07/06/2005 12:00AM

Top two at Hoosier become 4-timers


Cashing tickets on an impressive 11 out of 20 contest races, Eric Isaacson crushed a field of 379 entries in the Hoosier Park qualifying tournament on July 2 and earned a berth in his fourth Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. He won a first prize of $7,000.

Isaacson and runner-up Tony Taylor both enter elite company, joining just nine other horseplayers who have qualified for the National Handicapping Championship four times. NHC VII, with a record $500,000 purse, will be held at Bally's Las Vegas on January 27-28, 2006.

Isaacson, 32, will be playing in national finals for the third straight year and for the fourth time in five years, but this was his first tournament victory. It came at the perfect time, as Isaacson also becomes eligible for the $1 million bonus offered by Churchill Downs Inc. to any player who goes on to win the national championship after winning one if its tracks' qualifying events. Isaacson will be shooting for a $1.25 million payday.

"I couldn't have planned it better with the million-dollar bonus attached." said Isaacson, a sales executive from Indianapolis, Ind. "I've just been fortunate. I put in a lot of time, more than 30 hours a week, whether I'm reading, researching, or handicapping. I've only been playing for five years."

Isaacson finished 48th in the national finals in 2002 as part of Team Keeneland, 80th in 2004, also with Team Keeneland, and 198th this past January in Las Vegas after qualifying at River Downs.

Isaacson, who played three entries in the one-day tournament at Hoosier Park, seized command at the midway point after he nailed four of the first 10 winners at odds of 3-1, 9-2, 8-1, and 10-1 and built a $102.10 bankroll. He never looked back from there, later hitting 8-1 and 9-1 shots at Arlington and selecting second-place finishers at odds of 15-1, 20-1, and 25-1.

Isaacson finished with a mythical bankroll of $207.90 based on $2 win-and-place bets on the 20 pre-selected races from Arlington, Belmont, Calder, Churchill, and Hollywood Park.

"After I hit the seventh race at Arlington, I turned to the guy next to me and asked 'Have you ever been in the zone?'" Isaacson said. "It was simply a day where everything was clicking. I never missed two consecutive races all day."

It was a long way back to tournament veteran Taylor, from Independence, Ky., who finished second with a $158.90 bankroll and earned $2,000. Taylor will be representing Hoosier Park in the NHC for the third time. His best NHC finish was 46th in NHC IV in 2003 at part of Team Keeneland.

Don Zakutansky, of Kenosha, Wis., finished third with a $157 bankroll, earning $1,000 and also qualifying for NHC VII.

New format for Bradley contest

The Autotote Bradley Teletheater Handicapping Challenge, one of the richest contests on the East Coast, will have a new live-money format this year. The two-day tournament on July 16-17 will offer an estimated $80,000 in prize money and two spots in the DRF/NTRA Championship.

The entry fee is $350, plus each player will be required to put up his own $100 bankroll on each day of the tournament.

Players must wager $20 in the win, place or show pools on at least five races each day. As long as the five $20 bets are made, a players can also make additional bets for more than $20. The contest offers a wide selection of tracks from across the country: Arlington, Belmont, Calder, Canterbury, Delaware, Ellis Park, Hollywood (first four races), Monmouth, Philadelphia, and Suffolk Downs.

Spot are still available in the contest, which will be capped at 225 entries. To register, call (203) 946-3189 or go to www.ctotb.com.

Nassau OTB offers Orleans berths

Nassau OTB will host its Palace Crown Handicapping Contest at the Race Palace in Plainview, N.Y., on July 23. The contest will offer two berths into the Horseplayer World Series at the Orleans in Las Vegas on Jan. 19-21, 2006. The contest is not a DRF/NTRA qualifier.

The entry fee is $200 with a limit of 100 players and a maximum of two entries per person. Based on 100 entries, the total purse would be $20,000, with $10,000 going to the winner.

Players will make mythical $2 win-and-place wagers on 10 races from Arlington, Belmont, Del Mar (races 1-3), and Monmouth. Five of the bets must be on Belmont.

To register, visit any Nassau OTB branch or go to www.nassauotb.com.