National Horseplayers Championship Set for Las Vegas

The NTRA’s National Horseplayers Championship is ready to reconvene in Las Vegas for the 24th time, with the finals set for Friday through Sunday, March 10-12. 

The NHC handicapping tournament is the culmination of a year-long series of contests that crowns the next Eclipse Award winner for outstanding handicapper. The three-day event also will award purse money of roughly $3 million.

The top prize in all of Thoroughbred handicapping will be up for grabs for an estimated field of roughly 760 qualifying entries (roughly 625 individuals, including players who have qualified twice), who will battle it out in the main event at the Horseshoe Las Vegas (formerly Bally’s). The center Strip resort and casino will host for the fourth year in a row in its 40,000 square-foot events center.

Finalists earned their trips to Vegas with wins or top finishes in contests held throughout 2022 on qualifying tournament websites, and at racetracks and off-track sites in the United States and Canada. The 2023 NHC field will include 143 first-time qualifiers.

NHC contestants will try to compile the highest earnings based on mythical win-and-place wagers on races from the season’s top simulcast signals, including Aqueduct, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Laurel Park, Oaklawn Park, Santa Anita Park, and Tampa Bay Downs.

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National Horseplayers Championship sports book at Bally's Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV 2.8.2020Photo: Horsephotos.com/NTRA

National Horseplayers Championship sports book at Bally’s Hotel and Casino

The top 10% of the players after Friday and Saturday’s action will make the cut, advancing to the final day of play on Sunday. The top 10 scorers eventually will square off at the “Final Table” to decide the championship Sunday afternoon. All players who make the cut—the top 76 in a 760-entry contest—will earn a share of the prize money, with first prize expected to be $750,000. Everyone who makes the cut will win at least $10,000, with the amounts gradually increasing with every higher placing.

The NHC represents a unique opportunity for horseplayers. It’s the climax of the NHC Tour, a year-long points race determined by finishes in qualifying events. The 2022 NHC Tour winner was Jay Johns, 59, of Meridian, Idaho, who earned $75,000 for becoming the 15th Tour champion. He will be playing in his ninth consecutive NHC finals and will receive a $5 million bonus if he goes on to win this year’s NHC main event. In total, 5,500 players competed on the NHC Tour in 2022.

The NHC XXIV field will be seeking to unseat reigning champion David Harrison, a 64-year-old real estate appraiser from the Rochester suburb of Webster, N.Y., who topped the field of 643 entries last year. Several other past champions will be competing to become the first ever two-time winner of the event, including Justin Mustari, 28, of Des Plaines, Ill., who became the youngest champion in the history of the event in 2021. Also in the field will be 2020 winner Thomas Goldsmith, Scott Coles (2019), Chris Littlemore (2018), Ray Arsenault (2017), Paul Matties Jr. (2016), Jim Benes (2013), Michael Beychok (2012), Stanley Bavlish (2007), Steve Wolfson Jr. (2003), and Judy Wagner (2001), plus NHC Hall of Famers Sally Goodall, Dave Gutfreund, Paul Sherman, Trey Stiles, Roger Cettina, and Christopher Larmey.

Handicappers cannot buy an entry to play in the NHC. You must join the NTRA’s NHC Tour and win a spot with a high finish in an NTRA-sanctioned contest. Qualifying for the next NHC finals in 2024 is already open.

For a full schedule of NHC handicapping events, and to join the NHC Tour, click here.


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