01/23/2015 11:01PM

NHC Day 1: Jarvie jumps to the top late

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This year's National Handicapping Championship has 521 individual players and 606 entries.

LAS VEGAS – Joe Jarvie, a building engineer and former NCAA basketball official from Renton, Wash., hit the last race on Friday to vault into first place on Day 1 of the three-day Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship  at Treasure Island.

Jarvie’s score of $115.80 is low by historical standards, but it was still enough to net him $5,000 in cash and a $10,000 seat at the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge as the Day 1 leader. Jarvie heads a field of 606 entries and 521 individual players.

The NHC is a handicapping tournament that you can’t simply buy your way into – you have to qualify through another tournament. Jarvie won his entry on NHCQualify.com.

Fabulous Fit took Jarvie to the top of the standings. The horse returned $26.20 to win and $12.80 to place in Santa Anita’s eighth race.

“I just looked at his class and three [races] back he’d run pretty good,” Jarvie said. “It’d been a while since he’d ran, but he had some pretty good works, too.”

Jarvie also scored big in Oaklawn Park’s fourth race, a mandatory contest race, won by 63-1 Springandaprayer ($128.20). For NHC scoring purposes, payoffs are capped at 20-1 ($42) to win and 10-1 ($22) to place.

:: DRF LIVE FROM NHC: Get real-time updates and insights from DRF reporters and handicappers, including live video

This is Jarvie’s sixth trip to the NHC. He has never finished in the top 50 at the event.

Last year’s Day 1 leader, eventual NHC winner Jose Arias, had $198.80. Arias went on to become the second Day 1 leader to win the NHC title.

Longtime leader Ed Reidy finished second with $113.70. He started the day on a hot streak, hitting six of his first 10 bets on one of his two tickets.

Reidy wasn’t necessarily looking for longshots, just horses that provided good value.

“I think you have to look for a horse who is a longer price on the board than you think he should be,” said Reidy, a physician from Allison Park, Pa. “In the mandatories, if there’s a horse that is 5-2 and you think he can’t be beat, you take the $11” to win and place.

The real stories of the day were the low scores and the tightly packed field. Frank Gryboski Jr. finished the day in 50th place with a bankroll of $71, meaning that a player with zero is still basically within a cap horse of making the cut for the final 50.

Part of the reason the scores were so low is that most of the longshots who came in were huge prices – way over the 20-1 cap – and they all came in the optional races. Some players are hesitant to play horses too high over the cap, especially in a contest like the NHC where there are so many races to choose from.

The top five Day 1 leaders earned bonuses. Reidy won $4,000; Gregg Knepper ($104.30) took home $3,000; Daniel Mandarino ($102.2) netted $2,000; and Jean Huttepain got $1,000.

The top 10 was rounded out by Linda Rodrigues ($97.40), Ken Jordan ($95), Patrick Stich ($94.20), Joe Masino ($93.70), and Robeert Pontani Jr. ($92.90).

The full standings can be viewed here.

NHC entrants were required to place 15 mythical $2 win-and-place wagers – seven on mandatory races that everyone played and eight on any of about 50 other races from seven designated racetracks nationwide.

The NHC continues Saturday as players jockey for position in an attempt to finish in the top 50 and advance to the third day of the competition. Day 1 bankrolls will carry over to Day 2, which will have eight mandatory races and seven optional races.

The top 50 after Day 2 will continue on to a Final 50 tournament on Sunday, and the top 10 in that tournament will play at the final table later Sunday to determine the final standings. The champion will receive an $800,000 grand prize and the Eclipse Award as Handicapper of the Year.

Players outside the Final 50 will play in a separate consolation tournament Sunday with reset mythical bankrolls.

Mandatory races for Saturday

Saturday’s eight mandatory races are (all times Eastern):

12:59 Gulfstream Park Race 2: Eleven older horses are signed on to contest this $6,250 claimer going seven furlongs on dirt.

1:53 Tampa Bay Race 4: A field of 12 older male restricted $8,000 claimers contests this six-furlong dirt sprint.

3:38 Oaklawn Race 4: This $25,000 to $20,000 claimer for 11 older males will be run at 1 1/16 miles on dirt.

5:00 Santa Anita Race 5: The Cal Cup Oaks is a mile turf race featuring eight 3-year old fillies.

5:38 Oaklawn Race 8: The second of four stakes races among the mandatory races is the American Beauty, where 13 fillies and mares sprint six furlongs on dirt.

6:00 Santa Anita Race 7: This is the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint. Fourteen runners will make their way 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill in a race that figures to have serious NHC ramifications.

7:00 Santa Anita Race 9: The California Cup Turf Classic features 12 older horses going nine furlongs.

7:45 Golden Gate Race 9: A first-level allowance for nine older horses contested at 1 1/16 miles on the synthetic track.

These races also will be part of the Play Along With the NHC contest. Buy-in is $50 and the prize pool includes $20,000 in site credits. To sign up, go to NHCQualify.com.