Chris Littlemore, a retired autoworker from Whitby, Ontario, Canada, landed two big prices Saturday to take control of the 19th NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Presented by Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens™ and Treasure Island Las Vegas with a $311.70 mythical bankroll after Day 2 of the three-day tournament at Treasure Island.
The top 10 percent of the field – the top 70 – will continue on to the Semifinal round Sunday and the subsequent top 10 will play at the Final Table to determine final placings, from $800,000 for first down to $50,000 for 10th, as well an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year. Those left outside the final cut will play in a separate $50,000 Consolation Tournament on Sunday with reset mythical bankrolls.
Littlemore, 58, landed an 18-1 winner, Holiday’s Angels, in the seventh at Oaklawn Park, and a 12-1 shot, Dano’s Dream, at Golden Gate Fields.
“They jump off the page sometimes when you’re looking at the form,” Littlemore said. “Today was one of those days, and I got lucky.”
NHC entrants were required today to place 18 mythical $2 Win and Place wagers – eight on mandatory races that everyone played and 10 on any of 72 other races from eight designated racetracks across the country. The same was true for Friday and those Day 1 bankrolls rolled over to today. Sunday’s Semifinal will consist of 10 optional plays from 33 eligible races with post times up to 12:30 PT. Bankrolls will then carry over to the Final Table, made up of seven mandatory races with estimated post times from 1:30-4:46 p.m. PT, ending with Santa Anita’s Sweet Life Stakes, a downhill turf sprint for 3-year-old fillies.
Keith Fenton is more than $50 behind with $260.70. The remainder of the top 10 is separated by $11. Daniel Hart checked in third with $231.70. The leading 10 was rounded out by Stephanie Schmidt ($227.70), Mike Yurczyk ($227.30), Ernest Powers and Paul Langley (tied for sixth, $226.50), 2010 NHC Tour champion Tom Noone ($224.40), Gloria Kahlden ($220.70), and Joe Scanio ($220.30).
Scanio, a 13-time NHC qualifier whose best finish was sixth in 2015, has two entries in the Semifinals, also having landed in 51st ($183.30). The incredible NHC rookie Terry Cook, who won three New York Racing Association qualifiers last year and won the NHC Tour’s “Second Half,” also has two live entries, currently at 34th ($192) and 50th ($183.40).
Langley in sixth is alive for a $1 million bonus on top of the $800,000 first-place prize as winner of a Hawthorne Holiday Extravaganza contest.
Kahlden is clearly on a hot streak, as she was spotted celebrating a massive mid-five-figure slot machine jackpot at Treasure Island shortly after the day’s contest play concluded.
Among the other notable Semifinals players are Stephanie Davis, an 11-time NHC qualifier, in 12th ($217.10); Scott Carson, founder of Public Handicapper and a 10-time qualifier, in 14th ($212.80); Jon Lindo, owner and producer of the Thoroughbred L.A. radio program, in 28th ($198.90); Nick Tammaro, morning line oddsmaker at Sam Houston Race Park and a regular guest on the At the Races with Steve Byk satellite radio program, in a tie for 41st ($188.10); Duke Matties, a 12-time NHC qualifier and brother of 2016 NHC winner Paul Matties, in 53rd ($181.70); John Nichols, clocker at Kentucky racetracks, in 55th ($181.30); Roger Cettina, twice a NHC runner-up (2013 and 2016), in 58th ($179.60); NHC Hall of Fame member and 2011 NHC Tour champion Paul Shurman, qualified to the NHC for the 16th consecutive year and thrice a top-ten finisher, in 59th ($178.20); and Jonathon Kinchen, the 2015 NHC Tour hero, in 66th ($175.20).
The last Semifinalist to make the cut was Dennis Klein in 70th with $173.40.
Defending champion Ray Arsenault had two entries that were never in contention – one that checked in 567th ($58.80) and a second that finished with zero. None of the 13 former champions to compete made the cut, meaning the NHC will have a first-time winner this year and will remain without ever having had a two-time champion.
Three NHC Tour winners are continuing on to the Semifinals – Noone, Shurman, and Kinchen.
Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge winner Nisan Gabbay, who was eligible for a $3 million bonus if he could win NHC 19, finished in 65th ($31.60). The 2017 NHC Tour winner Mike Ferrozzo, eligible for a $2 million bonus, finished in 248th ($118.40) and 430th ($83.90).
Full standings can be viewed online at NTRA.com, where the homepage features the sortable and searchable LUXAIR Jets Leaderboard of all 702 entries.
DeRosa Wins $10,000 Tito’s Charity Challenge
Ed DeRosa, representing TwinSpires.com, won today’s Tito’s $10,000 Charity Challenge with a final score of $63.40 from $2 Win and Place bets in the same eight mandatory races used for the NHC. Matt Carothers of TVG made a late move to get second with $54.60 and Eclipse Award-winning writer Sean Clancy of ST Publishing checked in third with $47.40.
The $10,000 prize pool will be shared between three different causes – the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, official charity of the NHC ($5,000); the Ronald McDonald House of Cincinnati, the nonprofit designated by DeRosa ($2,500); and another nonprofit still to be determined by title sponsor Tito’s Handcrafted Vodka ($2,500).
“I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the thrill of some big scores in my horseplaying career, but winning $2,500 for Ronald McDonald House of Cincinnati is a thrill that will be difficult to top,” DeRosa said. “My family spent five months there following the birth of our son EJ and experienced firsthand the importance of that charity’s work. Contributing to the comfort of families looking after sick kids means the world to me, and I thank the NTRA, Tito’s Vodka, and HorseTourneys for the opportunity.”
The Charity Challenge was hosted online by HorseTourneys.com.