An estimated field of 670 entries will compete for nearly $2.9 million in cash and awards – and horse racing's official title of “Horseplayer of the Year” – at this weekend's 20th NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Presented by Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens™ and Treasure Island Las Vegas. Both the field size and the purse are the second-largest in NHC history. The three-day tournament, Friday to Sunday at Treasure Island, will offer a first-place prize of $800,000.
The NHC field will be reduced to the top 10 percent of players after the first two days. The highest 10 cumulative scores after the Semifinal round will fill out the Final Table. Bankrolls amassed during Day 1, Day 2 and the Semifinal round will roll over to the Final Table, with the 10 finalists settling the NHC score in seven “mandatory” assigned races.
Players who do not make the Semifinal cut will still compete on Day 3, in a separate Consolation tournament.
A full scoreboard will be updated regularly at https://www.ntra.com/nhc, where fans and players can also find each day's contest race menu and news updates.
“We are delighted to play host to many of the nation's top horseplayers at the historic 20th NHC,” said NTRA Chief Operating Officer and NHC Tournament Director, Keith Chamblin. “The NHC is a true celebration of the horseplayer—the individuals who fuel every aspect of the sport and business of Thoroughbred racing. We also thank the many organizations who hosted NHC qualifiers throughout 2018 s well as our sponsoring partners—Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens™ and Treasure Island Las Vegas—for their ongoing support.”
At the Races with Steve Byk will broadcast live on SiriusXM satellite radio (Sirius 219; XM 201) from Treasure Island and online at www.stevebyk.com daily, Thursday to Monday, with NHC coverage slated for 2-7:30p ET (11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. PT). Additional news and exclusive content will be shared on Twitter via the official NTRA account, @NTRA.
Defending NHC champion Chris Littlemore – who last month was honored with an Eclipse Award as “Horseplayer of the Year”– heads this year's field, which is comprised of 669 entries (pending the outcome of Thursday's Last Chance Contest at the Treasure Island). There are 118 rookies, representing 23 percent of the field. There are 138 dual qualifiers going into Thursday's Last Chance Contest at the Treasure Island.
As the 2018 NHC winner, Littlemore of Whitby, Ontario, Canada, near Toronto, received an automatic berth into this year's tournament to defend the title he won last February when he bested other entries. Littlemore amassed a winning score of $348.30 over the three-day tournament from 53 mythical $2 Win and Place bets – 18 each on Friday and Saturday, 10 in Sunday morning's Semifinal round and seven in the dramatic Final Table contest exclusive to the overall top 10. He will seek to become the first-ever two-time winner of the NHC, as will six other past winners that have qualified. The other qualifying champions are: Ray Arsenault (2017), Paul Matties, Jr. (2016), Jim Benes (2013), Michael Beychok (2012), Richard Goodall (2008), and Stanley Bavlish (2007).
Several players will compete for major bonuses tied to earlier accomplishments:
As the winner of the 2018 NHC Tour, David Gutfreund won $100,000 and an NHC berth. He also is eligible for a record $6 million in bonuses if he goes on to win at the 2019 NHC finals.
Chuck Grubbs, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC), is eligible for a $3 million BCBC/NHC Bonus. First prize at the NHC is $800,000, meaning that successful completion of the BCBC-NHC double would be worth $3.8 million.
In its 20th year, the NTRA National Horseplayers Championship is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers and is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments.
NHC players qualified via contests hosted by 34 racetracks, casino race books, handicapping contest websites, Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) outlets, simulcast distribution networks, horse owner associations and other Thoroughbred racing organizations. The NHC 19 qualifier hosts were: Aqueduct, Arlington Park, BataviaBets.com, Belmont Park, Breeders' Cup, Canterbury Park, Capital OTB, Century Bets, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Fair Grounds, Florida HBPA, Gulfstream Park, Hawthorne Race Course, Hollywood Casino at Penn National, Horseplayers.com, HorseTourneys.com, Indiana Grand, Keeneland, Laurel Park, Lone Star Park, Los Alamitos Race Course, Meadowlands, Mohegan Sun, Monmouth Park, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga Race Course, Tampa Bay Downs, The BIG One, Treasure Island, TVG, Woodbine Entertainment Group and Xpressbet.com.
The tournament format for the NHC is meant to be the best possible test of overall handicapping ability. Players attempt to earn the highest possible bankroll based on mythical $2 Win-and-Place wagers. Assigned “mandatory” races – eight per day on Day 1 and Day 2 and seven at the Final Table – will be announced at least 36 hours prior to each contest day (Wednesday evening for Friday, Thursday evening for Saturday, Friday evening for Sunday) on Twitter (@NTRA) and NTRA.com.
The remaining 10 races on Day 1 and Day 2 and all 10 plays in the Semifinal round will be optional wagers on races at one of eight designated NHC tournament tracks: Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Laurel Park, Oaklawn Park, Santa Anita Park and Tampa Bay Downs.
Treasure Island will play host to the NHC for the eighth straight year.
On Saturday, the NTRA also will host an invitation-only online tournament, the 5th Annual Tito's $5,000 NHC Charity Challenge. A field of approximately 40 media and racing personalities will compete to have $5,000 donated in their name to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
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