01/24/2013 8:57PM

Field set for Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship after Last Chance qualifier


LAS VEGAS – The Treasure Island Hotel & Casino held the Last Chance qualifier Thursday for this weekend’s $1.5 million Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, and they came from all over for the five berths that were up for grabs.

Representing the Midwest, Bill Sullivan of Minneapolis was actually fishing in Baja, Mexico, when he decided to make the trip to Las Vegas to try and qualify one last time. He was one of 110 hopefuls that put up $500 apiece in the one-day tournament. He compiled a bankroll of $140 from his contest plays of 13 mythical $2 win-and-place wagers on races from Laurel, Tampa Bay, and Gulfstream.

Sullivan won the first-place prize of $5,775 (70 percent of entries went to the NHC 14 purse this weekend, with 30 percent as prizes in the Last Chance), but the main payoff was the berth in Friday and Saturday’s NHC finals and a shot at the $750,000 top prize and Eclipse Award for Handicapper of the Year.

Two qualifiers didn’t have to travel far at all. NHC 8 winner Stanley Bavlish of Las Vegas finished second with a score of $132.60 to get his chance to try to become the first two-time winner of the NHC.  He received $3,850 in prize money.

John Conte of Las Vegas (note: it’s not the same John Conte that won NHC 10 as he’s from Oceanside, N.Y.)  finished third with a score of $127.20 and earned $1,925 for the last money spot.

Representing the Eastern time zone, Traci Richards of Pembroke Pines, Fla., and Ross Kapstein of Marietta, Ga., finished fourth and fifth with scores of $123 and $117.80, respectively, but just won the NHC berths.

The NHC 14 purse stayed at $1.5 million. Keith Chamblin, senior vice president at the NTRA, said they hoped the number of Last Chance entries would have pushed it over the announced guaranteed purse, but when it didn’t they stuck with the $1.5 million and kept all prizes the same as previously estimated.