01/25/2016 2:12PM

NHC will-pay is giant for Kinchen


There is one player at the 2016 National Handicapping Championship playing for more than everyone else. By virtue of his resounding win in the 2015 NHC Tour, Jonathon Kinchen is eligible for a $2 million bonus should he go on and win the NHC itself, meaning he will be $2.8 million richer should he get the job done.

“One of the most fun things as a multi-race player is to look at the will plays when you’re alive in a Pick Four or Pick Six to see what it is you’re actually going to win,” said the 33-year old, the youngest winner in Tour history. “I’ve got this $2.8 million will pay if I can get this 200- or 300-to-1 shot home. Being alive to a big score like this is really exciting.”

In reality, Kinchen’s price should be shorter than that. By simple math, he has two entries out of approximately 635, for 317.5-1, but between various players who are just happy to be there and his own impressive skills, his true odds are probably closer to 100-1 if not lower. He’s no cinch, but still great value for a life-changing score. Who needs Powerball when you’ve got the NHC Tour?

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For Kinchen, the NHC feels like a home game. He exploded on the handicapping contest scene at last year’s event, landing two entries into the final 10 and literally becoming a game changer – NHC rules were revised because of him. Last year, he set his alarm for 3.45 a.m. every day and was down in the ballroom by 4 a.m, preparing.

“My biggest difference is understanding what is necessary for preparation,” he said. “I think I have a better idea of what it takes to be prepared this time around.”

His initial prep plan was a little too ambitious. “I planned to watch every race at every NHC track from December 1 to three weeks out, because I wanted to have trip notes already written out so I didn’t have to take the time to watch the replays after the races draw,” he explained.

It was a daunting task and two days ago he abandoned the plan. He was helped by the move of the NHC to Thursday as PPs are available earlier and more pre-work can be accomplished. “Instead of cramming, I decided to keep my brain fresh and save the mental energy for when the PPs came out,” he said.

Still, he got plenty of trip notes done at the various tracks – especially at Santa Anita – and he has a better sense of riders based on that. “I know who some live jockeys are, who put their horses in position to win,” he said, “especially riders who will really affect a horse’s running style in a positive or negative way.”

All the work he’s done will not only help him to win, it will allow him peace of mind.  “Saturday night, when it’s over, I just want to feel like whatever happens I did everything I was supposed to do, that I did all the work,” he explained, “and I’ll be able to sleep a little bit better knowing that.”

Kinchen believes in himself as he approaches this potential life-changing score. “I am ready to rock and roll,” he said. “Now I just need to get lucky."

When Kinchen reflects on his tour win, he gets excited about a different aspect of his victory than you might guess. It’s not the seat to next year’s NHC, nor the $75,000 for the tour victory, not even the $2 million bonus that gets his motor running, “I’m more excited for the trophy and the speech,” he said.