01/30/2016 9:14PM

Paul Matties outperforms brother to win National Handicapping Championship

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The 17th Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship is in the books. Paul Matties of Ballston Spa, N.Y., topped a field of 629 entries to win the $800,000 first-place prize and an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year at Treasure Island Las Vegas.

The NHC offered record overall cash and prizes totaling $2,778,760, including the money awarded for the NHC Tour.

Matties’s  brother, Duke, finished fourth, and for a long time it looked like the brothers might hit the exacta in the contest. Their father, Chick Matties, a contest-playing veteran himself, was as pleased as could be after the tournament.

“It’s better than winning myself,” he said, “and they really deserve it because there’s nobody that works any harder than they do at the game.”

 Paul Matties, 46, amassed a winning score of  $399.50 over the three-day tournament from 53 mythical $2 win and place bets – 18 each on Thursday and Friday, 10 in Saturday morning’s semifinal round, and seven in the dramatic Final Table contest exclusive to the overall top 10.

Matties first assumed the lead during the semifinals round with a $47 winner, R B Rainbow Dash, in the sixth race from Tampa Bay Downs. Coupled with the $17.20 place money, the $59.20 added to his bankroll boosted Matties from third to first.

 “I was down to two horses and my brother Duke and I watched the replay three times and I switched from the six to the seven,” he said.

 Matties maintained his lead throughout the Final Table round. In the seven mandatory races at the end he cashed in two of them – Risetotheoccasion ($17.60 to win, $5.40 to place) in Oaklawn’s seventh and Sevens ($8.40 to place) in Gulfstream Park’s 12th. 

“Horseplayers always think they’re smarter and better than everybody else so to beat all the smartest people in the world, what an honor,”  Matties said.

 Paul Matties is the older of the Matties brothers by three years. They have another brother, Gregg Matties, a trainer in New York.

 “My brother Duke’s the greatest,” Paul Matties said. “He was rooting for me more than he was rooting for himself the whole time. I’ve never seen him so nervous.”

Matties likes to say he took his first steps at the Great Barrington Fair meet in western Massachusetts. He’s the father of three sons, one of whom, Wynn, is autistic. 

“Nothing has been more satisfying than to witness and help my oldest son to become one of the kindest and sweetest people you would ever want to meet,” he said.

 Matties has made handicapping his career, first calculating speed figures for Andy Beyer Associates and later as a professional player. By virtue of his victory, Matties also automatically earns an exemption into next year’s NHC finals.

 Roger Cettina of Rumson, N.J., finished second with $389.10, good for $250,000, as well as a $25,000 bonus and berth into next year’s NHC as the highest finisher among the 2015 NHC Tour top 20. Cettina takes a big jump up the career earnings list at the NHC – he now owns two second-place finishes at racing’s most prestigious contest.”

“I went for the win the whole time. I absolutely did,” he said. “I didn’t even look at the sheet to see what each position paid. I didn’t even know I got 250 for second until my friend Frank told me.”

Cettina also won $25,000 for the top 20 tournament, based  on his 14th place finish on the NHC Tour. As he was after his heartbreaking defeat in 2013, Cettina looked at the glass and saw it half full. “It’s 275 more than I came in with,” he said, “And I’ll be back.”

Cettina was followed by 36-year-old Charlie Davis of Tennessee ($340.60 final bankroll; $125,000 prize) in third with Duke Matties ($337.30; $100,000) fourth. 

“I’m thrilled for him,” said Duke Matties, referring to his brother. “Every time I thought I could catch him then he hit something else. I wasn’t playing for second or third, I was playing for first.”

Stanley Bavlish was attempting to become the first two-time NHC winner but checked in ninth. The 2001 NHC hero Brian Troop’s eighth-place finish last year remains the highest ever by a former champion.

 In the NHC Future Wager offered by Treasure Island, Matties closed at 25-1, returning $52 on a $2 wager.

 The NHC 17 finals awarded cash prizes to the top 63 finishers (the top 10 percent overall) from a total purse of $2,304,760. An additional $50,000 went to the top 20 in Saturday’s Consolation Tournament. Including $250,000 paid out to top finishers in the year-long NHC Tour, a $100 TI casino chip for every entrant, NHC Tour travel awards, RTN subscriptions and the $10,000 charity tournament prize, plus $30,000 worth of Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entries, the aggregate value of payouts this weekend in NHC cash and prizes totaled a record $2,778,760.

2016 NHC final top 10

FINISH NAME FINAL BANKROLL PRIZE
1 Paul Matties $399.50 $800,000 (and Eclipse Award for Horseplayer of the Year)
2 Roger Cettina $389.10 $250,000
3 Charlie Davis $340.60 $125,000
4 Duke Matties $337.30 $100,000
5 David Gutfreund $331.80 $75,000
6 Joe Perry $319.40 $65,000
7 Peter Deys $307.80 $59,000
8 Ernie Powers $304.90 $54,000
9 Stanley Bavlish $284.20 $52,000
10 Mark Richards $283.20 $50,000