01/25/2015 2:47PM

NHC: NBC's Neumeier wins Charity Challenge

Bob Neumeier of NBC Sports compliled a mythical bankroll of $65 to earn $5,000 for Old Friends in the celebrity Charity Challenge.

Bob Neumeier, the longtime NBC Sports handicapper and Boston sportscaster, won the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship Charity Challenge on Saturday. A check in Neumeier’s name for $5,000 will be made to Old Friends, the Thoroughbred retirement nonprofit with farms in Kentucky and upstate New York, and another $5,000 to a charity of his choosing.

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Neumeier was thrilled that Old Friends is a beneficiary, because he has known longtime Bostonian Michael Blowen, the Old Friends founder and former Boston Globe film critic, for many years, and has toured the Georgetown, Ky., farm on multiple occasions. 

 “What he’s done is just extraordinary,” Neumeier said. “He’s done so much for horses and the industry and everyone.”

 Neumeier suffered a serious stroke just prior to leaving for the Breeders’ Cup in October. The damage inflicted required 5 1/2 hours of brain surgery. Since then he has improved steadily while at home in Boston with the help of his wife, Michele Ucci.

 “I’m well on my way to recovery and hope to be back to Comcast New England soon and hope to be back behind the mic with NBC Sports soon,” Neumeier said. “All of my motor skills and speech work are intact, thank goodness. I’ve had enormous support from doctors, speech therapists, friends, colleagues, my wife, and everyone.”

 Neumeier ended up with a final mythical bankroll of $65, besting Mike Watchmaker of Daily Racing Form, who checked in second with $62.40. Neumeier took the lead at the very end of the contest by correctly selecting $13.20 winner Presidentsky in the ninth race at Golden Gate, the day’s final scoring opportunity.

 Neumeier estimates he committed at least two hours Saturday to studying the Charity Challenge contest races, which were identical to the day’s NHC mandatory races. 

 “I spent a good part of the morning going over them” he said. “I still go at it quite a bit. I’m up to speed on all the Boston teams and stay up to speed on racing for my NBC work.”

A field of 40 celebrities, broadcasters, and media members competed in the Charity Challenge.  Neumeier’s win was a popular one. When NHC emcee Eric Wing announced the Charity Challenge results to the Treasure Island ballroom on Saturday evening the news was met with a resounding ovation from NHC players, who were well aware of Neumeier’s recent medical struggles, as well as his deserved reputation as an eminently likable “good guy.” Congratulatory messages flowed in via text message and Twitter.

 Neumeier politely declined to go into detail about the severity of his stroke or the pains of his recovery, preferring instead to focus on the positive. Considering how far he has come since the last week of October, though, Neumeier summed up his gratitude simply: “I’m one of the lucky ones.”

 The top five in the Charity Challenge standings was rounded out by Horse Racing Radio Network’s Mike Penna ($59), Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey ($57.40), and Daily Racing Form handicapper Dan Illman ($55).