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2014 NHC Championship Preview

NHC in Las Vegas, 2014
Friday marks the crystal anniversary of the National Handicapping Championship as approximately 500 of North America’s sharpest handicappers invade Las Vegas, NV for the 15th time in attempt to take home the $750,000 lion’s share of the $1.5 million prize pool in the NTRA's National Handicapping Championship.

Unable to buy their way into the tournament, players had to qualify at tracks across North America and through online contests. This year marks the first time the championship will be contested over 3 days, rather than previous 2 day format. Additional changes have been made to ratchet up excitement for this weekend’s festivities.

First, players were allowed two entries. 78 entrants were fortunate enough to qualify twice, led by 2013 champion Jim Benes. Next, similar to professional golf, the NHC will implement a cut after day 2. Only the top 50 after Saturday’s play will be able to win the top prize Sunday, while the rest will compete again each other in a consolation tournament. If a player has 2 entries in the top 50 they will only receive 1 spot in the final on Sunday. Finally, the final 50 will be whittled down to 10, similar to big poker tournaments. The final table of 10 will play 5 designated races, and whoever accumulates this largest bankroll (based on a mythical $2 win/place bet on 1 horse in each race) will be champion.

In addition to the notoriety and $750,000, the winner will receive a ring (similar to a World Series of Poker bracelet), an Eclipse Award as the nation’s top handicapper and a birth into next year’s NHC.

Many familiar faces highlight this year’s field. In addition to Benes, 6 other past champions are here John Doyle (2011), Richard Goodall (2008), Stanley Bavlish (2007), Ron Rippey (2006), James Michelson Jr. (2005) and Judy Wagner (2001). Esquire Network’s new reality show on the sport of kings, Horseplayers, chronicles some of this weekend’s participants (Lee Davis, Christian Hellmers, Kevin Cox), and some still struggling to get into the field, such as 2012 NHC champ Michael Beychok.

Horse Racing Nation’s sister site, Derby Wars, accounted for sending 7 players to the NHC:  Scott Pulcini, Mark Hackworth, Thomas Labordo, Darwin Labordo, Ryan Roberts, Mike Ferrozzo and Brent Sumja. In fact, it was Sumja’s win in a DerbyWars NHC qualifier that propelled him to the lead of the NHC Tour and a $75,000 prize as tour champion. If Sumja is able to pull off the NHC Tour/Championship double, he will receive a $2 million bonus.

Horse Racing Nation/Derby Wars parent company, Immerse LLC, is sending a strong contingent to Las Vegas as well. Co-founders and managing partners, Mark Midland and Mike Shutty both qualified earlier in the year. DerbyWars spokesman and partner, John Doyle (2011) is trying to become the first multiple winner of the event. Tounament veteran and DerbyWars partner and advisor, Dave Gutfreund will be making his 10th trip to the NHC. Mark’s brother and Bombs Away blogger, Mike Midland has 2 entries into the NHC.

Good luck and safe travels to all of the participants and I look forward to competing against everyone in 2015! 


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Good luck to our HRN team: Mark, Mike, and Mike and the Derby Wars team.
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Meet Jasen Mangrum

My interest in the Sport of Kings goes back over 25 years with my father taking me with his friends to the old Ak-Sar-Ben Race Course in Omaha, NE.  From those early experiences I was able to read the Daily Racing Form before the age of 10.  Once The Woodlands opened in Kansas City in 1988, I became totally hooked on the sport studying racing charts after homework and tennis practice.  In recent years, with the explosion of handicapping tournaments, my love for handicapping the races has risen to a new level.  Primarily focused on New York, Chicago and Louisiana racing, I have now been forced to study races far and wide in attempt to find “cap horses” in the tournaments I play.  I have also dabbled in horse ownership within syndicates and on my own.


My fondest memories in racing include Silver Charm’s 1997 Kentucky Derby victory.  Both my father and I selected him, which made for a memorable day.  The best race I’ve seen was Tiznow’s first Breeders Cup Classic win in 2000 when he outdueled Giant’s Causeway down the length of the Churchill Downs stretch.   My biggest windfall as a gambler was a pool-scooping pick-4 win, paying over $6,600 at The Woodlands in 2005.


The point of this blog is to get everyone out there a few winners, but also to go in depth at how I come to the conclusions that I do.  From week to week, I’ll explain angles I think are important to locate winners.  I encourage others to post picks they like too, but please explain how you come to your conclusions.  That way everyone can learn a little more about this great game, and add another weapon to their handicapping arsenal.-Best of luck, Jasen Mangrum

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