08/05/2009 12:00AM

Oaklawn contest proves a big draw


Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., will draw more than 150 horseplayers from at least 17 different states and Canada for this weekend's qualifying tournament for the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship.

There were 152 players signed on for the qualifier as of Wednesday morning, with the two-day tournament to begin Saturday and run through Sunday. The top three finishers will advance to the finale at Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas on Jan. 29-30.

Last year, the Oaklawn qualifier drew 110 players. Phil Cleek of Sherwood, Ark., was the overall winner, and he will be back to defend his title against a group that includes Bobby Price, who won the Oaklawn qualifier in 2007, and Les Harris, who took the track's inaugural qualifying tournament in 2006.

Players are expected from throughout the Southwest region, as well as from California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Oaklawn will award $15,000 in total prize money during its qualifier, with $5,000 to the winner on Sunday.