LAS VEGAS, Nevada (February 5, 2020) – Evan Trommer chuckles a bit when recalling the details of how he first qualified for the NTRA’s National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) – partially because, even eight years after the fact, he can still tap into the emotions of the moment as if they had transpired in recent days.
Seated at his home base of Keeneland with one race remaining in the 2012 edition of the track’s Grade One Gamble, Trommer found himself achingly close to earning the right to test his handicapping acumen in the tournament designed to crown the best of the horseplayer best. Half the battle in gambling is having to confidence to stick with one’s strategy, which is why Trommer is still amused he picked that particular moment to try and seek out some advice.
“I was in second place with a race to go and I remember sitting there going ‘All I want to do is make Las Vegas’,” said Trommer, referencing the NHC’s host city. “I had heard about it (the NHC), I was excited about it. I didn’t care if I won the tournament or not, I just wanted to make it to Las Vegas. So I went to the guy sitting next to me and said ‘I’ve never been in this position before, what do you think I should do?’ He was like ‘You’re in second place and you haven’t said a word all day’.”
Not only did Trommer end up notching that contest victory and breaking his NHC maiden, he has gone on to supply himself with ample amounts of high-level tournament experience from which to draw upon. The Lexington-based businessman is again Las Vegas-bound this week to compete in the 21st NTRA National Horseplayers Championship Presented by Racetrack Television Network, Caesars Entertainment and Bally’s on February 7-9, his sixth time qualifying for the event.
The thrill of making it onto the NHC entry list hasn’t lessened for Trommer but, unlike his initial try, he is no longer satisfied with just being part of the show. Since finishing a respectable 105 out of 455 when he first played the tournament in 2013, Trommer has been on the cusp of being in the top 10 percent and making it into Sunday’s semifinals. His best showing came in 2015 when he finished 65th and he heads into this year’s NHC as a dual qualifier for the fourth consecutive year.
“I’ve always kind of finished in that 10-20 percent range and the top 10 percent make (the Sunday cut),” Trommer said. “I’m hoping this is the year I can make it. I have two entries and I’m hoping I can get one of them to Sunday, that’s my main goal. But I will tell you, as these things grow, the level of competition grows and the thing about the NHC is as big as it is, you just have to be right. It’s like putting a good golf game together over the week. You just have to have a couple good rounds together. That gets you on your way. I think that allows anybody in that room to advance and move on and be successful.”
If luck is a necessary component to any handicapping success, Trommer comes into this year’s NHC having recently experienced a stroke of fortune that defied the most daunting of odds.
In 2017 along with his sons Drew and Matthew, Trommer purchased a high-energy bay filly for $60,000 out of the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training auction. The daughter of Midshipman marked Trommer’s return to Thoroughbred ownership after a brief hiatus from the sport and, over the next couple seasons, the aptly-named Princess Warrior would provide the family with every peak and valley the game has to offer.
In her maiden victory at Churchill Downs in September 2017, Princess Warrior defeated future Grade 1 winner Mia Mischief. Two starts later, she was competing in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and by the end of her 3-year-old season, she had become a graded stakes winner courtesy of her triumph in the 2018 Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes beneath the Twin Spires.
The hope for Princess Warrior’s 4-year-old season was that she would continue to hold her own in the salty ranks of the female turf division. On the afternoon of May 10, however, all her connections wanted for their girl was the chance for her to live out the rest of her days after she fractured both sesamoids in her left front leg during an allowance optional claiming race at Churchill Downs.
“When you accept being in this game and you accept the ownership of this game, you have to take the highs and lows. And not everyone can do that,” Trommer said. “But you have to stay on an even keel even in the worst of times. So that was part of the game. We didn’t care about anything else except making sure that filly got to live on. It wasn’t about her value, it wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about anything at that point. It went right to the fact that this horse gave everything for us and we were going to do the same thing for her.”
A successful surgery performed by Dr. Larry Bramlage at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital indeed saved Princess Warrior, who is now set to begin a broodmare career for the Trommers after failing to meet her reserve with a final bid of $400,000 at the 2020 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages sale.
“We didn’t want to give her away. She means a lot to us,” said Trommer, adding that mating plans for Princess Warrior are being finalized. “She was the first real family horse where the boys were all of age and owned part of the horse. This horse meant a lot to us and still does.”
Watching Princess Warrior tear around her paddock still full of herself ranks as one of the biggest triumphs Trommer has enjoyed in the sport, and he is hopeful his family has more extraordinary experiences on tap as they build up their stable. To that end, he would love to come home from Vegas with an extra $800,000 in resources to put toward that quest.
“It’s just another piece of the token. It makes you appreciate the sport and makes you appreciate when you can come out on the right side of things,” Trommer said. “We’ll count our blessings on that. And maybe (Princess Warrior) will bring us a little luck going into (NHC).”
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