02/28/2008 12:00AM

Online tournament for Tour members only


LAS VEGAS - The NHC Tour is hosting a members-only Online Kick-Off tournament Saturday for three berths to the 10th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship on Jan. 23-24, 2009, at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas.

The NHC Tour consists of designated qualifying tournaments that are held throughout the year at racetracks, OTBs, casinos, and websites. It offers a bonus program for those who pay the $125 Tour membership fee. Registrations have been accepted at ntra.com/nhctour since Feb. 15.

The person who compiles the most points during the year will collect a $100,000 bonus as the Tour champion and be eligible for a $2 million bonus if he or she goes on to win the NHC. In addition, the top three finishers by points will earn NHC berths if they haven't already done so, with organizers going down the list until three additional Tour members qualify. Second place will win $50,000 and third place $25,000, with cash awards paid down through 50th place.

The Tour rewards those who play in a lot of tournaments, but the playing field has been leveled by counting only a person's top five finishes on the Tour. A loophole that allowed players to pick up both first- and second-place points in one tournament has been closed, and just one Tour score is allowed per tournament.

Only tournaments that award NHC seats will be used for the Tour; satellites or qualifiers to a main tournament do not award Tour points. Points will be awarded to those finishing in the top 10 percent in each tournament.

Full details are available at ntra.com/nhctour.

There is no deadline to enter the Tour. As of Thursday, the number of NHC Tour members had gone over the 600 mark.

Only those registered for the Tour before the start of Saturday's contest will be allowed to play. Contestants will make 10 mythical $2 win-and-place wagers on designated races at Gulfstream and Santa Anita with a cap of $42 to win and $22 to place.

Registration for the NHC Tour Online Kick-Off tournament was set to start on Friday.

Other perks of Tour membership include a program called NTRA Advantage, which offers discounts on products and services from NTRA partners such as Dodge, John Deere, Sherwin Williams, Office Depot, UPS, Toshiba, and Equine Travel Advantage. Members get automatic enrollment in the Horseplayers' Coalition, a lobbying group focusing on tax and business issues that affect the racetracks and their customers.

Perry wins at Sports Haven

The 12th annual Autotote Sports Haven Handicapping Challenge on Feb. 9-10 in New Haven, Conn., kicked off the qualifying tournaments for the NHC, and the winner, Joseph Perry, 48, of Hamilton, N.J., took the early lead in the NHC Tour. Perry's winning total was $980.70, which he got to keep in addition to first-place prize money of $25,200.

It was Perry's fifth tournament win, including three at Delaware Park and one at Atlantic City Race Course, but it's the first time he has qualified for the NHC.

Sam Darron, 49, of Elkton, Md., finished second with $745.80 to earn $10,795. John Cappell, 60, of Westport, Conn., was third with $614.60 and won $7,200. Darron and Cappell also earned NHC X berths.

Official Tour entries had not been taken when the contest was held, but Sports Haven participants earned points if they declared an intention to sign up. There were 52 players in the tournament, and seven earned Tour points.

The entry fee was $300 with $50 to be used as the player's live bankroll and $250 to the prize pool. Contestants played with $20 each day; win, place and show wagers only, with a minimum of 10 wagers each day. Wagers had to be a minimum of $2 each, one horse per race. There was also $10 in "wild card" wagers that could be played at any time either day.