01/28/2011 10:40PM

NHC Day 1: Minnesota handicapper on top after 'a lot of things went my way'

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LAS VEGAS – Thomas Anderson made a lot of great picks to lead the 12th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship after the first day of the two-day $1.05 million tournament at the Red Rock Resort.

But one thing he didn't predict was that he would have a great day.

“I play the races every day and you learn to never get too confident,” said the 54-year-old salesman from Burnsville, Minn., who was playing in his first NHC after qualifying at Canterbury Park. “I just handicap and hope my work pays off. Today was just one of those days where a lot of things went my way.”

The 301 NHC finalists 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. Anderson racked up a score of $182 as he hit seven winners and one big place price to jump into the lead early in the afternoon.

“I played the races here [Red Rock's race book] last night with some friends and handicapped the mandatory races,” Anderson said, “then I came to my seat at 7 a.m. and went over the rest of the races looking for optional plays.”

Anderson excelled with those picks, starting with Dug In winning the third race at Gulfstream and paying $42 to win and $13.80 to place early in the day when not many longshots were coming in across the country.

“The trainer, Carlos Martin, doesn't claim too many horses, and I liked this one moving to turf,” Anderson said.

 

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Other optional winners for Anderson were Harborplace in the fifth race at Tampa Bay Downs ($16 to win, $6.60 to place), Gleaming Lady in the ninth at Aqueduct ($21 to win, $8.20 to place), and Newsdad in the seventh at Gulfstream ($12 to win, $5.80 to place). His big place price was on Majestic Raffy in the eighth at Aqueduct ($21.40 to place). He also had three winners in the mandatory races, but none were more than 3-1.

“Almost all my optional plays were on the turf,” said Anderson, as Gleaming Lady was the only dirt winner. “That's what I like to play.”

Anderson earned $2,500 for posting the top score of the day. Ron Geary of Louisville, Ky. -- the owner of Ellis Park -- was the only contestant to make a run at Anderson and finished Day 1 with a score of $171.60. Geary, who qualified at Fairplex, earned $1,500 for his second-place finish. Yu'Min De'Ath of Henderson, Nev., who earned her berth by finishing in the Top 10 of the NHC Tour among non-qualifiers, was a distant third at $108.40 and earned $1,000.

But the big goal is the $500,000 first-place prize that goes to the NHC champion, as well as the title of 2010 Handicapper of the Year. In all, the top 30 spots will cash. A link to the full end-of-Day 1 leader board can be found at DRF's dedicated NHC page, along with video interviews of top contenders.

There were supposed to be 305 players this weekend, but four were no-shows. The 301 will return to make 15 more plays on Saturday for the race to the finish.

Anderson isn't going to mess with success.

“I'll be right back here tonight watching the races and handicapping tomorrow's mandatories just like I did last night,” he said, while watching the last few non-mandatory races Friday and cheering that no longshots came in for those chasing him. “And I'll come back early in the morning just like I did today. Why not?”