClowry (fourth) of Phoenix; and Louis Noto (seventh) of Bridgewater, N.J. Perhaps this year's luckiest finalist is J. Randy Gallo of Jupiter, Fla., who qualified for the National Handicapping Championship at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut on the same day that he won a whopping $648,076.80 for hitting the pick six at Santa Anita Park. Gallo, a veteran tournament player who owns the Bettor Racing OTB parlor in Sioux Falls, S.D., also played in the inaugural event, finishing 48th.

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 (see purse breakdown below). In addition to the individual prize pool, the 204 contestants will also be playing in a separate team competition, with the top finishing foursome splitting a top prize of $20,000. The 51 tournament teams will be representing 40 racetracks, five off-track betting facilities, three casinos, two Websites and one organization. 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.

Each 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.

For the first time, 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.

DRF NATIONAL HANDICAPPING CHAMPIONSHIP PURSE BREAKDOWN:

INDIVIDUAL
1st Place $100,000
2nd Place $ 30,000
3rd Place $ 10,000
4th Place $ 5,000
5th Place $ 3,000
6th Place $ 2,000
7th Place $ 2,000
8th Place $ 2,000
9th Place $ 2,000
10th Place $ 2,000

TEAM
1st Place $20,000
2nd Place $ 8,000
3rd Place $ 4,000

Day 1 (Friday, Jan. 12)
Bonus Play $5,000
1st Place $3,000
2nd Place $2,000
3rd Place $1,000

Day 2 (Saturday, Jan. 13)
Bonus Play $5,000
1st Place $3,000
2nd Place $2,000
3rd Place $1,000

MEDIA
1st Place $10,000

CALDER TO HIT ANOTHER GRAND SLAM

Four graded stakes races worth a total of $500,000 will highlight Saturday's Grand Slam II program at Miami's Calder Race Course, featuring star-studded fields with many of the nation's leading trainers and jockeys in action.

Among the top riders accepting mounts on the Saturday program are Pat Day, Jerry Bailey, Jorge Chavez, Edgar Prado, Jose Santos, Robbie Davis, Mike Smith and John Velazquez. The rich Calder races could well determine the outcome of the 2000 jockeys' purse money title. The current leader is Pat Day with $17,450,208, less than $100,000 more than Jerry Bailey's total of $17,355,995.

Saturday's four stakes races are the Grade II, $150,000 La Prevoyante Handicap; the Grade II, $150,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap; the Grade III, $100,000 Fred W. Hooper Handicap and the Grade III $100,000 Chaposa Springs Handicap.

Calder will conclude its present meet with the Grade III, $100,000 Tropical Park Derby on New Year's Day, and the $100,000 Tropical Park Oaks on Tuesday, Jan. 2.

RACING ON THE AIR (all times Eastern)
December 30 Racehorse Digest, 5:30-6:00 a.m., ESPN
December 31 Racehorse Digest, 3:00-3:30 a.m., ESPN
January 3 Racehorse Digest, 1:00-1:30 p.m., ESPN
January 6 Racehorse Digest, 4:30-5:00 a.m., ESPN
January 10 Racehorse Digest, 1:00-1:30 p.m., ESPN

RACING TO HISTORY

Dec. 31, 1966: Ogden Phipps' Buckpasser, trained by Eddie Neloy, won the 13th consecutive race of his three-year-old season after taking the Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Park. He was voted Horse of the Year and also took top three-year-old and handicap horse honors for 1966.

Dec. 31, 1982: After a year-long battle for leading rider honors, Pat Day edged Angel Cordero Jr. by two races, which he won after chartering a plane to fly to Vinton, La., where he rode Dana's Woof Woof and Miltons Magic to victory during the evening program at Delta Downs. Day won the title-his first-with 399 wins to Cordero's 397.

Dec. 31, 1989: Jockey Kent Desormeaux set the world record for most number of wins in a single season, 598, when he rode two-year-old East Royalty, trained by Phil Thomas Jr., to victory in the tenth race, the Inner Harbor Stakes, at Laurel. He surpassed the old record, set by Chris McCarron, by 52.

