01/27/2011 3:44PM

Last Chance Qualifier adds final five to NHC 12

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LAS VEGAS – The 305-player field for the 12th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship was finalized Wednesday, with the Last Chance Qualifier at the Red Rock Resort.

Tom Blosser, 55, of Cornville, Ariz.; Dustin Moore, 39, of St. George, Utah; Bill Kennedy, 38, of Charles Town, W.Va.; Anne Moore, 50, of Cleveland; and Dean Shulman, 50, of Las Vegas, claimed the five NHC berths out of the 89 Last Chance contestants who paid the $500 entry fee and made 15 mythical $2 win-and-place wagers. The format, with eight bets being mandatory and seven being player’s choice and with prices capped at $42 to win and $22 to place is the same format that is used each day of the NHC finals, which runs Friday and Saturday. The tracks that were part of Wednesday’s contest were Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Tampa Bay, and Turf Paradise. No mandatory races were used at Aqueduct, with the possibility that the card was going to be canceled.

Seventy percent of the entry fees from this event were added to the NHC purse, helping push it to a record $1.05 million, so Last Chancers were mostly playing for the opportunity to play this weekend, with only the top-three finishers cashing.

NHC XII: Friday mandatory races chosen | Live updates | Q&A with Tour winner Thomas Noone

Blosser, who runs a swimming pool service and repair company near the resort town of Sedona, Ariz. (and probably felt right at home at Red Rock, which is on the west side of Las Vegas near a similar nature area with red-rock formations), won the $6,675 first-place prize, with a score of $150.80 from his 15 plays to earn his second NHC finals berth. He woke up at 4 a.m. Wednesday and drove to Las Vegas, arriving at 8 a.m. to enter the contest.

The pivotal play for Blosser was in Turf Paradise’s sixth race, a $3,000 claimer. He had only one elective pick remaining and used it on Dreamin’s Believin.

“I could have saved the pick, but the more I looked at the horse, the more I liked it, plus they were adding the second-leading jockey Anne Von Rosen,” Blosser said of his winning play. “I weighed that against waiting to use the pick in the last contest race but didn’t know what kind of price I would get, so when it was going off at 21-1 I went for it.”

He made the right call. Even though Dreamin’s Believin only dead-heated for the win, the 38 contest points ($19.60 to win, $18.40 to place) put him into the lead with just a few races to go.

Blosser said he handicaps using Daily Racing Form and picks from a fellow handicapper, David Snyder

Dustin Moore, an Internet marketer who had never played in a handicapping contest before, nearly caught Blosser in the final race of the contest, the ninth at Turf Paradise. Moore trailed by $10.20 and used Sailable, who went off at 6-1. Sailable nearly went wire to wire before losing by a neck to Tango Mango. The $9 place price left Moore just $1.20 short of Blosser, and he claimed the $4,450 second-place prize in claiming his first NHC berth.

Kennedy, the jockey agent for Travis Dunkelberger, said he had “never played a race at Turf Paradise in my life” but he used Tango Mango, who paid $13.20 to win and $5.80 to place, to jump from fifth place entering the final race to claim the last money spot of $2,225, with a score of $139.50. He’s making his second straight trip to the NHC finals.

Anne Moore (no relation to Dustin) is the business manager at the law office of fellow handicapper Louis Licata. Moore jumped into contention early and earned her first NHC berth after many close calls.

Shulman could be called a Last Chance specialist. He won this tournament two years ago at the Red Rock when playing in his first handicapping tournament and, after failing to qualify in last year’s Last Chance, made it 2 for 3 with his fifth-place finish with a score of $122.80.

So there you have the last five qualifiers added to the 300 who had previously qualified. By the end of Saturday’s racing action, one of those will have the ultimate story of winning $500,000 and the title of Handicapper of the Year.

NHC news and notes

Daily Racing Form will be continuing its expanded coverage of the NHC through the weekend on DRF.com, with stories, updated standings, and videos by yours truly, Dave Tuley; DRF national handicapper Mike Watchmaker; and Bob Nastanovich, a former jockey agent and member of the rock band Pavement. There also will be updates on Twitter for followers of @DRFInsidePost.

◗ NTRA officials met with the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association and representatives from Las Vegas race books Wednesday night to recruit casinos to host NHC qualifying tournaments. In the past, a full-fledged membership to the NTRA was required in order to host sanctioned events, but that was dropped this past fall as the NTRA tries to expand the finals to an anticipated 500 players vying for a $1 million first-place prize out of a $2 million purse in the NHC next year.

◗ One of the great NHC additions in recent years has been the day-after-the-NHC qualifying tournament for next year’s NHC at the host hotel. The Red Rock Shootout, with two NHC spots up for grabs, will be held Sunday for the 304 also-rans who don’t earn the automatic exemption that comes with the NHC title as well as everyone else who missed out on the fun. The entry fee is $100 and is limited to one per person. Unlike the Last Chance, 100 percent of entry fees are returned to players on a 50-20-15-10-5 percent basis.

Since a lot of finalists fly back home Sunday, the Shootout is set up with a scaled-down version of the NHC format as each player makes just eight mythical $2 win-and-place bets with four races being mandatory and the other four being player’s choice from a list of contest tracks.