The Kentucky Derby may be the biggest day in horse racing, but this month Las Vegas will host the biggest handicapping tournaments of the year.
The first one is the annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship to be held Jan. 21-22 at Bally’s Las Vegas.
The following week, The Orleans will host the first-ever One Million Dollar Horseplayer World Series, Jan. 27-29.
Although both tournaments qualified most of their contestants throughout the past year, spaces are still available to be won in "last chance" contests.
The sixth annual NTRA championship at Bally’s will host a one-day handicapping challenge on Wednesday, Jan. 19, which will fill the final two seats in the main event. Entry fee is $250 with a cash buy-in of $750.
The contest format is simple: the contestant must bet $50 per race on 15 races at designated tracks. The top two players (based on pari-mutuel earnings) will win seats in the tournament. Plus they keep their winnings.
The NTRA event will feature 215 handicappers who will battle for the $400,000 prize pool and title of Eclipse Handicapper of the Year.
At The Orleans, more than 1,000 handicappers are expected to compete for the million dollar prize pool, with $500,000 earmarked for the overall champion.
About 200 of the contestants qualified at Coast tournaments held in 2004. "From the start, we planned to produce the first 200 contestants through five or six qualifying tournaments at our Coast properties," said Michael Gaughan, CEO of Coast Casinos. "We accomplished that and now look forward to a great World Series."
In addition to qualifying through Coast tournaments, Gaughan expects to attract hundreds of players from both U.S. and international off-track betting (OTBs) establishments.
"We were able to generate contestants through OTBs, as well as the track themselves, in qualifying tournaments," said Bob Gregorka, director of race operations for Coast Casinos. "We plan to work in conjunction with them for future editions of the World Series."
There’s still time to qualify: Coast will hold a Coast 2 Coast Last Chance Shootout, Jan. 19-20, at the Suncoast and Barbary Coast.
Entry fee is $300 and players will wager $840 of their own bankroll (14 wagers of $60 each); the highest amount of cashed tickets at each race book wins a seat in the World Series.
The Coast 2 Coast contest will also award $150,000 in prize money to the highest-ranked contestants.