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Monday, January 20, 2014

A Huge Week for Horseplayers

Of the many awesome experiences I had during my two years at the RTIP (1999-2001), the NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) ranks up at the top.  The NTRA had asked four of us students to help out with registration and other various tasks for the two-day contest and all of us were very excited to make the trip to Las Vegas.  

This year's DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship will be held at Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas Jan 24-26.  The three-day tournament will offer $1.5 million in prizes with $750,000 to the first prize winner.  This is quite a jump from the $200,000 total prize money in 1999 and the NHC has become a life-changing event for those that have won the title of top handicapper.  

I love contests and I was able to absorb as much as I could at what has turned out to be the largest handicapping contest in this country.  From meeting top handicappers to helping out with tallying up the rankings, it really didn't feel like work as it was so much fun!  Fortunately, we were asked to come back a few more times and we had as much fun as we did in the first year.

One of the ideas being discussed during this time was a television series that would feature horseplayers.  It would show how a horseplayer arrives to their play for a race and follow along as the race runs. That idea has finally become reality as the show "Horseplayers" will make its debut on the Esquire Network on Tuesday, Jan 21 at 10 PM.  Each episode will follow a group of handicappers around the country while they compete for the title of America's top handicapper.  One of the handicappers on the series is Peter Rotundo who was one of the organizers we had worked with at the NHC. 

Like the fantastic movie "Let It Ride", I hope this series will show the horseplayer's point of view and what we all go through during a day of racing:  The ups and downs, the great wins and the bad beats along with the characters you meet at the track or simulcast facility.  I also hope that racing executives watch as well to give them an idea of what a horseplayer goes through and why we feel our ideas will help out the sport.

The biggest mistake I made while working the NHC in 2003 was not following the "buzz" about a horse a lot of handicappers were talking about.  Keep in mind many of the top handicappers in the country were in the building and many talked about making a Kentucky Derby future book wager on this particular horse.  He had run that weekend and I went back and looked at him in the past performances.  I can remember saying to myself: "Yeah right, a NY-bred gelding is going the win the Kentucky Derby!"  Well, he was 75/1 at the time and Funny Cide would go on to win the 2003 Kentucky Derby.  Here's hoping that racing executives do not make my mistake and listen when horseplayers speak.

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