By Noel Michaels

It’s now or never. With only two weeks remaining on the 2017 NHC Tour, competition for several lucrative prizes is now deep in the homestretch and nearing its nail-biting conclusion. Will NHC Tour leader Christopher Dewey hold on to his slim lead over Mike Ferrozzo? Will Ferrozzo pull-off a last-minute win to pass Dewey nearing the wire? Can someone else complete a Hail Mary and pass them both? Stay tuned.

What’s at stake? Total purse money up for grabs on the 2017 NHC Tour will be a record $425,000, of which $375k has yet to be decided. The purse structure on the final Overall Leaderboard is $285,000 – including $100,000 to the winner – plus don’t forget about $50,000 worth of Second-Half prizes, a $15,000 rookie purse structure, and a $25,000 bonus to the NHC Tour top 40 finisher that goes on to finish highest at the 2018 NHC main event.

Tour members have only two weeks remaining to jockey for position in the Overall NHC Tour Leaderboard standings. Payouts will be made down to 20th place on the following scale:

2017 NHC Tour Overall Leaderboard Purse Structure ($285,000)

  1. $100,000* + 2019 NHC entry
  2. $50,000
  3. $25,000
  4. $17,500
  5. $10,000
  6. $9,000
  7. $8,500
  8. $8,000
  9. $7,500
  10. $7,000
  11. $6,500
  12. $6,000
  13. $5,500
  14. $5,000
  15. $4,500
  16. $4,000
  17. $3,500
  18. $3,000
  19. $2,500
  20. $2,000

In a couple of weeks, we will be able to fill-in names next to all of those placings when the 2017 NHC Tour officially comes to a conclusion at the end of action on Saturday, January 6.

Players are also still competing for top-five placings in the NHC Tour’s Second Half standings. The top-five second-half finishers all qualify into the next Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge [BCBC] – a $10,000 value.

The NHC Tour also awards other benefits as well, including NHC qualifying berths to any player finishing in the top 150 who has not already earned a qualifying spot. For many players, the battle to get qualified for the 2018 NHC main event with a top 150 finish will rage on to the final day of the NHC Tour. Currently, the points cutoff for any as yet non-qualified player stands at 10,099. If the season ended today, Dec. 21, a total 49 NHC Tour members would earn qualifying berths into the NHC main event based on Tour points.

First-year NHC Tour sign-ups – NHC Tour Rookies – are also still battling to land in the top five of their own dedicated Leaderboard. Rookies are competing for $15,000 in prizes with $5,000 going to the winner, $4,000 for second, $3,000 for third, $2,000 for fourth, and $1,000 for fifth.

But the big prize, obviously, is the overall NHC LUXAIR JETS LEADERBOARD with its $285,000 in prize money. While there may not be much difference in terms of prize money between many of the final placings from 10 to 20, there is a giant differential at the top where the money difference between first and second is $50,000, and the margin separating the first-place and fifth-place finisher will be $90,000. These differences are that much more dramatic now that we are in the final home stretch of the NHC Tour, with less than 2,000 points separating first place and fifth place, and a razor-thin 119-point margin between first and second!

Here’s where we stand on the Overall Leaderboard with only two weeks remaining on the NHC Tour.

The current NHC Tour leader (as of Dec. 20) is CHRISTOPHER DEWEY of Troy, New York, with 18,721 points. Just to show you how hard it is for the leaders to accumulate more points at this stage of the game, Dewey’s total is less than 700 more than it was back on Sept. 8, at which point he already had 18,096. Dewey had finished just out of the top five in the First Half with 11,979 points, but benefitted from big early Second Half point additions, gaining 2,498 points with a solid on-track finish at the Saratoga tournament, and a 2,960-point performance on August 4 at

A Dewey victory would be a win for the lesser-experienced players on the NHC Tour. He will be making his first-ever appearance at the NHC finals at the upcoming 2018 National Horseplayers Championship.

The NHC Tour first-half winner, MIKE FERROZZO of Eagan, Minn., currently sits a close second with 18,602 points. Ferrozzo used a July surge to win a couple of contests on, which put him on top for the end of the Tour’s First Half with 12,791 points.

This will be Ferrozzo’s 10th year qualifying for the NHC since his first appearance in 2007. He is in 33rd place on the all-time NHC scoring list with 1,085.60 career points, and he has amassed NHC career earnings of $75,600 for past placings at the NHC and/or NHC Tour.

Still within shouting distance of the top, and in line for good-sized prize money payouts based on their current standings, are third-, fourth, and fifth-place Tour members DAVID MCCARTY (17,375 points) of Del Mar, Calif., former 2014 NHC Tour champion ERIC MOOMEY of Madison, S.D. (17,321 points), and ED PETERS, who just vaulted into the top five this month with a lucrative third-place finish in the BCBC, accounting for 3,596 of his total 16,671 Tour points.

Second-Half NHC Tour and Rookie Leaderboards and Top 150 Update

The second-half NHC Tour Leaderboard is separate from the main Leaderboard. Only a participant’s top four scores accumulated from July 30 through January 6, 2018, will count toward the NHC Tour Second-Half standings, and at least one of those four scores must come from a live on-site contest. The top 5 finishers all receive $10,000 berths into the next 2018 BCBC tournament.

The Second Half runaway leader is TERRY COOK, who has used a mind-blowing run of success in on-site tournaments to rack-up a 13,014-point second-half total, including dominance of NYRA contests with back-to-back wins at Saratoga in August and then another win at Aqueduct in November.

Cook’s second-half lead is probably insurmountable at this point, but since the prize is the same for fifth place as it is for first place, the Second Half competition for places two to five still rages on into the final two weeks of the NHC Tour. Many players are still in contention including, in order, EDWARD OSTERHOUT (11,155 points), MITCH SCHUMAN (11,044), ED PETERS (11,007), BRIAN KUBIK (10,789), NICK FAZZOLARI (10,620), DAVE RITCHIE (10,488), CHRISTOPHER DEWEY (10,407), JIM SEBES (10,361) and MATT MILLER (10,208).

On the Rookie Leaderboard, where the prizes will range from $5,000 for first to $1,000 for fifth, the following players currently have the inside track: CHARLES MEYERS (16,410 points), SCOTT BOURDREUX (13,365), GARY FENTON (11,414), CAROL JOHNSON (11,356), and KARL BARTH (10,140).

Stay tuned to see what happens from now until the 2017 NHC Tour’s conclusion on January 6.

Noel Michaels is an NTRA tournament consultant. He has been the racing media’s top authority on the National Horseplayers Championship since the National Handicapping Championship’s inception in 2000. Noel has covered the NHC for several publications, including the Daily Racing Form, where he served as the primary reporter and promoter of the NHC throughout its formative first decade. He is the author of the groundbreaking book, Handicapping Contest Handbook, a Horseplayer’s Guide to Handicapping Tournaments, and a five-time NHC qualifier in his years of eligibility since 2010.