HANDICAPPING CONTEST--GOOD FOR THE NOVICE
New fans of racing have been critical of the complexity of handicapping and the difficulty in winning at the races. Yet many of the same folks are avid poker players who are not fazed by similar hurdles. This IS evidenced by the television coverage poker gets. Attempting to capitalize on the same construct, many tracks have begun to offer handicapping contests with varying levels of skill required.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Inc. (NTRA) has escalated the individual track contests into a national tour of contests which culminate in a National Handicapping Contest Finals (NHC-F) with $2 million to be won. To qualify for the (NHC-F), a handicapper has to have competed successfully in at least one contest held during the previous year, usually place in the top three of all entered in a contest. This year nearly 450 handicappers will participate in the Finals to be held at the Treasure Island in Las Vegas (NV) on January 27-28, 2012.
ContestS offer players of all levels a chance to win. The concept is to pick the most winners in a prescribe number of races, usually 10-15 races from different track. Since the winning score is a function of the size of the pay-off for win and place wagers, the ability to pick longshots increases one’s chances of doing well. Finding the horse that crosses the finishing line first at 15-1 odds usually moves the player to the top of the results board. Sustaining that position is a separate strategy.
Even the novice player can find a couple of longshots on any given day. Whether you win the contest, picking a longshot and seeing your name near the top of the leader board is a rush worth the price of entering the contest. Most track contests average between $100 and $400 fees. Some split the fee into prize money and bankroll. In these contests the players not only fight for contest points but bankroll size which they take home. A number of times a year the NTRA offers free on-line contests which do not offer cash prizes, but do offer a berth at the NHC-F in Las Vegas.
To be eligible to go to the NHC-F, you have to join the tour for $45 annually, an investment in fun well worth it.
In future columns we will explore the world of contest play and try to ease the novice fan into the excitement of playing contests. Since playing contest adds twists to normal handicapping we suggest you read the rules of the NTRA contests and check out a few books that might help. One is the,“Handicapping Contest handbook: A Horseplayer’s Guide to Handicapping Tournaments by Noel Michaels. It can purchase from the Daily racing form bookstore.