01/31/2010 2:55AM



Brian Troop had a pretty lousy day at the races Saturday: $60 in bets and only a $33.40 return. The net result? A check for $500,000. 


Troop, coming off the best Day One ($232.60) in the history of the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, had the worst-ever Day Two ($33.40) by an eventual winner but held off the closers to win NHC XI. As he later said, his performance reminded him of one by Presious Passion -- open up a huge lead on the field, dig in late, and just hang on. Even so, Troop’s total of $266 was the third-highest winning score in NHC history behind Steve Wolfson Jr.’s $279.60 in NHC VI and Richard Goodall’s $272.30 in NHC IX.

Troop and everyone else had to scramble a little when Laurel and Oaklawn cancelled their cards and Aqueduct cancelled after its third race. (The Laurel cancellation also meant the scrapping of the year's inaugural Magna 5, because Laurel hubs the bet and Magna had no backup plan.)

"I never look at Golden Gate," Troop said, "but today I had to."

This year's field of 300 (down from 302 after late scratches), included 7 of the 10 previous NHC winners, but as a group they underperformed. Judy Wagner (NHC II) rallied to finish a fine 21st, but the six others ran 78th, 145th, 223rd, 235th, 243rd and 296th.

The top finishers reflected racing's mature demographic -- the first five finishers were all between 53 and 61 years old. On the other hand hand, three of those five qualified in online tournaments. So I guess a few of us with AARP cards can actually also operate computers.

Troop, an accountant from Ontario, does not seem likely to quit the game and sit on his winnings. As he was surrounded by photographers and well-wishers on the racebook floor after his victory was certified, he had two requests. First, he asked someone to bring him a Heineken. Then he wanted to know where he could get tomorrow's Racing Form.

Carm More than 1 year ago
I was at the Laurel contest of Champions saturday and Brian Troop was there. We joked because I sent a comment to the NHC about keeping the daily prizes up for sunday and giving more money to the other places up to 30 or 50, so when "some lucky stiff has a big day as Brian had on the first day, the others can still keep to their handicap style and shoot for those worthwhile prizes, instead of chasing wild long shots hoping to catch up." Brian mentioned he has been to five tournaments since, and threw a shutout each time. Just shows how hard it is to win any of these tournaments, and how great Brian's Championship win was. $500,000 is plenty enough, so spread the ever-increasing purse money down to the other places. Finishing in the top 30 is very hard and commendable.
pete freundlich More than 1 year ago
Steve, First of all, thanks for DRF sponsorship of the the NHC. I have been to Red Rock the last three years, finishing exactly 35th each of the last two years (with a positive ROI). Even though the tournaments that I won or placed in to qualify were money contests where I went "all in" on well handicapped longshots, I feel the basic format of NHC is more democratic and fair. I would tweek it a bit, shades of the NYRA contests, which allow one play each day to count double. Keep the win/place as now (unlike NYRA which is win OR place)but having one play count double rewards a handicappers assessment of his or her value plays. To prevent a stabber from using the double bet late in the contest in a desparate attempt to move way up or win you can stipulate a simple rule that it must be used in the first 8 races of any tracks cards or can't be used in the last 3 or 4 races of the contest (west coast tracks). Come to think of it maybe two $4 WP plays a day out of the 15 really would separate the good handicappers better. Venue is fine, time of year is okay as prepping in Dec and Jan makes NJ winter go faster. Ashame Tampa Bay is not in NTRA and thus not in contest as this would have alleviated the cancellation problems.
pete freundlich More than 1 year ago
Steve, first of all thanks for sponsoring the NHC. This was my third time at Red Rock with identical 35th place finishes last two years. what are the odds on that? anyway, even though I qualified in money contests I think the mythical format is more democratic and fair as a poor guy can't be expected to pull the trigger like a rich guy for this title.....and I'm a Republican!!! What I would do to improve it is make two bets each day count double. This would reward the better handicappers who can ferret out the value plays properly and/ or turn a modest 5-1 shot into a bet worth making if it is a cinch and you can get it to count twice. As a safeguard against stabbers late in the contest put in a rule that says either first 8 races at any track are eligible or not the last 3 or 4 in the contest are eligible for the $4WP play.
TheNation More than 1 year ago
I think the favorite would have to be Zenyatta based on recency... but it'd be a very, very narrow margin.
Howard Dennis More than 1 year ago
Congrats to Mr. Troop this is a tough game and any win is well deserved. I have been told that he mentioned in an interview with Jill Byrne that he never went to a race track and had to bet a race. ( we are talking mandatories here) i didn't here it because i was there doing poorly unfortunately. He is correct. Not only should the event be moved to a marque time like Saratoga and Del mar but the Mandatories should be eliminated...Seating was better this year but still the fairness of seats leaves something to be desired and there should not be any seating preference given to tour members nor should any money for the topur prices come out of the general prize pool...
Arlington Bob More than 1 year ago
I disagree with almost everything "wmcorrow" wrote. The key to winning is finding the overlay and wagering big on it. Sure, one has to use a little imagination and have balls, but that's why it's so rewarding when it works. How does one gain monetary advantage or intellectual stimuation from picking "logical winners" all the time? Even the masses do that 33% of that time, and it's about as challenging as playing tic tac toe with a four-year old. There is a little something called money management which must go hand in hand with handicapping. The NHC contest should absolutely recognize the handicapper who consistently wagers on horses which outrun their odds, because that's what this game is really about.
Tim Franklin More than 1 year ago
I am sure Aqueduct has there reasons but running your feature race before 1.30 in the afternoon on Saturday makes no sence to me. Tim212
wmcorrow More than 1 year ago
I have entered many handicapping tournaments, even qualifying for NHC#1 at MGM Grand. I have also been a bit unnerved by the realization that a participant must basically change his handicapping style if he expects to win the tournament: to wit, logical selections must be tossed in favor of, hopefully, a long shot winning. A skilled handicapper usually selects a horse that rarely is a long shot. So, with money won, not winners selected, as the criterion for winning handicapping tournaments, is the player who accumulated the most money, catching two or three long shots (that he certainly wouldn't wager on with his own money) the best handicapper? or another contestant, who accumulated four times as many winners, yet finished far out of the money? In everyday play, the skilled handicapper is into picking winners (double, pick three, pick four, etc.), not into searching for a 'bomb'.
Rick More than 1 year ago
Congratuations to the winner. He deserves the money, but not an Eclipse award. Consider the poor performance of past champions, the large number of participants who scored very low because they were taking shots at boxcars, and the wild swing the winner had from day one to day two. Consider all these things and one can't help but conclude it really came down to luck. Is that how we crown a national champion? Sure, they had to qualify but then the final is just a crapshoot. A similar format, but stretching over 30 days and not just two would be a much better indicator of just who is professional. Less exciting but more accurate.
Kevin Munnelly More than 1 year ago
Dear Steve; I always enjoy your trip reporting and find it fascinating all the details you reveal about your experiences. Just one comment on turf racing at Gulfstream Park this winter. Since they decided to split their large turf course into two courses i think we need to know in the Racing From if the race is run on the inner or outer turf course. Symbols such as the square for inner and circle for outer like Belmont Park would be extremely helpful. This will provide horse players a better sense of post postion and the importance of speed on the inner. Right now Gulfstream just tells us the rail is 36 feet from the hedge or 108 feet. Quite confusing for most. I would appreciate your comment on this situation. Your Garden City neighbor, Kevin