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Dec 15, 2005



With the snow falling on the ground and the temperatures dropping into the teens I was fortunate enough to be in the desert, Phoenix, Arizona over the weekend of December 10 and 11th for their annual handicapping contest. This contest attracted players from 25 states and Canada, all trying to qualify for the DRF/NTRA contest Final at Bally’s Casino in Las Vegas or the Coast Casinos Horseplayers World Series Final at the Orleans in Las Vegas. The DRF/NTRA Final will be held on January 27th-28th, 2006 and will have a record purse of $500,000 with $225,000 going to the winner. The Horseplayers World Series Final will be held January 19th-21st, 2006, with the winner getting $500,000 if the contest is fully subscribed.

The contest is very popular with handicappers because it is one of the last chances to qualify for the finals in Las Vegas, with the exception of two contests held by Bally’s just a few days before the finals. For more information on those contests you can go to or In addition to being one of the last chances to qualify Turf Paradise unlike most of the other qualifying tournaments, the top 12 contestants get in. The top six qualify for the DRF/NTRA contest and those who finished 7-12 will qualify for the Coast Casinos Horseplayers World Series Final.

The contest at Turf Paradise had a maximum of 250 entries and they sold out more than three weeks in advance of the contest. "This is the first time we’ve sold out," said tournament director Amelia Blanco. "I have an also eligible list of 27 players in the event of a late cancellation." So even though it was at Turf Paradise there was no lack of interest as evidenced by the turn out and the fact that there was a waiting list to get into the contest.

Another reason for its popularity is that the contest only consists of one track, Turf Paradise. Unlike most other contests that have up to 8 tracks in one contest Turf Paradise is the only track to handicap. These are handicapping contests and the true test of a handicapper is to go up against other handicappers that are looking at the same races. When you are handicapping 6 to 8 tracks at a time is not a true test of handicapping races, it is more luck and who could pick the biggest longshot because the price was right. To make a poker analogy they play one game at a time, when the tournament is Texas Hold’em they play Texas Hold’em when it is a different game they play a different game, not all at once. The contest format was $2 win and place wagers for all the races at Turf Paradise on December 10th and 11th. That was a total of 18 races a good sample and enough races to allow people to make come backs on the second day if the first day didn’t go that well.

The winner of the contest was Chris Skotz, a computer programmer, who amassed a two day total of $143.20 and he won the top prize of $32,620. Finishing second was Ronald Geary who had a total of $137.20, only $6 behind the winner. The difference between the leader and the 12th place finisher was only $23.80 showing how competitive this contest was. Another interesting note was that three of the 12 qualifiers, Steve Hendricks, Cheryl Britt and Howard Hong, had bankrolls of $6.40, $6.80 and $11.80 respectively after Day 1 of the tournament. Again this shows how competitive this contest was and how you could never be counted out even after a poor performance on day 1.

With the finals at Ballys getting purse increases each year and these tournaments gaining more popularity and the fact that ESPN taped the 2005 DRF/NTRA finals for airing on its network is showing that horse racing may be picking up steam again. The poker craze has got people interested in watching these tournaments getting people interested in competition in a gambling setting so maybe just maybe horse racing can gain from this and get back on top as the true "Sport of Kings". Good Luck!

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