01/28/2011 7:24PM

Minnesotan jumps to early lead in NHC

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LAS VEGAS – Thomas Anderson, a 54-year-old salesman from Burnsville, Minn., is trying to pull a Brian Troop.

For the second straight year at the 12th annual Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship, a contestant is putting up a ridiculous score midway through the opening day of the two-day event that has a record $1.05 million purse with $500,000 going to the champion along with the title of 2010 Handicapper of the Year.

Contestants make 15 mythical $2 win-and-place bets each day, with eight races being mandatory and seven being player's choice, with prices capped at $42 to win and $22 to place. Last year, Troop had a score of $163 through the first six mandatory races on the way to a record Day 1 score of $232.60, and he held on to win the title with a final score of $266.

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Through the first five mandatory races Friday (the ninth at Gulfstream, which brought to a close the Eastern tracks in the contest), Anderson had a score of $163.80. But he isn't running away with the tourney as Ron Geary, the owner of Ellis Park, is in second place at $154.60. Three other contestants were also over $100 at that point: Yu De'ath of Las Vegas, Alan Hasher of Solano Beach, Calif.; and Christopher Larmey of Kennewick, Wash.

Anderson, whose biggest score to date was a $31,000 pick six at Oaklawn around 2000 and whose biggest tournament winnings is just $2,000, qualified for the National Handicapping Championship at the Dog Days of Summer XIV tourney at Canterbury Downs on Aug. 21-22. His big score to put him in contention was Dug In winning the third race at Gulfstream and paying $42 to win and $13.80 to place.
“The trainer, Carlos Martin doesn't claim too many horses, and I liked this one moving to turf,” Anderson said.

Other winners for Anderson were Harborplace in the fifth race at Tampa Bay Downs ($16 to win, $6.60 to place) and Gleaming Lady in the ninth at Aqueduct $21 to win, $8.20 to place).

The early leader after the first mandatory race, the seventh at Aqueduct, was Tony Garafolo of Cincinnati. The first mandatory was later than usual because the NTRA was trying to give more time to contestants with travel issues. Garafolo also used Dug In as his big early score. He was holding in 10th place after the fifth mandatory.

NHC XII was supposed to have 305 contestants, but there are only 301 at the Red Rock today. Jason Ruff was one of 35 who called the NTRA during Thursday's registration to say their flights were being delayed from back East. All the others ended up making it, but Ruff wasn't able to get a flight out of Boston and gave up Friday morning. Steve Duffield said he was ill and wasn't making the trip. Gary Bane had a family illness. Jim Gilardi was a no-show.

The last mandatory race of the day is the sixth at Santa Anita, scheduled post time at 3:36 p.m. Oacific. The final contest race of the day is the eighth at Santa Anita.

The updated leaderboard as well as video coverage of NHC XII can be found on the DRF.com website at http://bit.ly/nhcxii