Cheryl McIntyre of Massillon, Ohio, won three National Handicapping Championship (NHC) qualifying contests this year and earned 19,898 points overall to win the 2016 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour, which ended Sunday at the close of on-track qualifiers at Monmouth Park and Del Mar's Surfside Race Place. The first female NHC Tour winner, McIntyre earned $75,000, a trophy, and an automatic berth to NHC 19 in 2018. She also is eligible for a $2 million bonus should she go on to win the world's richest and most prestigious handicapping contest, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC), Jan. 27-29, at Treasure Island Las Vegas.
Rick Broth of Dunwoodie, Ga., near Atlanta, finished second with 19,196 points, good for a $20,000 payday, followed by Tony Zhou of New York City with 18,698 points, worth $15,000.
The top 20 finishers on the NHC Tour shared $175,000 of prize money. An additional $100,000 in NHC Tour prize money went to the top five “First-Half” and “Second-Half” finishers on separate six-month leaderboards. McIntyre was the only player to earn two $10,000 checks for top-five “First-Half” and “Second-Half” efforts, bringing her cumulative 2016 NHC Tour earnings to $95,000. Broth was among the “First-Half” leaders and earned $30,000 for the year.
Overall NHC Tour standings are determined by totaling a player's top six scores from eligible qualifying contests, which must include at least one live, on-site event. The top 150 finishers on the NHC Tour not previously qualified earned automatic berths to this month's NHC in Las Vegas. The top 40 NHC Tour finishers will compete for a $25,000 Tour Bonus, which goes to the individual within that group with the highest finish at NHC 18.
McIntyre's six scoring contests for NHC Tour purposes included three outright wins – the Champions Tournament at Laurel Park in March (worth 4,461 points), a second straight win in the Mid-Summer Challenge at Woodbine in July (3,016 points), and an online NHCQualify.com contest in December (3,594 points). She also accrued significant points with a runner-up finish on NHCQualify.com in October (2,215 points), a third at Keeneland's NHC-BCBC Challenge in October (2,436 points), and a seventh on HorseTourneys.com in November (2,676 points).
“I can't really put my finger on what exactly I did differently this year or why,” said McIntyre, a NHC veteran whose remarkable run in 2016 also included earning five berths to the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge (although she could only play the allowed maximum of two). “I just kept doing the same things I've always done and it seemed every once in a while I'd have a great day and come in first place.”
McIntyre and her husband, Mike, are among the Tour's most serious and committed players, traveling to as many on-track contests as possible while also competing in online qualifiers. “If there are three or four contests every weekend, multiply that by however many weekends there are in a year and that's how many we played in,” McIntyre said.
McIntyre is the ninth NHC Tour champion and the first female to join that exclusive group of elite horseplayers.
“It hasn't really sunk in yet,” McIntyre said. “It's kind of cool, especially being a woman and knowing that not as many women play this game. But I'm seeing more of us every year.”
The NHC Tour top five was rounded out by Joseph Costello (18,545 points; $10,000 prize) and Joe Pettit (18,217; $7,500).
NHC Tour results became official upon completion of a review period and audit that concluded Thursday. Full standings for the NHC Tour and bonus divisions can be accessed online via the NTRA website at https://www.ntra.com/nhc/leaders.
The 2017 NHC Tour kicks off Jan. 28, the Saturday of NHC 18, with an online contest, the details of which will be announced in coming weeks. NHC Tour membership is $50-$95 and participants can sign up online at www.ntra.com/membership.
Alipio Wins “Second-Half”
Sam Alipio of Palos Verdes, Calif., near Los Angeles, led all players on the NHC Tour “Second-Half” leaderboard, based on results posted after August 1, with 11,267 points. All of the top five “Second-Half” finishers earned $10,000. The others getting checks are McIntyre (10,921 points), Costello (10,876), Zhou (10,602), and Robert Gilbert (10,296).
Chute Earns Inaugural “Cyber Stars” Bonus
George Chute came in 15th overall on the NHC Tour but topped all players in points accrued on NHCQualify.com, earning him a $10,000 prize in the first-ever $25,000 “Cyber Stars” bonus pool and the chance at a $1 million bonus should he win NHC 18. The remaining Cyber Stars prize money went to Robert Gilbert ($6,000), Pettit ($4,000), Costello ($3,000), and Kevin Engelhard ($2,000).
Dresens Tops Rookie Standings
Peter Dresens (15,904 points) earned a $5,000 “Rookie” bonus as the leading player that signed up for the NHC Tour for the first time in 2016. The rest of that $15,000 prize pool went to Daniel Zaretsky (8,390 points; $4,000 bonus), Richard Trobaugh (6,733; $3,000), Cory Hodskins (3,320; $2,000), and Steve Gould (2,784; $1,000).
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