Updated on 09/17/2011 11:18PM

Euphoria ultimately erases nausea

Mark Lowe took home second-place money of $100,000.

LAS VEGAS - After the last race of the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, Mark Lowe was leaving the Bally's race and sports book, just hoping he had finished in the top 20.

Lowe, the day one co-leader, selected 17-1 winner Alluring Bel in the 10th race at Santa Anita, but didn't think his total would be enough to qualify for a sizable prize. He had struggled most of the day and had dropped to 10th place after the most-recently posted scoring update two hours earlier. But, as he was leaving the tournament area, an NTRA official ran to find him.

"She said 'Please don't go, you came in second,' " Lowe said. "I was stunned."

Lowe's final total of 228.60 was indeed good for the runner-up spot and a $100,000 prize check. Lowe also earned $4,000 for finishing in a tie atop the leader board of 225 handicappers on Friday.

Lowe's finish was even more impressive considering he missed a mandatory race on Saturday, in part because he lost track of the timing while eating a tuna salad sandwich for lunch. It was one minute to post when he realized he needed to wager, and he didn't have enough time to fill out the bet slip and submit the bet. As it turned out, the horse he would have bet in the ninth race at Aqueduct finished a distant second, and the $5.70 place price wouldn't have affected his overall position. He ended up finishing 8.60 points short of the winner, Ron Rippey.

"Three of my horses got scratched in the optional races, and there was indecision on my part with the built-up emotions and nerves," Lowe said. "Getting lunch compounded the problem. I was sick to my stomach."

Lowe, 58, from Bayonet Point, Fla., is a former air traffic controller and now works in manufacturing quality control. He qualified for his first NHC last April at Tampa Bay Downs. He said all of his longshot hits in the NHC - including 45-1 first-time-turf winner Add Heat on Friday and first-time starter Alluring Bel - were picked on the basis of breeding information.

Lowe appeared cool at the end of day one when he found out he was leading the $540,000 tournament. But, with many of the sharpest tournament players in close pursuit, the pressure made it a rough night.

"I went back to the room to study and my nerves were shattered," Lowe said. "I handicapped for three hours until my eyes were stinging. They hurt like hell."

The $100,000, he says, will go a long way in helping with the care of his 79-year-old mother, Jean. As of Sunday morning, Lowe hadn't even told Jean - or anyone in his family - about his performance in the tournament. He didn't want to excite his mother, with her fragile health. He said he will tell his family only about the day one prize, and they will figure out the rest when they watch the ESPN2 special on Feb. 19. Lowe said he plans to put the rest of the money in an IRA and possibly buy a car.

Alluring Bel's win in the $19,000 maiden claimer at Santa Anita had greater monetary implications than the connections of the filly could have ever imagined. Her win scrambled a leader board that remained relatively unchanged during most of the afternoon on Saturday. The filly's win was particularly painful for Cheryl Britt. Playing alongside her fianc?, John Fischer, she led most of the day until the last race of the tournament, before sinking to fifth.

Four players - Rippey, Lowe, Mel Moser, and Louis Licata - leaped over her by selecting the Jeff Mullins-trained winner. Had 8-5 favorite Julep Cup not blown the lead in deep stretch, Britt would have won the NHC. The difference in prize money was $235,000, but Britt tried to be positive shortly after the race.

"I never thought it was going to be a longshot like that," she said. "We're going to be all right."