MGM Grand to host handicapping tourney

Jan 22, 2002 7:10 AM

Horseplayers from around the country will gather at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Friday and Saturday for the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship.

Now in its third year, the tournament is horse racing’s premier handicapping event, and is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA (National Thoroughbred Racing Association) sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino race books, off-track betting parlors and Internet websites, each of which sends its top four qualifiers to Las Vegas.

This year’s field of 177 contestants will vie for the $100,000 first place prize and the title of Handicapper of the Year. A total of $212,000 will be awarded, with the top 10 finishers dividing $158,000.

In addition to the individual prize pool, 176 participants will also be playing in a separate team competition, with the top finishing foursome splitting a top prize of $20,000. There is also an additional $12,000 to be awarded to the three best finishers within each day, as well as $5,000 for the winners of a daily exotic bonus play competition.

The event also will host a $10,000 charity media tournament, which will mirror the main tournament. GamingToday led last year’s Las Vegas media team to victory in the tournament. Executive Editor Ray Poirier came up with several huge longshots that put the team over the top. In fact, if Poirier had been part of the regular field, he would have finished fifth overall! The prize money is donated to the charity of team’s choice. This year’s media team will include GT handicapper, Richard Saber.

While the championship is represented by the crème de la crème of horseplayers, contestants come from all walks of life. Last year’s champion, Judy Wagner, was a 50-year-old grandmother from New Orleans. She beat 203 other contestants (175 of them men!) in the two-day competition by accruing $237.70 in mythical winnings from a total of 30 $2 win and place bets.

This year’s field, while including professional bettors and horse fanatics, also features players from all walks of life, including an animal trapper, dishwasher, environmentalist, longshoreman, music teacher, novelist, nuclear submarine technician (retired), pawnbroker, psychologist, veterinarian and a Internet webmaster.

The field also includes some of the best and most successful professional players in the country. One of them is Randy Gallo of Florida, who specializes in chasing jackpot prizes at racetracks. Last year, while qualifying for the championship at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut, Gallo hit a $684,000 Pick Six at Santa Anita, the biggest score in a 20-month span in which he won 11 Pick Sixes of $200,000 or more.

In addition to taking home the $100,000 first place prize, the winner of the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship will be crowned as the DRF/NTRA Handicapper of the Year at the prestigious Eclipse Awards held shortly after the championship.

As the host site, the MGM Grand is the only venue to ever host the championship. “We’re delighted to be returning to the MGM Grand, the only home the event has ever known,” said Keith Chamblin, senior VP of industry relations and marketing for the NTRA.