Updated on 02/05/2013 6:04PM

National Handicapping Championship expanding to three-day format

Jim Benes of Chicago won this year's National Handicapping Championship, held at the Treasure Island in Las Vegas.

The National Handicapping Championship will go from a two-day format to a three-day format in 2014, the organizers announced on Tuesday, with the top competitors in the first two days squaring off for the final prizes during the third day.

The change is the first major revision of the format since it was launched 14 years ago. In addition to the establishment of a "final table," the organizers also said that players will now be allowed to have two entries in the championship, though only one can be used to advance to the third day. Both entries will have to be earned in qualifying tournaments.

According to Eric Wing, a spokesman for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which organizes the championship with Daily Racing Form, the field for the third day will whittled down to approximately 50 or 60 players, though that number could vary. About halfway through the third day of competition, the top 10 or 12 players will advance to the "final table," Wing said.

The players who do not qualify for the third day of competition will participate in a consolation tournament on the third day, the NTRA said. The tournament has been held in past years on a Friday and Saturday.

The top prize for the tournament is expected to be $750,000 in 2014. Total prizes for the championship run to $1.5 million, though there is also a bonus of $2 million if the top points leader in the National Handicapping Tour also wins the championship.

Wing said that the NTRA will be "closely monitoring" qualifying tournaments to see how the field is shaping during the year, based on the new rule allowing players to earn two berths. Berths are many times based on the number of players in qualifying tournaments, and it's uncertain whether the two-berth rule will increase demand for seats in the qualifiers.

"We really don't know yet if we're going to have 455 players with 600 entries or 350 players with 450 entries," Wing said. "That's something we're just going to have to closely watch. As long as it doesn't affect prize money."

This year, 455 players competed in the National Handicapping Championship, held Jan. 25-26 in Las Vegas. It was won by Jim Benes, a professional horseplayer from Chicago.

Players qualify for the championship by earning berths in a number of tournaments held throughout the year, including free online qualifiers available to members of the NHC Tour. The NTRA said that those free qualifiers will award 20 berths this season, up from 10 during the previous season. There also will be an increase in the number of NHC Tour point earners guaranteed entrance to the finals, from 100 to 150.

Membership in the Tour, which costs $50, is required of anyone earning a berth to the championship.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like most things, the big money buys the big influence. What about the 99% of bettors who love the sport and support the industry? This industry has been on the ropes for years, poking the regular player in the eye wont help. The three day tourney is just a typical Vegas money grab. A proper handicapping tourney would be two days, 10 mandatory and 10 optionals a day - period.... and no stupid 'double up' bet...pure handicapping....horse to horse...dollar to dollar...best handicapper wins. Whats next....cheerleaders...?
mikey More than 1 year ago
This will give the big money player a chance to get 4 or more spots.Once they get in they get members of their famlies in.The wife a son or daughter or a friend.They put up the $$$ and if they get in the other one gets a free trip to Vegas.Where is all the extra $$$$ going.
michaelcancilla More than 1 year ago
NTRA desperate for money and are taking it from the players.More and more tracks not funding useless NTRA and Waldorp. A useless racing organization!
Lenny Mamola More than 1 year ago
one person ......one entry ............ don't play games with the Tournament
702Ray More than 1 year ago
Sorry but this is just the start of the games. You ain't seen nothin yet.
turfnsport More than 1 year ago
The 3-day idea is great. Having two entries not so much. A championship event but you could be sitting next to a guy that has TWO entries to your one? Seriously?
702Ray More than 1 year ago
I pretty much just ignore anything to do with the NHC except if one of my friends makes it then i just support them. This will always be 3rd in line behind all the coast resort tourneys. The difference between NHC and Coast Casino tourneys is the Coast doesnt need or care about the tournament as a revenue stream. They return every single penny the players pay to get in and on top of that they throw in extra for daily prizes and they put up the $1000 for every free entry they give away and any qualifying tournament all money is paid back to the players with sometimes even a little extra money seeding the pot. All they want out of if is to get the handle out of alot of bigger players and show off the place maybe get people to come back. The NHC on the other hand is becoming a greedy corporate monster. The focus was supposed to be lets have a way to crown a national champion handicapper now its become lets make this the biggest spectacle that we can and squeeze as much money out of the players as we can. I would be willing to bet pretty much anything I own that any kind of a TV presentation will not only be a catostrophic failure outside of the "racing world" it will be an even bigger failure with everyone else. The problem is less than 3% of horse players are regular tournament players that is not enough to sustain a TV product unless of course its on TVG or HRTV and we all know what kinds of ratings those channels get. I could go on about this but Ive had enuff with typing this on my Iphone. The last thing Ill mention is the unreal practice of charging people to for a qualifying tourney and only giving back NHC final seats. I will say I think it's amazing the NHC has hypnotized enuff people to play these but its just a terrible terrible investment. the take out is as close to 100% as u can get when u take in to account they fly u out to Vegas and cover the room but that is being very generous. The horse player is the only gambler that will go from the terribly high racing take out to the lunacy of near 100% for Q tourney.in the end its just gonna end up with the same 3000 to 5000 people climbing over each other to get in this thing and nobody else will care. Not much different than it is right now.
Jeff More than 1 year ago
Once upon a time, NYRA ran a FREE tournament for everybody at the Track on the day in question-Thank you Harvey Pack. What happened to this tournament? All of the various complaints herein, do not even address that the regular $2 bettor is shut out of these new fangled Pay tournaments. Even the so-called "free" tournaments require membership in the alleged NTRA Tour. You want more people at the Tracks, how about giving them a very good reason to come to the Track-more free handicapping tournaments- and less concerts and T-shirt giveaways. No charge for the "free" marketing advice!
Bob Lunny More than 1 year ago
If you can qualify twice, that means some one will not qualify because he is beat out by a multi qualifer. The tournament is leaning towards those with alot of money to burn, who will enter multi times. A lot of potentional single qualifers will lose out to 2nd qualifers. The tournament is moving from giving the small player a chance to letting the money loaded professional take it all down. Money is power, the little guy of horseracing is screwed again.
Steven Simonovic More than 1 year ago
So, if you make it to Day #3, Will the remaining 50-60 players start at $0 for the one day event?
Nathan More than 1 year ago
talk about squeezing the lemon dry. are these guys getting a travel agent commission from the treasure island? why vegas in january? why not miami? at g.p. better yet, the atlantis, in paradise island, bahamas. NO TAXES! vegas really sucks, literally and figuratively.
702Ray More than 1 year ago
You are entitled to your opinion but they are a ton of people who love Vegas. I agree with squeezing the lemon dry but the squeezing done to the players. None of those other places you mention could possibly work. You have to remember most of the flight and rooms are covered by the NHC thru all the money they raise from the players during the year and the most cost effective location that has the means to handle something like this is Las Vegas.. The rooms are cheaper , the flights are cheaper, food and drink is cheaper.. Americans dont need a passport to go there. U can't be serious about Gulfstream Park trying to undertake this? thats just a total joke. I run into very few people who like to gamble or having any kind of an adult themed good time that think Vegas sucks. If you cant go to Vegas and find something entertaining to get into the problem is not Vegas the problem is you.