LAS VEGAS (Friday, January 24, 2014) – Jose Arias, an environmental safety engineer from Bell Gardens, Calif., leads the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) Presented by Racetrack Television Network, Sovereign Stable and Treasure Island Las Vegas after Day 1 with a $198.80 bankroll. As Day 1 leader, Arias earned a $6,000 bonus, as well as paid Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry fees, live bankrolls, airfare and hotel.

Jose Arias

Jose Arias

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The top five Day 1 leaders earned bonuses. Rich Pawloski sits in second with $172.20 and earned a $5,000 bonus, followed by Tony Brice ($169; $4,000), Mike McIntyre ($168; $3,000) and John Wilhelm ($167.20; $2,000).

The Top 10 was rounded out by Chris Skotz ($161), Francis Boustany ($158.60), Robert Bertolluci ($154.60), Craig Hom ($149) and Mike Hackworth ($140.40).

The full standings can be viewed at

The 500 NHC entrants were required to place 15 mythical $2 Win and Place wagers – seven on mandatory races that everyone played and eight on any of about 50 other races from seven designated racetracks across the country.

Arias leapfrogged to the top of the standings by picking the 21-1 winner of the day’s final mandatory race, the seventh at Santa Anita. The $58,000 allowance for older females on the downhill turf course was won by Macaabra, who paid $44.20 for a $2 Win wager and $12.80 for the $2 Place bet. For NHC purposes, payoffs are capped at 20-1 ($42) to Win and 10-1 ($22) to Place.

“I thought his closing numbers were the fastest,” Arias said. “There was a little bit of speed and I figured he had a good post to set him up for the run, which he did. He just mowed them down.”

Arias, making his third NHC appearance, said his five successful plays on the day also included Legacy, a $47 winner in Santa Anita’s third race, and “some 6-1 and 7-1 shots that won or at least placed.”

Despite holding a lead in the world’s most prestigious handicapping tournament, the 36-year-old insists he won’t lose any sleep tonight.

“My thing is to just not get nervous and do what you normally do,” Arias said. “The years that I’ve been handicapping, since I was 15-years-old, it all pays off. You just keep calm and pick winners.”

Only one Day 1 leader has ever gone on to win the NHC – Brian Troop in 2010. That year, Troop posted what was then the highest single-day total in history with $232.60 on Day 1. Last year Richard Grosse tallied a single-day record of $235.60, but for 2013 only the format included $4 Win-Place “Best Bet” options, one of which Grosse hit with a $76 winner.

The three-day NHC continues Saturday at Treasure Island Las Vegas. Day 1 bankrolls will carry over to Day 2, which will have eight mandatory races and seven optionals. The top 50 after Day 2 will continue on to a “Final 50” tournament Sunday and the top 10 will play at the “Final Table” to determine the final rankings, including the $750,000 grand prize and Eclipse Award winner. Players outside the Final 50 will play in a separate $75,000 Consolation Tournament on Sunday with reset mythical bankrolls.

About the NTRA

The NTRA is a broad-based coalition of more than 80 horse racing interests consisting of leading Thoroughbred racetracks, owners, breeders, trainers, horseplayers and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity of horse racing and improving economic conditions for industry participants. The NTRA has offices in Lexington, Ky., and New York City. NTRA press releases appear on, Twitter (@ntra) and Facebook (