07/08/2016 10:26AM

NHC Tour's first-half prizes up for grabs


With the Major League Baseball All-Star Game set for Tuesday in San Diego, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association has once again compiled its own Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship all-star lineup based on NHC Tour standings approaching the midway point of the 2016 tour season.

Three weeks remain before the NHC Tour’s first half concludes. The top five players at the end of July will win berths to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge worth $10,000 each (players already qualified for the BCBC will receive a choice of a second BCBC entry or $10,000).

First-half standings are calculated using each player’s top four scores only, regardless of how many contests he has earned NHC Tour points in, while the overall NHC Tour standings include six scores. In both cases, one of the contests counted must be an on-site tournament.

Here are the current top five NHC Tour first-half players:

Garett Skiba (Hinsdale, Ill.) – A five-time NHC qualifier, Skiba won the inaugural Belmont Betting Challenge in June and has now had six-figure handicapping-contest paydays on three occasions (he was second in May’s Kentucky Derby Betting Challenge and third in the 2013 BCBC). The 37-year-old horseplayer also has five top-10 finishes in 2016 online qualifiers.

“The year has exceeded my expectations, with two six-figure scores in live-money events,” Skiba said. “Having the chance at a first-half prize would be icing on a great few months. I certainly didn’t set being in the top five of the tour as a goal, but at this point, it would be a disappointment not to finish the first half in the top five. I am excited to be in this position.”

Gary Gristick (Lebanon, Pa.) – Gristick was born and raised on a horse farm and has won more than 100 races as an owner and breeder. The father of four won a June 19 online contest against a field of 265 other players and has three other top-10 finishes in online qualifiers.

Kevin Engelhard (Franklin Park, N.J.) – The current NHC Tour leader has eight top-10 finishes this year. The 63-year-old workers’ compensation coordinator had his best finish in a Monmouth Park qualifier last weekend, placing second.

“I have been fortunate to accumulate the points I have without actually winning a contest,” Engelhard said. “I would like to win a BCBC entry by staying in the top five for the next few weeks and hopefully get my second qualification and finish in the top 10 overall.”

Eric Moomey (Trenton, N.J.) – The 2014 NHC Tour champion and 2015 first-half leader is in contention again this year, having earned points with 12 different entries this year. The 43-year-old U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel is a four-time NHC qualifier and ranks second on the NHC Tour.

Christopher Skotz (Campbell, Calif.) – Skotz was fast out of the gate when he finished second in the “first-chance” contest at Treasure Island the day after NHC 17. The 50-year-old business development manager also has wins in two DRF Bets qualifiers.

NHC Tour players are competing for a total pool of $300,000 in prize money, with the 2016 tour champion to receive $75,000, plus an automatic berth to NHC 18 in January. The remainder of the top 20 will receive cash prizes on a descending scale from $20,000 for second to $1,000 for 20th. A $25,000 bonus will be awarded to the NHC Tour’s top-40 finisher with the highest score at the NHC in Las Vegas.

Sunday’s contests

There are co-headline events on DRF Tournaments on Sunday, qualifiers for the NHC and BCBC. The NHC qualifier costs $235, and the BCBC qualifier costs $225. Up to four NHC packages (which include $1,000 for travel and a four-night Las Vegas hotel stay) will be awarded, and up to two BCBC seats will be won. Both events will use the live format, where picks can be changed up until the post times of each contest race.

Additionally, a pair of all-in credit builders have been announced. For $21, you can play in a $1,008 credit builder with a field of 48 where the top five finishers will split the prize. For $15, there is an 11-player winner-take-all event with a prize of $150. The all-in format requires all picks to be made before the scheduled post time of the first contest race.

Check out DRF Tournaments for more details, including free DRF past performances for all contest participants and a list of the races included in Sunday’s contests.