ESPN will be taping the competition in preparation for a one-hour National Handicapping Championship special to air Feb. 20. Regular championship updates will be posted on the Internet throughout the two-day contest at both www.ntra.com and www.drf.com. As the 2004 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship winner, Kent Meyer received a special exemption into the tournament to defend the title he won last January when he bested 260 other horseplayers in the two-day competition. The 39-year-old Meyer won by amassing a mythical bankroll of $238.40 from a total of 30 $2 win-and-place wagers pared from a menu of more than 150 races run at eight different tracks.
Two other former champions will also be back in the hopes of becoming the first to win the National Handicapping Championship twice. New Orleans grandmother Judy Wagner, the 2001 winner, will be back representing Team River Downs, and 2003 victor Steve Wolfson, Jr., a Holly Hill, Fla., schoolteacher, will make up one-third of Team Aqueduct.This year's finalists advanced from one of 92 local tournaments held at 57 different sites across North America from February through December 2004. Nearly 100,000 people participated in the local tournaments, which yielded the final field of 214.Of the $400,000 in total prize money, the top 20 finishers will divide $365,000. In addition to the individual prize pool, all of the NHC finalists, with the exception of defending champ Meyer, also will be playing in a separate team competition, with the top-finishing trio splitting $15,000. There is also an additional $20,000 in prize money to be awarded incrementally to the three best finishers on each day.