01/29/2011 11:43PM

Winner in day's final race enables John Doyle to capture NHC


LAS VEGAS – John Doyle, 49, of Scottsdale, Ariz., rallied in the last race to top a field of 301 to win the $500,000 prize and title of 2010 Handicapper of the Year at the 12th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship at the Red Rock Resort late Saturday afternoon.

Doyle, a former IBM account executive who retired to become a professional horseplayer, used Dapper Gene in the 10th race at Santa Anita, the last race of the 12th annual NHC, which had a record purse of $1.05 million purse, to bypass Ron Geary of Louisville, Ky. Dapper Gene paid $13.20 to win and $5.40 to place to give Doyle a final score of $234.80 from 30 contest plays over the two-day tournament.

VIDEO: Interview with NHC champion John Doyle

“It was between the 7 [Wing Forward] and the 4 [Dapper Gene],” said Doyle, a Bronx native who made the finals through NHCqualify.com of how he approached the final race. “[Trainer Mike] Mitchell, [jockey Joe] Talamo, off the claim, and down the hill, I decided to go for it.”

Dapper Gene sat seventh after a half-mile of the 6 ½-furlong race and closed with a rush and beat Stoneside, who Geary had played, to win the claiming race with a $34,000 purse that was worth a lot more to the NHC contestants.

Geary, the owner of Ellis Park who qualified at Fairplex Park, finished second with a score of $226.40 to collect the $150,000 second-place prize. Day 1 leader Thomas Anderson of Burnsville, Minn., and who qualified at Canterbury Park, held on for third at $213.40 and won $100,000.

Doyle was in 19th place entering Saturday, the final day of the two-day contest.

“I wasn't crazy about the day's cards, but I've had those days before when I felt like that and I've had a great day,” said Doyle, who said he first went to the track when he was 7 and knew he was hooked on the sport when he saw Secretariat run at Aqueduct.

Doyle mostly sat off the pace until making his move in mid-afternoon when he hit back-to-back races with Amazombie in Santa Anita's sixth race, the Sunshine Millions Sprint, as the 11-1 shot returned $24.80 to win and $8.40 to place, and then J W Blue won the seventh at Oaklawn and paid $14 and $6.

That moved him into second place behind Geary and set up the finish.

The NHC is the championship event of a year-long series of 110 horse handicapping tournaments that sends qualifiers to Las Vegas for the finals. The format requires each player to make 15 mythical $2 win-and-place wagers each day with eight being mandatory and seven being player's choice from a list of contest tracks that this year consisted of Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park, Tampa Bay Downs, Fair Grounds, Oaklawn Park, Turf Paradise, Golden Gate Field, and Santa Anita Park.

The top 30 finishers earn cash prizes and were to be honored Saturday night at an awards banquet at the Red Rock. There are also daily prizes for the top score each day. Anderson won $2,500 for Friday's top score of $182, Geary collected $1,500 for his score of $171.60, and Yu De'Ath of Henderson, Nev., won $1,000 for her score of $108.40. Saturday's top score of $172.70 was by Dorothy Barbaro of Huntington, N.Y., who won $5,000 for her effort after being shut out on Day 1. She rallied to finish 16th overall. Jon Cianci of Seal Beach, Calif., had Saturday's second-highest score of $170.20 to win $3,000 overall as he got up for fourth place to claim another $55,000. Mark Stovall of Dallas scored $155.90 Saturday to win $2,000 in addition to his sixth-place finish worth $30,000.