12/31/2002 1:00AM

From 45,000 players come 213 finalists


The 213-player field for the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship IV has been finalized. Handicappers throughout the county had their final chances to qualify for the annual event last week. The national finals will be held on January 17-18 at the Bally's race book in Las Vegas.

The National Handicapping Championship will bring together the top finishers from 81 contests held at 48 racetracks, OTB's, casinos, websites, and racing organizations throughout the past year in North America. The field will be broken down into 53 four-person teams (based on qualifying site) plus last year's champion, Herman Miller, from Oakland, Calif.

More than 45,000 players played in DRF/NTRA qualifying contests in 2002. The 213 national finalists come from 31 states and two Canadian provinces. The field will be predominately male with the 22 women in the field accounting for just over 10 percent of the qualifiers. The qualifiers range in age from 23-year-old Dustin Dooley of Indianola, Iowa, to 85-year-old Martin Kasich of San Francisco.

The purse of National Handicapping Championship IV will be $212,000, with $100,000 going to the winner.

The final slots in the national finals field went to the winners of recent contests hosted by Tampa Bay Downs, Turfway Park, Golden Gate Fields, the Twin Spires Club, the Surfside Race Place at Del Mar, and Autotote.

80-year-old tops Tampa tourney

Eighty-year-old Ann Goldstone of Largo, Fla., topped a field of 129 players to win the Tampa Bay Downs handicapping contest on Dec. 21.

Goldstone, a regular at Tampa Bay Downs, turned her mythical $1,000 tournament bankroll into $3,280, from wagers on the local 11-race card. Her best bets included a winning $200 place bet on Glitter Lady ($13.20 to place), and a $200 win bet on Dash on Holme ($19.60) in Tampa's eighth and ninth races, to secure the victory over runner-up Brad Wolf of Tampa, Fla.

The contest cost $25 to enter and offered four qualifying trips to the NHC IV finals in Las Vegas as its prizes. Joining Goldstone and Wolf in Las Vegas will be third- and fourth-place finishers Robert Rahal of Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Scott Brown of Port Richey, Fla.

Rahal is a long-time tournament player who has also owned racehorses and was once a jockey's agent for Jorge Velasquez at Calder.

Brown will be getting married on Jan. 13 and will celebrate his honeymoon in Las Vegas at the National Handicapping Championship.

Regulars win Handicapping Blowout

Local knowledge went a long way for two Turfway Park regulars who earned top honors in Turfway Park's $15,000 Handicapping Blowout on Dec. 15. Dennis Delaney and Terry Holden won in a field of over 150 players from seven states to punch their tickets to the NHC IV.

Delaney compiled a final bankroll of $99.50 based on 10 mythical $2 win and $2 place wagers on the day's card from Turfway Park. In addition to qualifying for NHC IV, Delaney also earned first prize of $10,000 for the victory. Holden placed second with a total of $96.50 and earned $3,000 along with his trip to Las Vegas.

* Twin Spires locations throughout Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky held four weekly qualifying contests during December. The first-place finishers in each advanced to the National Handicapping Championship. The winners were Karen Richards of Pembroke Pines, Fla.; Van Marsh of Elm Grove, Wisc.; David Steurer of Belvidere, Ill.; and Ted Tragarz from Chicago.

* Paul Shurman of Dix Hills, N.Y., won first prize of $2,000 and a trip to NHC IV in the Autotote On the Wire phone betting contest on Dec. 15. Shurman turned his $200 real-money bankroll into $8,576.

* Daniel Cuevas of San Diego won the handicapping contest at the Surfside Race Place at Del Mar on Dec. 14-15. Cuevas earned $3,500 in prize money and a trip to the NHC IV in Las Vegas. Runner-up Roberta Cote of Encinitas, Calif., also qualified for the national finals.

* The final qualifiers to the NHC IV were the top four finishers in the Golden Gate Fields handicapping contest, which concluded Dec. 28. The winners were local Bay Area residents James Wiley, Wanda Tam, Joseph Kersky, and Kathy Piscitelli. Last year's National Handicapping Champion, Herman Miller, was the fourth-place finisher in this contest last year.