Jan. 1, 1942: Racing in California was officially canceled. On Dec. 16, the West Coast military authorities had requested that Santa Anita Park postpone its meeting indefinitely due to war conditions.

Jan. 1, 1975: Secretariat was represented by his first Thoroughbred foal, a filly named Miss Secretariat, born in Kentucky to the mare My Card.

Jan. 2, 1945: As the end of World War II approached, racing throughout the U.S. was banned indefinitely at the request of James F. Byrnes, War Mobilization Director. While Thoroughbreds could not be transported in the U.S. for racing purposes, the Office of Defense Transportation subsequently approved the shipment of racehorses to tracks that were more than 300 miles beyond U.S. borders. The ban was not lifted until May, causing the rescheduling of the Triple Crown races.

Jan. 4, 1946: Canadian-born jockey George Woolf, known as "The Iceman" for his coolness in the saddle, died after falling head first from his mount, Please Me, during a race at Santa Anita Park the previous day. He was 35. During his career, (1928-1946) Woolf had 3,784 mounts, 721 wins, 589 seconds and 468 thirds, with earnings of $2,856,125. Since 1950, Santa Anita Park has annually presented the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award to a rider who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct, on and off the racetrack.

Jan. 5, 1944: A bill permitting off-track betting was introduced in the New York State Assembly. Over the next several decades, a series of bills would be introduced in favor of OTB, which finally gained legal sanction in New York in 1970.

Jan. 5, 1980: Spectacular Bid began his undefeated four-year-old season, winning the Malibu Stakes by five lengths at Santa Anita. The gray colt finished his 1980 campaign a perfect nine-for-nine.

WEEKEND STAKES RACES (unrestricted stakes worth $75,000 and up)

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 29
Monrovia Handicap, 3&up (f&m), $100,000, Grade III, 6 F (T), Santa Anita
Furl Sail Handicap, 3&up (f&m), $75,000, 1M (T), Fair Grounds
Kattegat's Pride Stakes, 2yo fillies, $75,000, 7F, Laurel Park

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 30
La Brea Stakes, 3yo fillies, $200,000, Grade I, 7F, Santa Anita
La Prevoyante Handicap, 3&up (f&m), $150,000, Grade II, 1 M (T), Calder Racecourse
W.L. McKnight Handicap, 3&up, $150,000, Grade II, 1 M (T), Calder Racecourse
Chaposa Springs Handicap, 3&up (f&m), $100,000, Grade III, 7F, Calder Racecourse
Fred W. Hooper Handicap, 3&up, $100,000, Grade III, 1 1/8 M, Calder Racecourse
Gallant Fox Handicap, 3&up, $100,000, Grade III, 1 5/8 M, Aqueduct
Ambernash Stakes, 2yo, $75,000, 7F, Laurel Park
Louisiana Handicap, 3&up, $75,000, 1 1/16 M, Fair Grounds

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 31
El Conejo Handicap, 3&up, $100,000, 5 F, Santa Anita
Broad Brush Stakes, 3yo, $75,000, 1 1/8 M, Laurel Park
Sugar Bowl Stakes, 2yo, $75,000, 6F, Fair Grounds

MONDAY, JANUARY 1
San Gabriel Handicap, 4&up, $150,000, Grade II, 1 1/8 M (T), Santa Anita
Tropical Park Derby, 3yo, $100,000, Grade III, 1 1/8 M (T), Calder Racecourse

TUESDAY, JANUARY 2
Tropical Park Oaks, 3yo fillies, $100,000, 1 1/16 M (T), Calder Racecourse
Endeavor Stakes, 3&up (f&m), $75,000, 1 1/8 M (T), Tampa Bay Downs

THURSDAY, JANUARY 4
Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap, 4&up, $75,000, 1 1/16 M (T), Fair Grounds

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