12/08/2006 1:00AM

Longshot launches McClyment to NHC

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Diane McClyment of Bel Air, Maryland, traveled south to Texas to win a berth in the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association's National Handicapping Championship, topping 163 contestants at Sam Houston Race Park's qualifying tournament on September 23. The key to McClyment's victory was selecting Meadow Breeze ($70.50) to upset the Grade 1 Matron at Belmont Park under Kent Desormeaux.

"I tend to think that 2-year-old races can be totally unpredictable," she said. "There were no real standouts in the race, and the filly was ridden by a good jockey."

McClyment won the Sam Houston tournament with a bankroll of $175.80. The runner-up was Steve Lombardo of Houston, with a bankroll of $164.80, while Hulon Sistrunk of Mansfield, California, finished third with a bankroll of $140.60. McClyment won the first-place prize of $8,000, while all three players earned trips to the NHC.

McClyment's husband, Mack, has also qualified for the NHC, in a tournament at another facility on June 3. The NHC finale will be held in Las Vegas.

"One thing we have going for us is that we lived there for 17 years, and returning to Las Vegas will not be the distraction for us that it can be for some finalists," said McClyment.