(Edited press release)
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association announced Sept. 3 that the total prize pool for the January 2012 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas, Nev., is expected to rise to an estimated $2 million, and that the grand prize will double to an estimated $1 million.
The next handicapping challenge, scheduled for Jan. 28-29, 2011, at Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa in Las Vegas, will offer a total estimated prize pool of $1.1 million and a grand prize of $500,000.
According to a release, the higher prize structure will be made possible by a tournament expansion that will increase the number of finalists in Las Vegas from an estimated 321 in 2011 to approximately 500 in 2012. Finalists must still have qualified during the year in order to compete at the NHC Finals. However, tourney host participation will now be available to all pari-mutuel operators throughout North America, according to the release.
"NHC tourney participation by customers remains very strong, and the demand to host NHC qualifiers continues to exceed our current supply of available berths at the finals," said Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of the NTRA said in the release. "With these changes, we will address customer demand in a way that will grow the tournament and better reward North America’s sharpest handicappers."
Also, beginning in 2012 all contestants at qualifying tournaments must have paid a one-time annual membership fee of $45 in order to be eligible to compete at the national championship. Included in the annual fee is free participation in a number of online NHC qualifying tournaments offering berths in the NHC, as well as other benefits that will be announced prior to the signup period.
Contestants may opt not to purchase the $45 annual membership, but they would then be competing in qualifying tournaments for purse money only at the qualifiers, and not for the available berths in the NHC Finals, according to the release. NHC berths at a given qualifier will only be available to those who are paid members prior to the start of competition at a qualifying tournament.