By Noel Michaels
The 2017 NHC Tour has passed its midway point, and the competition continues into the second half of the season with still more than half of the overall seats to the next National Horseplayers Championship still up for grabs over the course of the next five months. The NHC Tour results so far have been led not only by some of the top players in the game, as expected, but also by some newer players who have already made a mark before ever making even their first appearance at the NHC finals in Las Vegas.
As one of the few people that have been involved in the NHC (formerly the National Handicapping Championship) since its formation in 1999 who are still involved in the tournament today, it is my honor to officially be back “in the fold” with the NTRA, in this new role covering the event and its top players with monthly blogs and weekly media appearances on shows such as Steve Byk “At The Races.” Promoting and participating in this event have been amongst by greatest passions for many years, and I hope to be able to provide some good information and entertaining insights into the NHC Tour and the NHC main event, as well as some of the great tournaments along the way.
Let’s start with a recap of the first half final results on the NHC Tour, and a look at how the Leaderboard currently stands as we approach Labor Day.
The NHC Tour first-half winner was Mike Ferrozzo of Eagan, Minn., who used a July surge to win a couple of contests on HorseTourneys.com that also put him on top for the end of the Tour’s first half with a winning total of 12,791 tour 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 has NHC career earnings of $75,600 including past placings at the NHC and/or NHC Tour.
Ferrozzo and the rest of the five top NHC Tour First Half winners earned a prize of a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge [BCBC] entry, or $10,000 in cash if they were already qualified for the BCBC.
Ferrozzo’s First Half win certainly wouldn’t be termed as a surprise, based on his past successes throughout his tournament play career.
What could be termed a surprise amongst the top 5, however, would be that a player that has just qualified for his first trip to the NHC finals was able to crack the top 5 at the 2017 NHC Tour half-way point. That player was Patrick Runyon of Navarre, Fla., who finished the First Half in fifth place. As a first-time NHC qualifier, Runyan’s impact has been quickly felt all over the place through the last few months of the season. He won the Louisiana Downs tournament, finished second twice at HorseTourneys.com, and also finished fifth among 2,000 entries in a free online NTRA qualifier to help him accumulate his total so far.
The rest of the top five NHC Tour First Half finishers were, second through fourth, Mike Yurczyk of Minneapolis (12,461 points), Eric Moomey, now of Madison S.D. (12,348 points), and David McCarty of Del Mar, Calif. (12,292 points).
Eric Moomey, of course, is already a well-known tournament player, having won the NHC Tour championship in the 2014 season. Mike Yurczyk has now qualified for the NHC for the third year (also 2015 and 2016), and already has NHC career earnings of $12,580, mostly stemming from a 49th-place finish at the 2015 finals. David McCarty is on a three-year NHC qualifying streak en route to becoming one of the Tour’s most dangerous players, as he displayed in 2017 tournament wins at Santa Anita and on HorseTourneys.com.
With the First Half in the books, NHC Tour action has continued into its Second Half during the month of August. The new NHC Tour leader is Christopher Dewey with 18,096 points. Dewey had finished just out of the top 5 in the First Half with 11,979 points, but has 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 Horseplayers.com.
Dewey is yet another hero of the lesser-experienced players on the NHC Tour. Like Partick Runyon, Dewey will be making his first appearance at the NHC finals at the upcoming 2018 National Horseplayers Championship.
As of late August, Eric Moomey sat in second place on the Leaderboard with 16,517 points, and Yurczyk is now third with 16,092.
These point tallies will be constantly updating on the NHC section at NTRA.com. Some of the latest Tour Leaderboard updates will come from the Monmouth Park Super Qualifier on Aug. 26, where the Top 2 finishers got BCBC entries, and finishers 3-10 all qualified for the NHC. Monmouth attracted 217 players for its 10-spot Super Qualifier. The tournament was won by Rene Morety of Jackson Heights, NY, who turned his $200 starting bankroll into $2,633 on win, place, and/or show bets from Monmouth and Saratoga. Second was Nick Maiuri with $2,471.
The third-place finisher at Monmouth, Mitchell Schuman, qualified for the NHC for the 13th year. Schuman currently sits at No. 7 on the all-time NHC finals scoring list with 1,427 career points. Schuman will have a chance to add to his $19,200 career NHC earnings at the next NHC finals, and also put himself into prize contention on the 2017 NHC Tour with a big weekend that also included a fifth-place finish on HorseTourneys.com.
More updates on the NHC Tour, with an emphasis on its top players, will follow each month. Thank you for reading and good luck on the Tour.
– 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.