01/25/2014 1:25PM

Sumja will need to rally on Day 2

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Brent Sumja isn’t nervous. Day 1 at the NHC didn’t work out like he planned, but it wasn’t a total disaster. His chance to win the $2 million NHC Tour bonus is still alive. His best ticket is in a tie for 151st going into Day 2 with $73.20. That’s only $21 out of 50th place. His second ticket is in 298th place, with a not hopeless $41.20.

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The strangest thing about Sumja’s Day 1 was how he got on the board, “I took a zero in all the mandatory races. If you had told me going in that I was going to average $9 a race for the optionals on one of my tickets, I would have been happy with that.”

Sumja said he won’t change strategy to start of Day 2, but he did acknowledge that he might be tempted to try to get one ticket into the top 50 to at least have a swing at the $2 million.

Day 1, the after-party

The bars around the Treasure Island last night were packed with contest players. Shortly after the last at Santa Anita, a group including tournament vets Kara Yarusso, Mark Maguire, and Dennis Decauwer – all of whom I know from writing The Winning Contest Player – were in one of the bars just off the casino floor. I had to crash the party for a while. Spirits were high and the consensus was that no one is really out of contention after Day 1, especially with the low end of the cut off for the Top 50 being only $104.40.

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Much later in the evening, I sat sipping my bourbon and soda as former NHC champs John Doyle and John Conte exchanged greetings and stories. A film crew was following Kevin Cox around, exhorting him to ride a mechanical bull at Gilley’s, a cowboy-themed bar on the premises of Treasure Island. No word on if he capitulated. I guess we’ll have to watch Horseplayers – which I still haven’t seen – to find out.

Sunday races selected

The list of Sunday’s mandatory races and optional contest tracks for the Final 50 Tournament (and the concurrent Consolation Tournament) and the Final Table have been announced.

Final 50 participants will play 10 races – three mandatory and seven optional. The mandatory races are Tampa Bay Downs, race 4 (10:57 a.m. Pacific); Gulfstream Park, race 5 (11:36 a.m.); and Oaklawn Park, race 2 (11:57 a.m.). Optional races can be selected from Aqueduct, races 1-7; Fair Grounds, races 1-4; Gulfstream, races 1-6; Oaklawn, races 1-3; and Tampa Bay, races 1-7. The last scheduled post time for the Final 50 is race 4 at Fair Grounds, set for 12:26 p.m. Pacific.

The top 10 scorers from the Final 50 will move on to the Final Table, where all players will make $2 win and place bets on five mandatory races: Gulfstream, race 10 (2:03 p.m.); Gulfstream, race 11 (2:33 p.m.), Fair Grounds, race 9 (2:55 p.m.); Santa Anita, race 8 (4 p.m.); and Santa Anita, race 9 (4:30 p.m.). The final NHC race, the ninth at Santa Anita, is a $12,500 claiming event ($16,000 purse) for older non-winners of two races at six furlongs with a field of 11.