Updated on 09/17/2011 9:46AM

Steve Wolfson Jr. wins NHC IV

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Steve Wolfson, Jr. of Holly Hill, Florida accepts his $100,000 prize for winning the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship IV from NTRA senior vice president Keith Chamblin (left) and Daily Racing Form publisher Steven Crist (right) on Saturday.

LAS VEGAS - Steve Wolfson Jr., a 35-year-old high school teacher from Holly Hill, Florida, is the new Handicapper of the Year for 2003 following his victory in the fourth annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, which was held on Jan. 17-18 at Bally's Las Vegas.

Wolfson is certainly no stranger to the racing industry. He is the grandson of Louis E. Wolfson of Harbor View Farm, who owned 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed. He is also a horse owner in his own right as a minority partner in the Happy Valley Racing Stable that races primarily in the state of Florida.

Wolfson used an assortment of longshots throughout the two-day event to defeat a field of 213 players and win first prize of $100,000. His final contest bankroll of $279.60 based on a total of 30 mandatory and optional $2 to win-and-place wagers was enough to outpace runner-up Angela Daniels of Las Vegas ($259.20) by a $20.60 margin. Wolfson's total was the highest dollar amount ever posted in the NHC since the contest was switched to its current 30-race format three years ago.

"I made a number a good connections on both days of the contest which did it for me," said Wolfson. "I had good-priced horses, I kept taking good shots and finding overlays, and I never changed that strategy."

Wolfson began the final day of the two-day contest in sixth-place behind his father, Steven Wolfson, Sr., who led the tournament after the day one of the competition (Wolfson Jr. and Wolfson Sr. both qualified for the national finals after top finishes in separate Autotote-sponsored events in 2002). Wolfson Jr's top first-day winners included Hydration ($35, $11.40) in race nine at Gulfstream, and Primetimevalentine ($26.20, $10.60) in race 10 at Fair Grounds.

Few players made significant moves on the leaderboard during the first-half of the day on Saturday until Wolfson Jr. leaped ahead of his father - and several others who were ahead of him at the time - in race 10 at Gulfstream thanks to his play on Offlee Wild ($56.80 but odds-capped at $42 to win and $21.60 to place) in the Holy Bull Stakes.

"I liked the horse on his breeding," said Wolfson of Offlee Gold, after his win on the horse moved him into second-place behind Daniels, who led the contest with less than three hours remaining in the contest thanks to a score on the same horse.

In the end, however, it was Wolfson surging into command for good thanks to his win in the next-to-last race of the contest on Discernment, who paid $20.20 to win and $8.20to place in race nine at Santa Anita.

"I didn't do too much on the mandatory races," said Wolfson. "But I won my money on the other (optional) races.

Wolfson, who considers himself a "somewhat serious bettor" when he has the time, has been an avid horseplayer and handicapper for many years but just recently became a tournament enthusiast.

"I started playing tournaments a year and a half ago, and I was pretty dedicated to qualifying last year and especially this year," said Wolfson who played in seven or eight contests in 2002 before finally qualifying for the NHC by winning an Autotote On the Wire phone betting contest on Oct. 12.

"This is very exciting, and I'll love to able to do this again next year," said Wolfson, who will use part of his $100,000 prize to help plan for his upcoming wedding to his fiancee Darlene.

Daniels, 48, the wife of veteran handicapper and tournament player Ken Daniels, settled for second-prize of $30,000. Daniels was $33.90 ahead of third-place finisher Tim Holland of Midway, Kentucky who, finished with $225.30. Holland, who is one of a handful of people who has played in the NHC three times, earned $10,000 for third. The rest of the top five was completed by fourth-place finisher Steven Wolfson, Sr. ($219.60) of Ormond Beach, Fla. who earned $5,000, and fifth-place finisher Rick Palm ($217.60) of Boise, Idaho, who made $3,000 after qualifying in a contest held by the AQHA.

The sixth through 10th-place finishers all earned $2,000 each. They were Ed Dixon of Team Colonial Downs ($205.70), Jody Ortego of Team Fair Grounds ($198.20), Josh Silverstein of Team Autotote-Bradley Teletheater ($192.20), Gail Searing of Team Fairplex ($192.10), and George Seiman of Team Belmont (187.20).

In addition to $158,000 in individual prize money, another $32,000 in team prize money was available to the top-scoring teams. Players were divided into four-person teams based on where they qualified, and for the second straight year, that competition was won by a quartet from Keeneland. This year's Keeneland "B" Team consisting of Holland, Howard Owens of Lexington, James Southhall of Columbus, Ohio, and Tony "T.J. Taylor of Burlington, Ky. split the top team prize of $20,000 ($5,000) after finishing with a combined total of $623.50. Wolfson Jr's Autotote On the Wire team finished second to earn $8,000 ($2,000 each), and Daniels' Great State Challenge team finished third and won $4,000 ($1,000 each).

Players also vied for additional money in the form of daily prizes and bonus prizes. Friday's top three finishers (Wolfson, Sr., Dixon, and Daniels) earned $3,000, $2,000, and $1,000, as did Saturday's top money-earners (Wolfson, Jr., David "Thoroughbred Maven" Gutfreund of Chicago, and Stanley Goodman of Del Mar).

A total of $5,000 a day in bonus money went to the winners of head-to-head proposition wagers. Four players split Friday's loot (Margaret Claus, Monte Engler, David "Trey" Stiles, and Norman Spear won $1,250 each) while six players split Saturday's booty (Edward De'Ath, David Ellis, Ron Ferguson, David Gutfreund, Joe Jarvie, and Steve Wolfson, Jr. earned $833 each) for going a perfect 7-for-7 in bonus.

Several invited media members were on hand for the event in order to participate in a separate media charity contest, which mirrored the actual tournament. Team TV, lead by the Daily Racing Form's Brad Free, won the media event on the strength of strong performances by TVG's Caton Bredar and Todd Schrupp and ESPN's Randy Moss and Kenny Rice. Bredar's total of $156.20 was bolstered by her win on Offlee Wild, and would have been good enough for 22th-place in the open contest.

TVG, the interactive horse racing network, provided live hourly updates and interviews with contenders throughout the contest.

All of the winners were honored at a post-contest banquet sponsored by Bally's at the resort's Sky View rooms on the 26th-floor, where Steve Wolfson Jr. will receive his check. Wolfson will then be honored at the Eclipse Awards at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Jan. 27 when he will be crowned the 2003 DRF/NTRA Handicapper of the Year.