01/09/2007 1:00AM

Handicapping championship purse $850K


The purse for the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship, to be held Jan. 26-27 at Bally's Las Vegas, is an estimated $850,000 with $400,000 going to the winner, the NTRA announced Tuesday.

Both will be records for the eight-year-old national championships. Last year, the total purse was $500,000, with the top prize of $225,000 going to the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger's public handicapper Ron Rippey, who also earned an automatic berth to return to defend his title. The rest of the 255 contestants had to earn their way into the finals through 93 qualifying tournaments at participating NTRA-member racetracks, OTB's, casinos, and websites.

Five berths remain, with a "last chance" tournament to be held Wednesday, Jan. 24, at Bally's. The entry fee is $300, with $250 per entry going toward the championship purse, which is expected to boost it over the $850,000 mark.

In the national championship, contestants make 15 mythical $2 win-and-place wagers on each of the two days, with eight of those being races that everyone has to play, plus seven optional races from six designated tracks. The top 20 finishers earn prize money, plus there is $10,000 in daily prizes for the top scores each day and a team competition - based on where qualifiers earned their berths - with the top team splitting $15,000.

In addition to the $400,000 first-place prize, the champion also earns a special Eclipse Award as Handicapper of the Year.