While the title of Horseplayer of the Year will be the most illustrious honor up for grabs during this weekend's 20th NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Presented by Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens™ and Treasure Island Las Vegas, another highly-competitive bragging right will be on the line when a cross section of notable journalists, analysts and personalities compete in the Tito's $5,000 NTRA/NHC Charity Challenge.
A field of approximately 40 will compete to have $5,000 donated in their name to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. Defending Charity Challenge winner Ed DeRosa of Brisnet is back for an attempted repeat and is joined in the field by fellow former winners Ellis Star of Equibase, 2016 victor Matt Bernier of Daily Racing Form, and inaugural 2015 hero Bob Neumeier of NBC Sports.
Among the celebs or sports figures expected to compete in the Charity Challenge include ESPN College GameDay personality Chris Fallica, multiple Sports Emmy Award winner Pete Macheska, color commentator and former NHL veteran Eddie Olczyk, and former University of Louisville basketball player and current North Oldham coach David Levitch.
Other high-profile players include Tito's Handcrafted Vodka founder Tito Beveridge, Twitter sensation Spa Infield Goose, and 2001 NHC champion Judy Wagner.
A host of Thoroughbred racing broadcasters are among the field: Matt Carothers, Britney Eurton, Megan Devine and Dave Weaver of TVG; Ron Nicoletti of Gulfstream Park; Joe Kristufek of Churchill Downs and Fair Grounds; Laffit Pincay III of NBC Sports, and on-air host Aaron Vercruysse. TVG's Christina Blacker will also be participating representing STATS Race Lens.
Some of the best from North of the border will also be represented with Woodbine racing analyst Dawn Lupul and popular Woodbine daily handicapper Sheri Riddoch.
Racing's print media holds a strong hand: Eclipse Award-winners Frank Angst and Jeremy Balan of The BloodHorse; lead Daily Racing Form national correspondent Jay Privman, DRF handicapper Dan Illman, award-winning veteran reporter Bob Ehalt, Paulick Report founder and editor-in-chief Ray Paulick and editor Scott Jagow; ST Publishing co-founders Joe Clancy and Sean Clancy and editor Tom Law, the team behind ThisIsRacing.com, The Saratoga Special, and Steeplechase Time; Tom LaMarra of Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association; Dave Tuley of the Vegas Sports & Information Network; ABR mainstay and freelance writer Dan Tordjman, Matt Rybaltowski of Forbes SportsMoney, and Mike Brunker of the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Radio broadcasters have a formidable set flying the flag in Jude Feld and Mike Penna of Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN), Steve Byk of At the Races with Steve Byk, and Brian Blessing of Sportsbook Radio & Vegas Hockey Hotline. Podcast horse and veteran handicapper Peter Fornatale will bring his skills to the forum while HorsePlayerNow.com general manager Brian Spencer is hoping for a better competition outcome than his beloved Colorado Avalanche have delivered of late.
Jamie Haydon of Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Churchill Downs Inc.'s Senior Director of Betting Information Jim Mulvihill, and Old Friends founder Michael Blowen are also among the luminaries.
Treasure Island Race and Sports Book Director Tony Nevill will represent the longtime NHC host site.
Similar to the NHC format, players will select one horse to Win and Place in eight races using a “Pick and Pray” format. All selections are due Saturday morning and any scratches will result in the player being assigned the post-time favorite. The player with the highest hypothetical bankroll after the final contest race will be declared the winner. In the event of a tie, there will be no playoff; the donations will be split among the winners.
Updates on scoring will be disseminated via Twitter (@NTRA) and available on NTRA.com.
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