01/29/2010 12:00AM

Troop of Ontario leads NHC pack

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LAS VEGAS - As the first day of the 11th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship was dwindling down to the West Coast tracks Friday afternoon, Brian Troop of Barrie, Ontario, moved atop the leaderboard.

After the sixth mandatory race, Troop had a score of $147 to open up a nearly $30 lead over Roger Neubauer of Tucson, Ariz., at $119.50.

NHC XI has a field of 300 playing for a purse of $947,850 with the champion winning $500,000 and the title of Handicapper of the Year. Each contestant makes 15 mythical $2 win-and-place wagers both Friday and Saturday. Eight of the races each day are mandatory and the other seven are player's choice from the contest tracks of Aqueduct, Laurel Park, Gulfstream Park, Fair Grounds, Oaklawn Park, Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields. Prices are capped at $42 to win and $22 to place. Oaklawn canceled on Friday, but had already been excluded from the mandatory races.

Verina Puga of Post Falls, Idaho, held the early lead after hitting Draw the Tap, who paid $139.80 to win and $41.80 to place (capped at 64 total points) in Laurel's first race. She kept adding to her point total but slipped to third place at $117.60.

In all, seven contestants had already topped $100 with six contest races to go.