07/29/2016 12:10PM

Holmes headed to NHC for fifth time in six years


Bill Holmes is headed back to the National Handicapping Championship for the fifth time in his six years of playing contests. Holmes, 49, lives in Burlington, Ontario, and he grabbed the third spot in an NHCQualify event on DRF Tournaments last weekend.

Holmes is a portfolio manager and wealth advisor in his day job, and those skills dovetail nicely with horse racing as well. “I have a finance background and I’ve always enjoyed working with numbers in addition to being a racing fan,” he said.

Like so many fans, a family connection opened the door. “I have been in love with Thoroughbred horse racing and handicapping since I was a pre-teen,” Holmes explained. “I had no choice. I come from a racing family.”

He grew up in Niagara Falls going to Fort Erie. “Back then the 'A' league was split between Woodbine and Fort Erie, and it was like a mini-Saratoga in a quaint little town.”

Because of his busy career and family life, it’s rare for Holmes to get the chance to play in on-site events. “I do most of my play at DRF tournaments trying to qualify for the NHC and [Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge],” he said. “I fulfilled a life-long dream two years ago when I visited Keeneland Race Course and played in the October on-site tournament. I also visited Keeneland last October when I qualified for the BCBC and had a great time despite poor results on day two.”

As more of an online player, Holmes has struggled in live-bankroll formats, where many winners get to the top by betting their entire bankrolls in one race. “Although I struggle with equating an all-in bet with consistent handicapping skill, I do grant you that there is a specific skill set associated with achieving success in this format,” he said. “It takes guts, guile, a recognition of value, and identifying a best bet or two of the day to ensure that one capitalizes.”

Holmes credits Steve Byk’s "At The Races" show, as well as ads in Daily Racing Form, with convincing him to try his hand in contests. He’s become a huge fan, especially of the NHC, where he sits with the same group of players every year.

“I love the environment and I love meeting new people and continuing to learn the game,” Holmes said.

There has definitely been a learning curve but he feels like he is on the right side of it now. “Every year I’ve played a little better,” said Holmes, who made a run on day two last year and ended up top five in the consolation tournament. “Every time I go back I have more confidence but it really has to be your couple of days.”

NHC Tour leaders

This weekend marks the end of the first half of the National Handicapping Championship Tour. The top five on the Tour will each receive an entry to the $10,000 Breeders Cup Betting Challenge. The Tour first half standings count five scores, at least one of which must come in an on-site tournament.

Here are the current top 10 in the standings, followed by their current points totals:

Gary McMaster 12,819

Joe Pettit 12,152

Bill Shurman 12,125

Garett Skiba 11,904

Gary Gristick 11,901

Kevin Engelhard 11,851

Eric Moomey 11,681

Chris Skotz 11,675

Sally Goodall 11,405

George Chute 11,164

There are many others in with shots as well. Check out www.ntra.com/nhc/leaders/ and sort by “First Half.” Check back on drf.com next weekend for more information about the five BCBC seat winners.