01/25/2012 4:40PM

Handicapper of the Year: John Doyle

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Horsephotos/NTRA

In appreciation of horseplayers throughout North America, tonight we will honor John Doyle, a Scottsdale, Ariz., resident who won the $500,000 first-place prize and title of 2011 DRF/NTRA Handicapper of the Year at the 12th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) last January in Las Vegas.

In just its 13th year, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers and is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino race books, off-track betting facilities, and horse racing and handicapping Web sites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals. In additional to the founding title sponsor, the NHC is presented by Treasure Island Las Vegas and Sovereign Stable.

The NHC has enjoyed explosive growth during its relatively brief history. The first NHC in 2000 had 160 contestants and a total purse of $212,000. Last year's event featured 305 players and an aggregate purse of $1,050,150. The upcoming NHC – set for January 27-28 and to be hosted for the first time by Treasure Island – will pit 500 horseplayers who will compete for a record prize pool, including $1 million to the winner.

The 50-year-old Doyle, a longtime IBM account executive who resigned to become a fulltime horseplayer roughly two years ago, amassed a winning score of $234.80 from 30 mythical $2 win-and-place wagers place during the two-day tournament that was held on Jan. 28-29, 2011.

Doyle, a first-time NHC contestant, never led until the contest was over, scoring at Santa Anita on the last race of the competition to put him over the top.

"Incredible," Doyle said of his victory, "especially winning on the last race like that. I've always loved betting the horses, but had never gotten involved in tournament play until this past year."

By virtue of his victory, Doyle automatically earned an exemption into the upcoming $2 million NHC.