Defending champion Bob Neumeier of NBC Sports tops a field of 44 celebrities and media types competing in Saturday's second annual $10,000 NHC Charity Challenge to benefit the Old Friends Barn Raising Project, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and a nonprofit cause of the winner's choice. The invitation-only online tournament is held on the final day of the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship Presented by Racetrack Television Network and Treasure Island Las Vegas.
Thoroughbred-loving celebrities participating include actress and model Bo Derek and ESPN College GameDay personality Chris “The Bear” Fallica.
Other high-profile players include legendary track announcer Tom Durkin, retired jockey Ramon Dominguez and Tito's Handcrafted Vodka founder Tito Beveridge (yes, that's really his name). A few of racing's favorite and most lovable non-human Twitter stars have also joined the fray – Juba the Gray (@JubaColt) and the Spa Infield Goose (@SaratogaGoose).
A host of Thoroughbred racing broadcasters are among the field: Matt Bernier (handicapper), Larry Collmus (racecaller), Randy Moss (analyst) and Eddie Olczyk (handicapper) of NBC Sports; Caton Bredar and Christina Blacker of TVG; Zoe Cadman, the popular reporter and former jockey; and Aaron Vercruysse of Xpressbet.
NHC title sponsor Daily Racing Form has five players, in addition to Bernier: editor and publisher emeritus Steve Crist, handicapper Dan Illman, national correspondent Jay Privman and national handicapper Mike Watchmaker.
Racing's print media also is represented by Frank Angst, Tom LaMarra and Claire Novak of The Blood-Horse, as well as Paulick Report founder and editor-in-chief Ray Paulick and editor Scott Jagow.
Radio broadcasters include Steve Byk of At the Races with Steve Byk, as well as Acacia Courtney, Jude Feld and Mike Penna of Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN).
Recently retired five-time Eclipse Award winner Jennie Rees, attending the NHC as a member of the #NHC Social Media Team, will tweet her picks from @tracksidejennie.
Multi-talented Thoroughbred racing ambassador Joe Kristufek of America's Best Racing is yet another sharp handicapper and broadcaster in the field, as are Ed DeRosa of Brisnet and Dave Tuley of ESPN.com and the View From Vegas blog.
Several track announcers and analysts are playing, including Christina Bossinakis and Ron Nicoletti of Gulfstream Park; Frank Mirahmadi of Golden Gate and Santa Anita; and Jill Byrne of Churchill Downs.
NHC regulars in the field include Peter Rotondo Jr. of Breeders' Cup Ltd. and the reality TV series Horseplayers, as well as 2001 NHC champ Judy Wagner and 2009 NHC Tour winner Bryan Wagner.
Industry types who made their way into the mix are Merv Huber of Bet America and Lucky Kalanges of TwinSpires.com.
Also making picks is friend of the NTRA John Morris, playing on behalf of the John Morris Foundation, which defrays medical expenses for the paralyzed son of Thoroughbred Owners of California president Joe Morris.
Players will select one horse to Win and Place in seven races – one from each of the tracks available to players in the NHC. 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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