Congratulations to our sport’s newest Eclipse Award winner and the Handicapper of the Year, Jose Arias of Bell Gardens, Calif. Jose, 36, put together a stellar three-day, 45-race run to capture last month’s 15th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC), presented by Racetrack Television Network, Sovereign Stable and Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas. Jose, who qualified for the NHC at Surfside Race Place, is an environmental safety engineer and a regular on the Southern California racing circuit.

The recently concluded NHC featured a number of firsts: an expanded three-day format, a Final 50, a Final Table of 10, and a new Consolation Tournament. The event featured a record number of 501 entrants and 418 individuals. Following the NHC, we sent a brief survey to all NHC participants. Congratulations to NHC 15 participant Fred Cipriano of Las Vegas. Fred finished out of the money at the NHC, but he won a Samsung Galaxy tablet in a random drawing among those NHC participants who returned the survey. In all, 63 percent of NHC participants provided us with feedback within 72 hours, and we thank each of you for taking the time to respond.

We’ve posted the survey results and comments so you can see for yourself what the participants thought about the 2014 NHC. Many of the comments include suggestions for improving the format, the presentation of the leaderboards and overall standings for all participants, and overall prize distribution, particularly as it relates to those individuals who were talented and lucky enough to reach the Final Table. We are looking at each of these areas closely. Based on your feedback and our own analysis, we will be making tweaks and changes in the future designed to enhance the NHC.

The 2013-14 NHC Tour and Championship was the richest in the 15-year history of the NHC. Prize money, travel and other awards directly paid by the NTRA totaled $2,069,982. This figure does not include any costs associated with operating the NHC. A total of $2,400,273 in spots and Tour Memberships was sold in 2013, resulting in an overall takeout of 13.7 percent.

Qualifying already is underway for the 2015 NHC. A current 2014 Tour schedule is posted at and will be updated over the coming weeks as we hear from more tournament sites. The 2014 Tour Rules also are posted. We’ve also posted an explanation and rationale behind a new NHC Tour points system. We’re excited to report that Del Mar, Hawthorne, Keeneland, Monmouth Park and Santa Anita, among others, have added more tournaments and/or NHC seats to the 2014 calendar. Laurel Park is back on the calendar after a hiatus and we are hopeful that others will join on to host a qualifier leading to the 2015 NHC.

We continue to strive to ensure that there is a healthy offering of tournaments offered throughout the United States and Canada, held at various price points, online and at brick-and-mortar locations, and operated under formats that will appeal to a broad spectrum of tournament players. The NTRA will again offer free online tournaments giving away a total of 20 spots to the NHC. Details on the first free tournament in early March will be forthcoming. A 2015 Tour membership ($50) is mandatory to be eligible to win a seat to the NHC, so sign up today if you have not done so already.

The modifications to this year’s NHC and Tour are based on feedback from hundreds of tournament players like you. We also work closely with a small group of individuals who are part of the NHC Players’ Committee. The group currently consists of Stanley Bavlish (2007 NHC Champion, Va.), Dennis Decauwer (Calif.), Ross Gallo (Fla.), Chris Larmey (Wash.), Mike Mayo (chairman, Texas), Mitch Schuman (N.Y.), Paul Shurman (N.Y.), Chris Skinner (Canada), George Smith (Ill.), Jim Templin (Pa.), Hal Wafer (Nevada), Judy Wagner (2001 NHC Champion, La.) and Cara Yarusso (Minn.). Dennis and Chris are new to the committee this year. We sincerely thank each of these individuals for their time and effort on behalf of all Tour members.

The Players’ Committee, which is comprised of individuals of various ages from geographically diverse locations, does not set NHC policies. Rather, it serves as an important idea incubator and sounding board on a range of tournament and Tour issues. It is a goal of the committee to represent the viewpoints of all NHC Tour members. From time to time, we receive communications from some of you requesting to serve on the Players’ Committee. Be assured that your requests are not being ignored. The committee’s size is limited, but we will do everything within reason to bring new people and new voices onto the committee in a timely manner. In the meantime, each of you should feel free to contact any member of the Players’ Committee or the NTRA directly if you have any questions or suggestions about the Tour or NHC. I can be reached at and will do my best to respond to you in a timely manner.

Best of luck on the Road to the 2015 NHC and, as always, thank you for your support of the NTRA and NHC.

Keith Chamblin