Michael Beychok of Baton Rouge, La., topped a record field of 480 to win the $1 million first-place prize as “Handicapper of the Year” at the 13th Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship.
Beychok, a political consultant, amassed $238.60 from 30 mythical $2 win and place wagers over the two-day tournament held Jan. 27-28 at Treasure Island Las Vegas.
Beychok, 48, who qualified for the NHC through TwinSpires.com, scored with Golden Gate Fields winner Glorious Dancer ($8.20 to win, $3.80 to place) in the event’s final race to edge past eventual second-place finisher Dave Flanzbaum by only $1. Flanzbaum had led for much of the second half of day two. Glorious Dancer won theGolden Gate race for Beychok by just a nose.
“It can’t get any more dramatic than that,” Beychok said. “It was a photo finish and then a sweat on what the final odds were for the horse. I can’t even process the monetary reward yet. The time you put in and the sacrifices your family makes means even more to me than the actual money.”
Beychok said that on his first trip ever to a racetrack he was accompanied by well-known political pundit James Carville, who worked at Beychok’s father’s law firm.
“He just called,” said Beychok, referring to Carville. “He was very proud. He said, ‘You are going to represent Louisiana very well.’ I hope to represent not just the state but all the horseplayers out there well.”
Flanzbaum, a resident of Rolling Meadows, Ill., finished with$237.60 to win the second-place prize of $150,000 after having qualified for the NHC at NHCQualify.com. Flanzbaum also collected $5,000 for having the highest second-day total ($149.80).
Darwin Labordo, a Sierra Madre, Calif., resident who qualified via NHC Tour, was third at $206.60 to collect $80,000. Gaylord Grundy of Airdrie, Alberta, Canada, was fourth at $196.10 to take home $50,000. Donna Labriola of Richmond, Calif., was fifth at $196.00. That score was good for $37,000.
The NHC finals paid out to the top 50 finishers from a record total purse of $1,507,003. Including $75,000 awarded to Paul Shurman, winner of the year-long, $125,000 NHC Tour. The aggregate payouts to contestants totaled $1,632,003.
The highest finish among the seven previous NHC winners at this year’s event was recorded by last year’s champion, John Doyle, who checked in 186th. No one has ever won the NHC more than once in the event’s 13-year history.
By virtue of his victory, Beychok also automatically earns a berth into next year’s NHC finals, which will again be held at Treasure Island Las Vegas, and will be honored with an Eclipse Award.
Full standings and results for the NHC can be found at www.ntra.com.