01/19/2015 4:58PM

Fornatale: Mayo, Rippey chosen for NHC Hall of Fame

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In 2014, the tournament world lost two of its most accomplished players: Mike Mayo and Ron Rippey. Today, the NTRA announced that Mayo and Rippey will comprise the inaugural class of the National Handicapping Championship Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will occur at the NHC champions dinner Sunday at the conclusion of the three-day NHC finals.

Mayo, a beloved and brash figure in the contest world, was the longtime chairman of the NHC Players’ Committee. He was a big proponent of the expansion of the NHC to three days and the introduction of the final table in 2014. Such was his commitment to making sure things ran smoothly last year that he chose not to compete for an NHC berth, focusing instead on his administrative role.

Mayo qualified for the NHC 10 times and won several important tournaments. He died Sept. 18 at age 60 at his home in Texas.

Keith Chamblin, NHC contest director, was always impressed by Mayo's drive and vision. Chamblin said, "Beyond the pari-mutuel windows and out of sight from most tournament players, Mike had a lasting and profound impact on the development and growth of the NHC, handicapping tournament play, and Thoroughbred horse racing in general."

Rippey won the NHC in 2006 and qualified 11 times overall. He also was the longtime public handicapper for the Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger. In July, just a month before his death, Rippey won more than $130,000 at the Wynn summer contest. His first day in that tournament was one for the ages. Of the 15 required win-place bets, he had five winners and five additional place horses.

His longtime friend and rival Paul Shurman described his Wynn performance: “It was as good a day as any handicapper has ever had. In some way, it’s fitting that he got to have this perfect day before he died.”

Rippey, who lived in Wayne, N.J., died Aug. 26 at age 70 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

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“Both Mike and Ron left indelible marks on the National Handicapping Championship and, through it, contributed to the widespread promotion of Thoroughbred racing in general,” NTRA president and chief executive Alex Waldrop said in a statement.

Mayo and Rippey were chosen by the NTRA after consultation with the NHC Players’ Committee. In future years, nominations will be accepted and a slate of finalists announced. Each year, as many as two finalists will be elected to the Hall by the NHC Hall of Fame Council, consisting of existing NHC Hall of Fame members, a panel of media, the NHC Players’ Committee, and selected tournament operators.

Future inductees will be expected to have played well in NHC events over a period of time and/or made an indelible mark on the contest world. In Mayo and Rippey, they’ll find good company.