Photo by NTRA/HorsePhotos
Mike Mayo, a handicapping tournament mainstay and the longtime Chairman of the NHC Players’ Committee, passed away Thursday, September 18 after a brief illness. Mike and his wife, Marsha, were familiar faces at racetracks and handicapping tournaments around the country, including at the NHC, where he was a 10-time qualifier.
Beyond the pari-mutuel windows and out of sight from most tournament players, Mike had a lasting and profound impact on the development and growth of the NHC, handicapping tournament play and Thoroughbred horse racing in general.
As Chairman of the NHC Players’ Committee, Mike was a tireless advocate for the horseplayer and a staunch believer that the NHC could help grow the popularity of horse racing. The Players’ Committee serves as a voice for all NHC tournament players and assists the NTRA with the establishment of NHC rules, formats and procedures. Under Mike’s steady hand, the committee helped set the stage for the 2008 launch of the NHC Tour, which connects tournaments through a points system and prize money. The Tour has helped fuel record participation in NHC tournaments and record purses at the NHC, which began in 2000 with a purse of $192,000 and this January will offer a purse of well over $2 million.
Mike was a longtime proponent of a “Final Table” format for the NHC. His vision become reality earlier this year when the NHC instituted a ”Final 50” and “Final Table.” By all accounts, the result was the most exciting NHC in the event’s 15-year history. Several years ago, Mike sent a letter to the NTRA formally requesting that the organization appoint a horseplayer to its Board of Directors. Mike felt strongly that horseplayers, whose wagering dollars fuel every aspect of the industry, deserved a seat and voice at the table. In August, Judy Wagner became the first horseplayer elected to serve on the 13-member NTRA Board.
Funeral arrangements for Mike were still pending, however, Mike did make it clear that he was not a big fan of flowers. He asked that horseplayers and friends consider a contribution to Old Friends retirement farm, to go toward the care of the beautiful animals that brought him so much pleasure. Contributions can be made directly to Old Friends, 1841 Paynes Depot Road, Georgetown, KY 40324 or online via PayPal at www.oldfriendsequine.org.
– Keith Chamblin