02/06/2014 5:16PM

NHC Tour offers cash prizes and another path to Las Vegas


So, what is the DRF NHC Tour, and what does it mean for horseplayers?

The DRF NHC Tour is a separate competition across qualifying events for the National Handicapping Championship. Each NHC Tour begins just after the previous year’s NHC finals and goes through the end of the year. Prizes are awarded twice annually, on July 31 (an approximate halfway mark) and Dec. 31. All the qualifying events for the NHC give players the opportunity to win NHC Tour points.

The best thing the NHC Tour offers is a lottery ticket: Should a player win the Tour and go on to win the NHC finals, he will receive a $2 million bonus. There also is additional prize money; $50,000 in prizes will be awarded to Tour points leaders for the first half of the year, and an additional $150,000 will be awarded to points leaders at year’s end.

Tour membership costs $50 – the same $50 one has to pay anyway to qualify for the NHC. The schedule for the year should be finalized by March 1, but a preliminary calendar, which will be updated as time goes on, is available at www.ntra.com/en/nhc/nhc-tour-schedule.

To receive Tour points in a contest, you must finish in the top 10 percent of the field, so if a contest has 50 entrants, you must finish in the top five to get points.

There is a sliding scale based on field size that will determine how many points are awarded to each finisher in the top 10 percent. The scale is way too complicated to detail here, but there is helpful information on the NTRA website and even a spreadsheet that you can find in paragraph 6 of the official rules (www.ntra.com/en/nhc/official-rules).

In 2013, there were 64 onsite contests and 81 online contests for which NHC Tour points were awarded. To make the scoring more about quality than quantity, there is not a simple accumulation of scores – that would give too much of an edge to a person who simply was willing to play in every online qualifier throughout the year.

Instead, a number of a player’s best scores are added together to represent each player’s total. For the money awarded July 31, the best four scores are used, with one having to be from a brick-and-mortar event. For the money awarded Dec. 31, six scores are used, with one having to be from an onsite event. If you don’t have an onsite score, you are still eligible for the prize money but will take a zero for one of your scores.

One great benefit of playing on the NHC Tour is the opportunity to qualify for the NHC without having won a seat through an event during the year. The top 150 players on the NHC Tour will get seats in Las Vegas, assuming they haven’t already qualified. A player can’t get a second qualification through the Tour. The Tour is more a way to reward players who have been consistent throughout the year but just haven’t caught the breaks to qualify outright.

In 2013, 22 players qualified this way, including former NHC champion Judy Wagner, who finished 12th at the NHC finals.

The NHC Tour is a work in progress.

“It’s still very much in its infancy,” said Keith Chamblin, the NTRA’s senior vice president of marketing and industry relations, “and it’s got a long way to go in terms of our being able to provide a more structured, cleaner path to the championship.”

I agree. As presently constructed, it’s not even an easy thing to describe, let alone win. But there’s no doubt that the Tour has increased participation in NHC qualifying tournaments and has a lot to offer the regular contest player.

Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Judy Wagner asked me to post this on her behalf: I strongly support the Bricks & Mortar tournaments. When handicapping tournaments and the NHC were first gaining popularity most tournaments were onsite. Going to onsite tournaments gives you the opportunity to make some of the greatest friends and socialize with other horseplayers. I look forward every year to trying to get to NHC to be able to see "handicapping friends". The requirement of the onsite score certainly does not prevent you from qualifying for NHC on points alone. Although I did play in several onsite tournaments I did not have a top 10% finish to receive points from an onsite tournament. My 5 scores were all earned online and I still finished 100 overall in Tour points, earning a spot at NHC 2014. I personally would like to see more Bricks and Mortar tournaments. Great example - My friendship with our 2014 Champion, Jose Arias, was made at the Surfside Bricks and Mortar tournaments several years ago! Judy Wagner
John Herzberg More than 1 year ago
Wre can we find some pick and pray format contests.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I think every online contest site has them. I'd start with horsetourneys, HPQualify and DerbyWars
Seth Morris More than 1 year ago
Why require that someone play in an on track event? Why eliminate people that have children, jobs, and other responsibilities that do not allow for the on track attendance on a specified date? It's akin to having a breeders cup day on a Friday, which for some, makes it a non-event. I would love to hear an explanation of this policy...... Why not require a once a week online pick submission to truly prove who is the top handicapper? Top 4, strange formulas.....all completely unnecessary. simple=increased participation....
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
You are still eligible for prize money without playing on-site but it is a "tour" after all. Personally I like that you have to have one score from a live event -- it's a smart way to support the on-site contests, which are really vital. Online is great and all and there are plenty of opps for folks who don;t want to travel but if you want to have a realistic shot of winning the NHC Tour, you probably have to travel a bit. The contest you describe sounds a lot like DRF Public Handicapper. You might want to check that out. I definitely take your point about the rules being a little Byzantine but like Keith C says in the article, it's all a work in progress.
Starks43 More than 1 year ago
What is so nice to see is the ongoing commitment to improve and enhance the tour and overall Championship. I have not been crazy about all of the changes (such as double entries, final 50 cutoff), but again have been very impressed and pleased by the willingness to continually self examine and most importantly listen to players. Have found everyone involved in the tour to be very passionate and transparent. Have really enjoyed being part of these contests and looking forward to what should be an exciting 2014!