By Noel Michaels
Big money will be on the line when the horse handicapping tournament world converges on the Vegas strip for the 19th time for the upcoming National Horseplayers Championship [NHC] on February 9-11 at Treasure Island Las Vegas. With purse money and awards approaching $3 million up for grabs, the NHC will offer any of its 600+ qualified finalists the chance to make a life-changing score. The stakes will be even higher, however, for a quintet of players in the field who will be playing for prize amounts much, much higher.
A record five players will be eligible for bonus money ranging from $500,000 to $3 million if they go on the win the 2018 NTRA National Horseplayers Championship, presented by Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens, and Treasure Island Las Vegas. That money would be on top of an estimated grand prize purse of $750,000 going to the NHC winner. These five players – Nisan Gabbay, Mike Ferrozzo, Ed Peters, John Ukleja, and Paul Langley – each will have an extraordinary opportunity to add six-figure prize money and six- or seven-figure bonus money to what has already been a big year for all of them.
The player eligible for the biggest bonus at NHC 19 will be Nisan Gabbay, 40, from San Francisco, who won the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. Gabbay, who took home nearly a half-million dollars at the BCBC between his purse money and final bankroll, has a shot at a $3 million bonus if he goes on to win the NHC thanks to the NTRA’s “rolling double” bonus that makes the BCBC winner eligible for a bonus at the next NHC, and vice versa. Gabbay has qualified for the NHC on two earlier occasions in 2014 and in 2017 when he recorded his best finish so far in 94th place.
Another player in the field that will be playing for a multi-million-dollar bonus windfall will be Mike Ferrozzo, who is eligible for $2 million in bonus money from the NTRA as the winner of the recently-concluded 2017 NHC Tour. Ferrozzo, 44, of Eagan, Minn, earned the NHC Tour’s first prize of $100,000 in 2017 along with other money he took home with high placings at two separate Hawthorne contests and as Canterbury Park’s Handicapper of the Year. Ferrozzo will be making his 10th appearance at the NHC finals, and recorded high finishes in both 2015 (10th place) and 2016 (21st place).
Two more players, John Ukleja, from Tinley Park, Ill. and Paul Langley from Chicago, each became eligible to win $1 million bonuses from Hawthorne Race Course and Xpressbet when they won contests at Hawthorne on Dec. 29 and 30, respectively. Langley will be making his second lifetime appearance at the NHC after finishing mid-pack in his prior finals in 2013. The same will go for Ukleja, who finished mid-pack in his lone prior NHC finals appearance back in 2014.
The last bonus-eligible player at NHC 19 will be Ed Peters, 46, of Pelham, New Hampshire, who earned a shot at an extra $500,000 if he can win the NHC thanks to his win in Laurel’s The Big One last September. Peters will try to put the icing on what has already been a big season for him in which he earned $36,400 for winning The Big One, and pocketed a total of more than $200,000 in bankroll and purses for finishing third in the BCBC. Those finishes helped him to 7th–place on the NHC Tour Overall Leaderboard, for which he earns another $8,500 in prize money.
Peters is NHC double-qualified for the third straight year. His highest NHC placing to date was a 41st-place finish in 2015. Peters joins Mike Ferrozzo on this bonus list as players who are double-qualified for the 2018 NHC. Both players will have to choose which of their two entries will be eligible for their respective bonuses prior to the start of the tournament.
Finally, the last bonus still in-play at the NHC will be a $25,000 NHC Tour bonus going to the Top 40 finisher on the 2017 NHC Tour who goes on to the highest finish at the NHC main event, even if they don’t win.
Good luck to all of the players who are eligible for big-money bonuses, and to the entire field of players at the upcoming 2018 National Horseplayers Championship!
Bonus-Eligible Players at the 2018 National Horseplayers Championship:
Nisan Gabby – $3 million (BCBC)
Mike Ferrozzo – $2 million (NHC Tour)
Ed Peters – $500,000 (The Big One)
John Ukleja – $1,000,000 (Hawthorne/Xpressbet)
Paul Langley – $1,000,000 (Hawthorne/Xpressbet)