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'The National Handicapping Championship By The Numbers'
A Statistical History of the NHC and its Top Players
By OTB's Noel Michaels, and published in the June 2010 edition of American Turf Monthly.

Now in its second decade, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship has grown from an upstart idea into an established institution in the sport of horseracing. Once regarded as a novelty by some or perhaps as a fad by others, the racing industry, led by the NTRA, has continually raised the stature of the NHC tournament over the course of the last 11 years to the stage now where the finals of the NHC have awarded a total of more the $5.5 million in purse money to 272 different cash prize winners. Hundreds more have won free trips to Las Vegas to compete, and thousands all over North America take at least one shot each year to qualify to play for the NHC's $500,000 grand prize.

Eleven champions have now earned trophies at the Eclipse Awards ceremonies, horseplayers have achieved a new found level of respect, and handicappers now have a legitimate way to measure their abilities against others. This once great experiment has truly come of age.
Over the course of the first 11 NHC finals from 2000 to 2010, several handicappers have distinguished themselves in the national championships, first at the MGM Grand, then at Bally's --Las Vegas, and now at the NHC's current home at the Red Rock Resort race and sports book. This month's American Turf Monthly 'Contest Central' column is dedicated to the top players in the young history of the NHC.

The National Handicapping Championship has been a windfall for North America's top horseplayers. Talk is cheap, but the top players in the history of the NHC have walked the walk, not only in the NHC finals but also in the top local handicapping contests at racetracks, OTBs, casinos, and on the Internet for the past decade, and on the NHC Tour over the course of the past couple years. The finals of the NHC have become so lucrative, in fact, that a total of 19 players have now won at least $100,000 in purse money at the NHC finals in Las Vegas, and 50 more have earned at least $10,000 in the history of the event.

Former NHC Champions

  1. Steven Walker
  2. Judy Wagner
  3. Herman Miller
  4. Steve Wolfson Jr.
  5. Kent Meyer
  6. Jamie Michaelson Jr.
  7. Ron Rippey
  8. Stanley Bavlish
  9. Richard Goodall
  10. John Conte
  11. Brian Troop

Some people who knock handicapping contests believe that tournaments generally are not true tests of handicapping ability, or that they rely too heavily on luck, or that they have largely random results. The history of the NHC, however, directly conflicts with that line of thinking. Several players have consistently proven themselves at the top level of the tournament game, and have continued to do so over an extended period of time. There are no free rides into the NHC finals and players cannot buy their way in, yet several individuals continually reach the finals of the NHC with regularity, year after year advancing to Las Vegas by playing their way into the finals for a shot at the glory, and the dough.

Six different handicappers have reached the finals of the NHC a record eight times, distinguishing themselves as among the crème-de-la-crème of the handicapping elite in North America. Those six players, Robert Bertolucci, Ross Gallo, Sally Wang Goodall, Paul Shurman, David 'Trey' Stiles, and Steven Walker are now all well-known competitors, and are widely regarded as some of the top handicappers in the game, as are some of the many other multiple-NHC qualifiers.

The top players in the history of the NHC have made it to the Las Vegas finals many, many times, and when they get there, it's not like they're spending a lot of time sitting at the pool sipping cocktails and catching the latest Wayne Newton stage show. No, they're burning the midnight oil handicapping, picking lots of winners, hitting longshots, and racking up the points.

The first 11 years of the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship have been quite a whirlwind. Stay turned to see where the tournament goes for the next decade and beyond, and if you are a tournament player like I am, I hope you enjoy the ride.

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