By Jennie Rees for NTRA.com
LAS VEGAS — Jonathon Kinchen was the face of the 17th DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. And in the end, he also reflected the reality of gambling on horses: sometimes things just don’t go your way.
As the season-long NHC Tour winner, Kinchen stood to earn a $2 million bonus if he also won here, along with the $800,000 first-place money. Instead, he missed the cut, comprised of the top 63 out of 629 total entries, finishing tied for 209th and 275th with his two hands.
“It was very fun to have that attention, to have my picture on the cover of the (Daily Racing) Form,” said Kinchen, whose entries were 27th and 45th after the first day. “That’s a dream come true. I have racehorses tattooed to my arm that have been on that cover. Being on the cover too was bizarre to me. So that was cool. It was a fun event and I had a great time. I had a great day on Day 1, and as horse players we know we have bad days. And my bad day came at the worst time. It was a lot of fun no matter what.”
The outgoing 33-year-old Austin real-estate investor had classy company. Of the seven former NHC champs competing at Treasure, only NHC victor Stanley Bavlish advanced to Saturday’s semifinal round, landing in 15th after taking the lead midway through the day. The highest finish among the other six past titlists was 161st.
“I didn’t not make the top 63 because of a jinx,” Kinchen said Friday evening. “I just had a crappy day. I don’t believe it was the success of the Tour or the pressure of the money. As a horseplayer, you have crappy days. I just happened to have it at the absolute worst time.
“This event is very, very difficult. There are 600 horseplayers, a heck of a lot of opportunities for crazy stuff to happen… I was super prepared Thursday, 100 percent. I was 75 percent prepared (Friday). But in those little lanes of 75 percent, I was wrong. So it didn’t matter. You can say the 25 percent might have cost me, but it didn’t. I was wrong in the other spots where I was ready.”
Those who didn’t advance play in a consolation tournament using the same format. The winner will pick up $50,000 and a free entry to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge worth $10,000. Kitchen said he’d play in the consolation tournament in part to hang out and root for his friends, including David Gutfreund, who had the lead heading into the final day.
“I’m going to try to hit the Pick Six at Santa Anita and make myself feel better,” he said.