Jim Benes of Countryside, Ill., topped a field of 455 to win the
$750,000 first-place prize and an Eclipse Award as Handicapper of the
Year at the 14th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) Presented by Treasure Island and Sovereign Stable Saturday afternoon.
The 50-year-old Benes, a professional horseplayer, amassed a winning
score of $268.40 from 28 mythical $2 win-and-place wagers and two
mythical $4 win-and-place “Best Bet” wagers over the two-day tournament
held at Treasure Island Las Vegas.
Benes, who qualified for the NHC at Hawthorne Race Course, was in
second place at the conclusion of Day 1, and stayed at or near the top
of the pack throughout Day 2. Going into the NHC’s final race—Race 10 at
Santa Anita—Benes trailed eventual runner up Roger Cettina by $2.40.
His $2 win and place bet in that final race was on favored
Hidethegoodstuff, who finished second to Hail Mary and returned $3.60 to
place—enough to secure a final winning margin of $1.20 over Cettina, a
Rumson, N.J., native, who receives $200,000 for his second place finish.
“My mother passed away a few years ago,” said Benes. “Her name was
Mary, and when they were coming down the stretch of that last race and I
heard a horse named Hail Mary on the lead, I wasn’t sure whether it was
my mom trying to tell me ‘I’m here for you’ or ‘You should have bet on
me!’ The only other thing I have been able to think of since then is my
9-year-old daughter. She’s going to be really happy and really proud of
me when I get home.”
Total winnings this weekend for Benes, including a $4,000 Day 1 bonus
he received for registering the second-best score on Friday, were
Jeff Hartz of Runnells, Ia., finished third at $244.00 to collect
$100,000. Richard Grose of Wentzville, Mo., was the Day 1 leader, and
faded somewhat to finish fourth with $242.60. He will take home $75,000.
Dan Comoro of Tigard, Ore., rounded out the top five at $196.00. That
score was good for $50,000.
The NHC 14 finals paid out to the top 40 finishers from a total purse
of $1,500,000. Including $295,000 paid out to top finishers in the
year-long, $295,000 NHC Tour, the aggregate payouts this weekend to
contestants totaled $1,795,000, plus travel and hotel awards.
The highest finish among the eight previous NHC winners at this
year’s event was recorded by NHC VI champion, Jamie Michelson, who
checked in 78th. No one has ever won the NHC more than once in the
event’s 14-year history.
By virtue of his victory, Benes also automatically earns an exemption into next year’s NHC finals.
Full standings and results for this weekend’s just completed NHC can be found at www.ntra.com and www.drf.com.
In its 14th year, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National
Handicapping Championship is the most important tournament of the year
for horseplayers. There are no “buy-in” entries at the NHC. It is the
culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments
conducted by racetracks, casino racebooks, off-track betting facilities
and horse racing and handicapping Web sites, each of which sends its top
qualifiers to the national finals.
More than 4,500 people signed up for the 2012 NHC Tour and
participated in these local tournaments, hoping to win a coveted spot in
the NHC Finals. Treasure Island will also host the “Wager to Win”
tournament tomorrow, offering two berths to the January 2014 NHC.
The NTRA is a broad-based coalition of horse racing interests
consisting of leading thoroughbred racetracks, owners, breeders,
trainers, horseplayers and affiliated horse racing associations, charged
with increasing the popularity of horse racing and improving economic
conditions for industry participants. The NTRA has offices in Lexington,
Ky., and New York City. NTRA press releases appear on the NTRA web