By Noel Michaels

Jimmy Nace is no longer with us, but his memory will live on.  Nace will always be remembered by the many friends he made during his years as a racing fan and tournament player, and now his memory will be preserved in a more official way. The NTRA has announced that its annual NHC Rookie of the Year honor will be named the Jim Nace Award.

Nace, of Egg Harbor, NJ, lost his battle with cancer last March 19 at the age of 68.  Most of the people who knew him would never even have known he was sick. He was a consistently smiling, laughing, and socializing presence on the NHC Tour for many years, known by all he came in contact with for his enthusiasm and passion for horse racing and handicapping. Nace was a six-time NHC Finals qualifier since 2009. He is survived by his wife Cheryl and two daughters, not to mention a lot of tournament players who are going to miss him.

Of the many things that Nace was known for amongst his handicapping tournament peers, was the fact that he was always interested in mentoring new contest players, showing new players the ropes, and whenever possible taking them under his wing to teach the ins-and-outs of the game. It was for this reason that the Rookie of the Year honor at the NHC seemed like a natural fit to associate with Nace’s memory.

“Jimmy would be so touched and honored by this incredible honor,” said his wife Cheryl. “As much as Jimmy loved handicapping and participating in tournaments, what he loved even more was the camaraderie and the lifelong friends he made along the way.”

The first player to win the newly-named Jim Nace NHC Rookie of the Year Award is Robert Pennell of Ceekonk, Mass., who compiled 15,520 points on the NHC Tour which was the most of any first-year NHC Tour member. Pennell scored included six online point tallies and one on-track score earned at the Mohegan Sun in December, to narrowly outlast runner-up James Giamundo who had battled for the top spot throughout most of the second half of the season en route to a second-place score of 14,819 Tour points.

The rookie purse structure totals 15,000 with payouts to the top five finishers. Pennell earned the rookie first prize of $5,000. Giamundo took home $4,000 for second. Pennell’s score was good for 32nd place on the Overall Tour Leaderboard.

“Congratulations to the NHC Rookie of the Year,” said Cheryl Nace. “It is a great honor to have my husband’s name attached to your achievement.”