The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced Friday that the the 14th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) will again be contested over a two-day period and consist of 15 race selections each day -- eight from mandatory races and seven from races of the player's choosing among available contest tracks.
A new feature in the NHC 14 competition involves the addition of one "best bet" each day. Each player may designate one selection each day from one of the mandatory races as a best bet, and if the selection is successful, he or she will, for scoring purposes, receive the proceeds of a $4 win and place wager, rather than the customary $2 win and place payoff in effect for his or her other 14 daily plays.
The traditional NHC odds cap will remain in effect -- 20-1 ($42.00) for win selections and 10-1 ($22.00) for place selections. Should a player make a best bet play on a horse that wins and pays maximum odds (i.e. over 20-1 to win and 10-1 to place), he or she would be credited with $128 for contest scoring purposes.
The NHC 14 prize pool will be paid out to the top 40 finishers. As previously announced, the NHC 14 purse has been guaranteed at a minimum of $1.5 million.
The first-place prize at NHC 14 has been set at $750,000. Second-place will be worth $200,000; third-place, $100,000; fourth-place, $75,000; and fifth-place, $52,500.
Places 6-40 will be paid on a graduating scale with 40th place currently scheduled to receive $4,100. However, should sales of NHC 14 seats to qualifying sites exceed current projections, the NTRA will revise the prize amounts upward.
As previously announced, the total purse for the 2012 DRF NHC Tour has been raised to $250,000, double the total value of the 2011 NHC Tour. Therefore, cash prizes paid out via NHC 14 and the 2012 NHC Tour will total at least $1.75 million, an increase of $117,997, or 7.2 percent, over last season's combined total of $1,632,003.
Combined with $250,000 in 2012 DRF NHC Tour purses and approximately $160,000 in travel and hotel accommodations provided to NHC qualifiers, the current overall cash and prizes outlay for the upcoming contest season totals $1.91 million.
The NTRA also announced that plans for NHC 15, likely to be held in January 2014, call for the competition to be conducted over a three-day period for the first time.
"We want to keep our thousands of avid NHC tournament players completely updated on important developments surrounding NHC 14," said Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of the NTRA. "The addition of the best bet next January will enable players to give greater strength to their strongest play of the day -- just like all horseplayers do during a typical day at the races. At the same time, we will be beefing up the prize money paid to those who finish in the money but don't finish in first place.
"The three-day format on tap for January 2014, meanwhile, will allow us to conduct two customarily full days of NHC competition for all, and then narrow the Day 3 field down to those near the top of the leader board. We expect to have a separate Day 3 competition for those who do not make the cut. Not all details for the 2014 competition have been finalized yet, but we wanted to keep everyone up to speed on all our future plans.
"We want to thank the many NHC participants, including the NHC Players' Committee, who have provided us with feedback on the tournament format and prize structure."
In just its 14th year, the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers and is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino race books, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping websites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals. Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards.
Membership in the 2012 DRF NHC Tour is open to adults 21 years of age or older and requires a one-time membership fee of $50. Membership in the NHC Tour is mandatory in order for top finishers of sanctioned NHC qualifying events to be eligible to compete in the January 2013 NHC Finals in Las Vegas. The NHC Tour membership must be in place prior to the start of any given qualifying tournament in order for one to qualify for the NHC Finals at that qualifying tournament.