As horseplayers around the country watch and wager on some great racing this holiday weekend, we at the NTRA will be paying particularly close attention to the activities at two member tracks located on opposite coasts.
Saturday, Monmouth Park will host the first NHC Super Qualifier, offering an unprecedented 10 seats to the 2012 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC), presented by Treasure Island Las Vegas and Sovereign Stable.
Sunday, players will converge at Hollywood Park for a two-day contest awarding another 10 spots to the NHC. Word has it that the field in the Hollywood tournament may even include a few diehards from the Monmouth competition. Now that’s what I call commitment.
We anticipate there will be as many as 8-10 Super Qualifiers over the last half of the year. They are part of a multifaceted plan that we hope will eventually lead to expanded participation in handicapping tournament play.
The payoff for 20 lucky players this weekend will be a free roll in the record $2 million NHC in Las Vegas, where the winner will walk away with $1 million, also a record.
While this weekend's tourneys at Monmouth and Hollywood involve an initial investment of several hundred dollars, there are plenty of opportunities for players to compete in qualifying tournaments with a variety of entry fee structures.
In just the next few weeks alone, free tournaments will be held online and a host of live, “bricks and mortar” tournaments will be held at a variety of price points. Our valued partner and title sponsor, Daily Racing Form, offers free monthly tourneys through DRFBets.com, and one of our presenting sponsors, Sovereign Stable, will host a free, online qualifier in early August. Even Standardbred tracks Northville Downs in Michigan and Pompano Park in Florida have signed on to host NHC qualifiers. Click here for the current NHC tourney schedule.
An added bonus to tourney play has been the formation of a NHC Tour offering extra prize money and additional qualifying spots in the NHC. Even though it's July, it's not at all too late to join the Tour, as only a player's top five scores count toward his or her Tour point standings. The Tour has created an avid community of tournament players and is yet another way the NHC has evolved over the last dozen years. And there is more change on the way. We'll save that for another blog, though.
The inaugural NHC in 2000 offered a total purse of $200,000 and a winner's prize of $100,000. There aren't many facets of our game—or any other—that have realized the growth rate of the NHC over the last decade. None of this growth would have been possible without the support of Daily Racing Form, tracks and pari-mutuel operators throughout the U.S. and Canada and, most importantly, customers and fans whose wagering fuels every component of our game, including the NHC.
Having attended the NHC, I can tell you from firsthand experience that NHC qualifiers come from all walks of life. Virtually every segment of our fan base is represented, which is why the NHC is such a terriffic event. The finalists do have two common traits, however. They each will have earned his or her way to Vegas. You see, unlike the World Series of Poker, where anyone can participate by paying a $10,000 entry fee, all finalists at the NHC must qualify. So all finalists have proven their handicapping mettle before the NHC final even begins. Lastly, virtually to a person, they love horse racing and are passionate about our game. If you feel the same way, join the Tour, try tournament play, and get in on the fun.
Good luck at the races.