By Noel Michaels
Over the course of nearly 20 years now, the National Horseplayers Championship has grown from what once was an upstart idea into what it is today, an important and established institution in the sport in the sport of horseracing. Once regarded by some as a fad or a novelty favored by a fringe group of horseplayers, the racing industry, led by the NTRA, has continually raised the stature of the NHC tournament throughout its two decades to the level where it is today.
The recently-concluded NHC main event in Las Vegas just awarded nearly $3 million in mostly cash prizes, and the NHC Tour, now in its 11th year in 2018, is already underway with announced prize money of $400,000 up for grabs. With that kind of money on the table, it is no wonder more handicappers – and more accomplished handicappers – continue to get involved as the NHC moves into the future.
Before we concentrate on the future, however, let’s take a look back at the history of the NHC, as it relates to the top-earning players in the history of the event. In their histories, the finals of the NHC and the NHC Tour have already awarded a total of roughly $23 million in purse money to over 684 individual cash prize winners the last 19 years. Thousands more than that have won money in local qualifying contests, plus thousands of free trips to Las Vegas to compete in the NHC have also been awarded. Players all over North America continue take at least one shot each year to qualify for the NHC and go for its big money prizes and prestige.
Nineteen champions have now earned Eclipse Awards, which is 19 more horseplayers to do so than before the NHC era, and thanks to the NHC horseplayers have achieved a newfound level of respect and recognition in the larger horseracing community. This great experiment has truly come of age and continues to grow and mature each and every year.
Over the course of the first 19 NHC finals from 2000 to 2018, several handicappers have distinguished themselves in the national championships, first at the MGM Grand, then at Bally’s, and then the Red Rock, and currently at the Treasure Island Las Vegas since 2012. In the history of the event, an ever-growing list of 54 players have now won at least $100,000 in purse money in the NHC and on the NHC Tour. A total of 299 individuals have earned at least $10,000 in purse money. Those numbers are better than a lot of racehorses and racehorse owners have done during that period of time.
Please see the NTRA’s comprehensive list of career money earners in the NHC main event and on the NHC Tour. The list (unofficial and unaudited) includes cash prizes only, and encompasses any purse money or bonuses awarded for the top finishers of the NHC Tour, and at the NHC finals in Las Vegas, including the consolation tournament and some categories which no longer exist at the NHC, such as team prize money.
The all-time top NHC money-earner is still “Mr. Million” himself, Michael Beychok of Baton Rouge, Louisiana with $1,015,300 in earnings – most of which came from his victory in the 2012 NHC in the only year so far when the winner’s share soared to $1 million. This year’s current NHC champion Chris Littlemore from Ontario, Canada, moves all the way up to second on the all-time list on the strength of his $800,000 grand prize this February. His total earning of $816,400 move him narrowly ahead of last year’s NHC champion Ray Arsenault, also of Ontario, Canada, who is third on the list with $815,600.
After Beychok, Littlemore, and Arsenault, it’s worth noting that all of the top nine spots on the list are comprised by past NHC champions (John O’Neil, Paul Matties, Jose Arias, Jim Benes, Brian Troop, and Richard Goodall. The highest-scoring non-champion on the list is Roger Cettina of Rumson, NJ. In tenth place with $512,400. Cettina racked-up his total mostly on the strength of national runner-up finishes in both 2013 and 2016, plus a third-place finish on the NHC Tour in 2017.
Some other notables, besides past champions, who are also high on the list include NHC Hall of Famer Paul Shurman of Long Island, NY. in 18th place with $233,200, reigning NHC Tour champion Mike Ferrozzo of Eagan, Minn. In 22nd place with $175,600, and Tom Noone of Redondo Beach, Calif. In 21st place with $179,500 thanks to an NHC Tour championship in 2010, an NHC Final Table appearance in 2018, and a host of other checks along the way.
Where are you on the list of all-time leading money winners in the history of the NHC? See our exclusive list and find out. Haven’t yet won money in the NHC or on the NHC Tour? Get into the game now by signing up for the 2018 NHC Tour, and make sure you are eligible to win your way into the next NHC finals in Las Vegas. See you there!
If you see an error in the earnings numbers, please email Holly at firstname.lastname@example.org.