07/01/2016 1:26PM

Mattera lands first NHC berth

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Anthony Mattera gave himself a nice birthday present last weekend: his first trip to the National Handicapping Championship. Mattera, 32, owns a consulting firm as an American Disabilities Act expert.

Mattera hails from Estell Manor, N.J., and was more or less raised at Atlantic City Race Course. His dad still tells the story – possibly embellished – of Mattera’s birthday party back in 1988, a few weeks after Risen Star, wearing the No. 5 saddle towel, triumphed impressively in the Belmont Stakes.

“I was a huge Risen Star fan, and I wanted to bet the 5 in every race, thinking it was Risen Star,” Mattera said.

Lo and behold, 5s were wild at Atlantic City that day, and the $2 bankroll grew and grew until the last race, where the No. 5 was a rank outsider, some 16-1 poke. His dad asked him what he wanted to do with the $200 they had accrued.

“Bet it all on No. 5,” he said.

“Are you sure, son?”

“I’ve been waiting my whole life for this.”

Sure enough, the animal won, and the Mattera clan headed to Jamesway. “We bought the place out,” Mattera said, “Power Wheels, swing sets, the whole nine yards.”

Of course, since that day, Mattera has experienced plenty of the agony of being a horseplayer to go along with the ecstasy. Last year, on two separate occasions on NHCQualify.com, he missed qualifying for the NHC by mere cents. But the year wasn’t all bad – he won an event at the Borgata, and he was philosophical about the tough beats.

“As a horseplayer since age 4, you get immune to the heartbreaks,” he said. “Missing a big score by a dime is a normal day for us.”

He is excited about attending his first NHC. “Being so new to contests, it will be cool to play in the NHC,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about – dreaming about the chance to win $800,000. Now I have to get my second entry.”

He also loves the idea that the NHC winner gets an Eclipse Award and gives a speech at the Eclipse Awards dinner. He’s admitted to thinking a little bit about what he might say.

“I’d quote the movie ‘Let It Ride,’ ” he said, “There is no horse racing without betting.”

Sunday contests

Sunday is a busy day on DRF Tournaments, with six contests scheduled as of this writing. The main event is a qualifier to Santa Anita’s Autumn Championship, and there are a variety of other options as well.

For the Santa Anita contest, which uses the live format, entries cost $190, and one $5,000 prize package will be awarded for every 31 entries. The Santa Anita Autumn Championship winner will be eligible for a $1 million bonus should he go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

Speaking of the BCBC, there is a $25 all-in feeder for the Sunday, July 10, BCQualify contest on Sunday. The top 10 percent of finishers will advance.

There are two ways to win seats into the July 10 NHCQualify event via feeders, both of which cost $26. One uses the all-in format, the other is live, and the top 10 percent of finishers will advance.

There are also a couple of credit builders on the menu. One costs $21 and will award $1,008 in credit to the top five; the other is a $150 winner-take-all that costs $15. The credit builders have been filling fast, so sign up today. There is no better way to finance your contest activity.

Here are the races for Sunday’s contests (all times Eastern):

4:09 Belmont 6

4:30 Santa Anita 1

4:41 Belmont 7

4:51 Woodbine 9

5:00 Santa Anita 2

5:13 Belmont 8

5:30 Santa Anita 3

5:36 Woodbine 10

5:45 Belmont 9

6:00 Santa Anita 4

6:17 Belmont 10

6:25 Woodbine 11