Brent Sumja, a 49-year-old professional handicapper and former racehorse trainer from San Anselmo, Calif., won five tournaments in a four-month span from May to September to help clinch the title of 2013 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour Champion and the $75,000 first-place prize that goes with it.
Should Sumja also win this weekend's Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) Presented by Racetrack Television Network, Sovereign Stable, and Treasure Island Las Vegas, he will receive a $2 million bonus in addition to that event's first prize of $750,000. The NHC finals open Friday at Treasure Island Las Vegas.
Along with the $75,000 Sumja earned for finishing atop the full-year leaderboard with 20,572 points, he won $5,000 for finishing second during the first half of the NHC Tour season. Sumja also pocketed another $12,000 for being a multiple qualifying contest winner under the NHC Tour incentive that pays repeat winners for every win after their first (up to a maximum of three bonuses paid).
Sumja earned NHC Tour points in 15 different qualifying tournaments during 2013, including live events at Surfside Race Place, Santa Anita Park, Keeneland, and Turfway Park. For scoring purposes, though, only a player's top six scores count in the full-year standings.
Last year's NHC Tour champion and the 2013 first-half leader, Mark Streiff (16,880 points) of Mission Viejo, Calif., finished in second place on the full-year leaderboard, good for $15,000. Third was Kevin Cox (16,392) of New York City, who won $12,500.
Prize money for the 2013 NHC Tour season totaled $247,000. The top five finishers in the first-half standings received graduated cash prizes totaling $25,000, topped by Streiff's $10,000. The top 20 players on the full-year leaderboard received cash prizes totaling $150,000, led by Sumja's $75,000. In addition, a total of $72,000 in bonuses were paid to NHC Tour members for repeat victories.
Sumja's five tournament wins included two at Surfside on consecutive days in early September.
"I won two contests back-to-back, both on the last race of each day," said Sumja, who will be making his third career NHC appearance later this month. "That second day it just felt like one of those days where you're in the zone and it doesn't matter what you're doing, you just have that feeling. It came again on the last race and I was waiting for this horse and it won."
Should Sumja go on to win the NHC, he will be in line for a $2.75 million payday ($750,000 grand prize plus $2 million bonus as NHC Tour winner).
"All along I wanted to use this stage for the retirement of the horses," said Sumja. "Through this whole thing I thought, 'If I win this I'm going to donate a nice chunk of money to Katie Merwick of Second Chance Ranch in Washington State.'"
More than 3,200 NHC Tour members participated in 2013 handicapping qualifiers.
The NHC Tour is a year-long bonus series offering additional prize money and qualifying berths to the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. Tour members receive NHC Tour points for top finishes in NHC qualifying events held during the year. In addition to potential prize money and berths in the NHC, benefits for NHC Tour members include automatic enrollment in the Horseplayers' Coalition.