Kent Meyer, a 38-year-old landlord from Sioux City, Iowa, originally had plane reservations to return home early from the $240,000 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas. Instead, he had 100,000 reasons to stick around.
Meyer topped a record field of 261 of the best horseplayers in North America to win the fifth annual DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship Saturday night at Ballys Las Vegas. In addition to the $100,000 first prize check he received by capturing the event -- the Super Bowl of handicapping tournaments for Thoroughbred racing horseplayers -- he earned the crown as "Handicapper of the Year" for 2004.
Meyer, who describes himself as an avid horseplayer, compiled a contest-winning total of $238.40 based on mythical $2 win-and-place bets on 15 races per day on each day of the two-day contest. The total was good enough to beat runner-up David Krosunger of Wallington, Penn. who finished a close second with $232.60. Krosunger, a 43-year-old print shop manager, led at the end Friday's opening round before settling for the second-prize of $40,000.
Meyer was making his second straight National Handicapping Championship appearance after qualifyingat the Bettor Racing OTB in Sioux Falls, S.D. Before the start of last year's tourney he took advantage of being in Las Vegas to elope. He still managed to finish 32nd in NHC IV."I had so much fun last year, I really just wanted to qualify again," Meyer said, who normally only plays in one or two tournaments a year. "I think last year's experience helped me a lot. I'd never been in anything like this before, and I was much more comfortable this time. It's nerve-wracking to hear the hooting and hollering around the room. It got to me last year, but I didn't pay much attention to it this year."Meyer was able to relax early in the two-day national handicapping finals, hitting a bet on the event's first longshot winner, Jersey Gia, who paid $35 to win and $16.80 to place in Friday's second race at Aqueduct.Meyer never dropped lower than third in the standings throughout the contest. He tagged a total of 10 winners in the 30-race contest.Rounding out the top five finishers was Randy Franklin of Scottsdale, Ariz. who finished with $210.70, Martha Carl of Los Angeles with $201.10 and fifth-place finisher Brendan Leehy from Omaha, Neb. with $138.40. Players also competed as members of four-person teams in a separate contest based on where they qualified. The championship-winning team hailed from Colonial Downs.
The quartet of Harry Damgaard, Dave Durkin, Berkley Kern, and John Vitale totaled $542.60 and won first prize of $25,000 ($6,250 each). Teams from Horsemen's Park ($499.90) and Arlington ($493.10) finished second and third. The Horsemen's Park team won $10,000 ($2,500 each), while Arlington won $5,000 ($1,250 each).