09/07/2016 12:11PM

Kentucky Downs host two contest, one for some Old Friends


The NTRA and Kentucky Downs are teaming up twice this week to give horseplayers a chance to win their way into the National Handicapping Championship – and to help some old friends while they’re at it.

The first opportunity happens online on Thursday, Sept. 8. Thursday is Old Friends Day at Kentucky Downs, which will be the focus of an online contest comprised entirely of races from the all-turf track in Franklin, Ky.

The contest utilizes a $2 win and place wager on a horse in each race. The top two finishers will receive a seat, along with airfare and hotel, to the NHC at Treasure Island. The buy-in is $55, with a maximum of three entries per person and a limit on 400 overall entries.

Profits from the contest will go to Old Friends, the non-profit thoroughbred retirement center that specializes in taking horses after their racing or breeding careers are over while providing fans an up-close look at some of the sport’s most accomplished horses. Old Friends, founded by longtime horseplayer and former Boston Globe film critic Michael Blowen, is headquartered in Georgetown, Ky., with satellite facilities at Kentucky Downs itself and in New York.

“Once they pay out the prize money, what’s left over we get,” Blowen said. “As a lifelong handicapper, I think it’s a great idea. Things at Kentucky Downs couldn’t get going better. I was totally surprised, absolutely flabbergasted — and of course very, very grateful.”

“This is the ultimate win-win-win,” said C.J. Johnsen, Kentucky Downs’s live-racing director and a past NHC qualifier. “Our mantra is that Kentucky Downs is the horseplayer's race Track, and this is a contest for a cause.”

On Saturday, players will have an opportunity to play in an on-site event at Kentucky Downs during its ninth annual Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge. The entry fee is $200 (maximum two entries), with $100 going to the player’s bankroll and the rest to the prize pool. Contestants keep their remaining bankroll at the tournament’s conclusion. The top three also will receive a $400 travel voucher and hotel accommodations.

Kentucky Downs will add a fourth NHC berth if there are at least 160 entries. Players wager $5 each to win and place on one horse in all of the 10 Kentucky Downs races that day. There are no caps on payouts.

“We like giving our players who don’t win one of the top prizes at least a chance to go home with some money,” said Johnsen, “We choose not to have a cap because with our field sizes averaging more than 10 horses per race and 16-percent takeout on straight wagers, some very good horses are going to pay terrific prices. The contest player who can ferret out winners at more than 20-1 odds should be rewarded, not penalized.”