01/22/2015 4:26PM

NHC purse increased to record level

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Purse increases have been announced for the 16th annual National Handicapping Championship, being held Friday through Sunday at Treasure Island in Las Vegas.

The field will consist of 606 entrants competing for a $2,363,000 purse as well as an Eclipse Award for Horseplayer of the Year. The first-place prize has been increased to $800,000. Last year’s winner, Jose Arias, of Bell Gardens, Calif., took home $750,000.

In a sign of the exponential growth happening in the contest world, the total cash prizes have increased 49 percent over the 2014 NHC purse, which had a then-record $1,585,000. If you include monies won on the NHC Tour and other prizes and travel allowances, this year’s total purse for all things NHC climbs to $2,681,000, a 37 percent increase over last year’s $1.99 million.

“We are extremely proud to offer the largest purse in handicapping-tournament history,” said Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of the NTRA. “Interest in the NHC is exploding on every level, from registration in qualifying tournaments around the country and online to the expansion of the yearlong NHC Tour. None of this growth would be possible without the support of horseplayers and our tournament partners.”

The NTRA responded to criticism about last year’s payout structure being too top-heavy in its characteristic way – listening to the players and making concordant changes. Each of the top four finishers at this year’s finals will receive six-figure payouts, with $250,000 to second, $125,000 to third, and $100,000 to fourth. Tenth place, just $11,600 last year, has been increased to $50,000. Fiftieth place, just $4,000 last year, has been upped to $10,000.

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Bonus prize money is offered for the Day 1 and Day 2 winners – $15,000 per day spread across the top five scorers, with $5,000 for the day’s highest score. For the first time, all NHC participants will receive a $100 Treasure Island poker chip.

Players who do not make the cut for the final 50 on Sunday are eligible for a $65,000 consolation tournament with cash awards going to the top 20 finishers, including $10,000 in prize money and a $10,000 entry into the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge to the winner.

Live NHC coverage will be available several ways. You can follow along on DRF Live for continuing coverage on all three contest days, including scoreboard updates, analysis, and in-depth racing coverage. Sunday’s final table also will be shown live on HRTV from 5-8 p.m. Eastern on Sunday. “At the Races with Steve Byk” will broadcast live on Sirius XM satellite radio from Treasure Island during the show’s regular hours, 9 a.m. to noon Eastern, Friday and Monday, while bonus coverage from “At the Races” will be available Saturday and Sunday at NTRA.com.

Players also are encouraged to play along with the NHC via online tournaments on Saturday and Sunday hosted by NHCQualify.com for just $50 each day. For more information about these tournaments, check out this article.