SUNDAY NOTES: ARIAS SETS NEW TWO-DAY RECORD
· Final 50 Players Focused On Final Table
· NHC Tour Winner Sumja Misses Final 50 and $2 Million Bonus
· 378 Finalists Register for Consolation Tourney
LAS VEGAS (Sunday, January 26, 2014) – The $326 bankroll that Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) Presented by Racetrack Television Network, Sovereign Stable and Treasure Island Las Vegas leader Jose Arias amassed through Saturday established a new two-day record, besting the $305.40 that Steven Walker posted to win the inaugural NHC in 2000.
This is the first year of a three-day NHC format so all of the past two-day records covered an entire tournament. In any of 14 past NHC contests Arias would already have claimed the grand prize but this year he still has to fight through a Final 50 Contest this morning and, surviving that, a Final Table with the top 10 this afternoon.
The five best two-day totals in NHC history: $326, Arias, 2014 (Days 1-2); $305.40, Walker, 2000; $279.60, Steve Wolfson Jr., 2003; $277.50, Steve Terralak, 2000; and $276.40, Brian MacClowry, 2000.
Last year’s winning score by Jim Benes was $268.40. This year, Benes never caught steam and finished in 295th place with $92.40.
FINAL 50 PLAYERS FOCUSED ON FINAL TABLE
With more than $150 in bankroll separating leader Jose Arias ($326) from the last two players to sneak into the Final 50 field – Jamaal Barnett and Rich Nilsen (tied with $173.20) – most of those still technically alive for the $750,000 grand prize would need an unprecedented comeback to win it all.
“The leader is going to be hard to catch,” said Nilsen, a racing industry and handicapping contest veteran making his 11th NHC appearance. “The only way someone like I could catch him is if I make it to the Final Table and I’m within striking distance.”
Every placing is important, though, and cracking the top 14 means a five-figure payday. Everyone in the Final 50 will take home at least $4,000 on a tiered scale.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of rotation between fifth and 50th,” Nilsen said. “They’re so tightly bunched. Going into today I was only 30-something
Just making it to the Final Table has become the mantra of players in the bottom half of the Final 50, as opposed to thinking about first place.
“I feel like I’m playing with house money now,” Barnett said. “I’m just going to go for it. I can’t get any worse than 50th and I’m guaranteed some money so I’m staying with my aggressive style.”
NO $2 MILLION BONUS FOR SUMJA
Brent Sumja, the 2013 NHC Tour winner, finished outside the top 50, ending hopes that he might become the first Tour champ to collect on a $2 million bonus for taking the NHC. The 49-year-old professional handicapper and former racehorse trainer from San Anselmo, Calif., posted a $121.60 total, good for 188th place.
“The first day, I had zero on the mandatories, believe it or not,” Sumja said. “That’s never happened. And not only zero, I wasn’t even close.”
Sumja believes his style of play that has been so successful on the Tour is not as conducive to the NHC format.
“The way I handicap isn’t going to succeed here,” Sumja said. “I want to find the 7-1 and 8-1 shots but in this you need 15-1 and 20-1. Before, when I heard people say that the Tour winner never does anything here, I didn’t think that was valid. But now I think the mental grind of the whole year – it’s not an excuse – it makes it tough.”
Sumja vowed that in 2014 he would prepare for the NHC in qualifying tournaments by forcing himself to look for more double-digit horses.
378 REGISTER FOR CONSOLATION TOURNAMENT
NHC finalists who didn’t make the Final 50 were automatically eligible for today’s Consolation Tournament, with $70,000 in cash prizes to the top 20 finishers. Nearly everyone who could have played did, with 378 accepting the invitation to register for free this morning.