Defending champion John Doyle heads a record field of 482 horseplayers who will gather at Treasure Island Las Vegas on January 27-28 to vie for horse racing’s official title of “Handicapper of the Year” and a first-place prize of $1 million in the $1.6 million Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) Presented by Sovereign Stable. The total estimated purse, which will be adjusted next Wednesday pending turnout at Treasure Island’s Last Chance tournament, represents an NHC record. This will be the first year in the event’s 13-year history that Treasure Island will host the NHC.
Including money already won by top finishers in the 2011 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour, free travel and accommodations provided to contestants, and other awards, the overall value of the NHC totals an estimated $1,847,940.
The NHC has enjoyed outstanding growth since its inception. By way of comparison, the first NHC in January 2000 carried a total prize pool of $200,000 and a winner’s share of $100,000.
“We are delighted to bring the NHC to Treasure Island where, for the first time, we will be awarding a million-dollar grand prize,” said Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of the NTRA. “The NHC is the most anticipated tournament in the world among horseplayers, and not only do we have a record purse, this year’s field of 482 is by far our biggest ever. We thank all of the horseplayers who competed in NHC-sanctioned tournaments throughout 2011. Thanks to their support, all the ingredients are in place for the most exciting NHC in the event’s history.”
As the 2011 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship winner, John Doyle of Scottsdale, Arizona, received a special exemption into the tournament to defend the title he won last January when he bested 301 other horseplayers in the two-day competition. The 50-year-old former IBM account manager—and current full-time horseplayer—won by amassing a mythical bankroll of $234.80 from a total of 30 $2 win-and-place wagers pared from a mind-numbing menu of more than 150 races run at eight different tracks. Doyle, who never had the lead last year until the final race of the contest was complete, will look to become the first ever two-time winner of the NHC. But he will face six other past champions who qualified for the finals this year. Judy Wagner, Steve Wolfson Jr., Ron Rippey, Stanley Bavlish, Richard Goodall and Brian Troop—the winners of NHC II, NHC IV, NHC VII, NHC VIII, NHC IX and NHC XI, respectively—will all be in the field with the same goal of a historic win in Las Vegas.
Contestant Paul Shurman of Dix Hills, N.Y., will be hoping to make NHC history of a different kind. As the winner of the fourth annual Daily Racing Form NHC Tour in 2011, Shurman not only won a $75,000 bonus for his top scores in the year’s NHC qualifying events, he is eligible to receive a $2 million bonus should he emerge victorious in the January 27-28 competition. So a win by Shurman in Las Vegas would result in a payday of $3 million ($1,000,000 first-place NHC purse + $2 million NHC Tour bonus).
In its 13th year, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship 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.
More than 4,500 people signed up for the 2011 NHC Tour and participated in these local tournaments, hoping to win a coveted spot in the NHC Finals. For those who did not succeed, a “last chance” tournament will be held at Treasure Island on January 25 in order to fill the remaining five starting berths in the field of 482. Treasure Island will also host the “Wager to Win” tournament on Sunday, January 29. The Sunday contest is a qualifying event offering two berths to the January 2013 NHC.
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 15 mythical $2 win-and-place wagers on each day of the two-day tournament. Eight of those wagers will be on mandatory races as selected by a panel comprised of Daily Racing Form National Handicapper Mike Watchmaker, NTRA Senior Director of Media Relations Eric Wing and Treasure Island Director of Race and Sports Tony Nevill.
The remaining seven races each day 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.
Regular Championship updates will be posted on the Internet throughout the two-day contest at both www.ntra.com