Photos by NTRA/HorsePhotos
SUNDAY, JAN. 25 NHC NOTES
NEUMY WINS CHARITY CHALLENGE – Bob Neumeier, the longtime NBC Sports handicapper and Boston sportscaster, won the inaugural NTRA NHC Charity Challenge with a final mythical bankroll of $65, besting runner-up Mike Watchmaker of Daily Racing Form, who checked in second with $62.40. Neumeier never led until the last jump, clinching the contest by correctly selecting $13.20 winner Presidentsky in the ninth race at Golden Gate, the day’s final scoring opportunity.
“I’ve had my share of wins and losses as a handicapper but that’s the name of the game,” Neumeier said Sunday morning. “You’ve got to be lucky and I was lucky that day.”
Neumeier suffered a serious stroke just prior to leaving for the Breeders’ Cup in October. The damage inflicted required 5 1/2 hours of brain surgery. Since then he has improved steadily while at home in Boston with the help of his wife, Michele Ucci.
“I’m well on my way to recovery and hope to be back to Comcast New England soon and hope to be back behind the mic with NBC Sports soon,” Neumeier said. “All of my motor skills and speech work are intact, thank goodness. I’ve had enormous support from doctors, speech therapists, friends, colleagues, my wife, and everyone.”
Neumeier estimates he committed at least two hours Saturday to studying the Charity Challenge contest races, which were identical to the day’s NHC mandatory races.
“I spent a good part of the morning going over them” he said. “I still go at it quite a bit. I’m up to speed on all the Boston teams and stay up to speed on racing for my NBC work.”
A field of 40 celebrities, broadcasters and media types competed in the Charity Challenge. As the winner, Neumeier will have $5,000 donated in his name to Old Friends, the Thoroughbred retirement nonprofit with farms in Kentucky and upstate New York, and another $5,000 to a charity of his choosing. Neumeier said he would consult with Ucci before announcing what nonprofit will receive those funds.
The couple was thrilled that Old Friends is a beneficiary, as Neumeier has known longtime Bostonian Michael Blowen, the Old Friends founder and former Boston Globefilm critic, for many years, and has toured the Georgetown, Ky., farm on multiple occasions.
“What he’s done is just extraordinary,” Neumeier said. “He’s done so much for horses and the industry and everyone.”
Neumeier’s win was a popular one. When NHC emcee Eric Wing announced the Charity Challenge results to the Treasure Island Ballroom on Saturday evening the news was met with a resounding ovation from NHC players, who were well aware of Neumeier’s recent medical struggles, as well as his deserved reputation as an eminently likable “good guy.” Congratulatory messages flowed in via text message and Twitter.
Neumeier politely declined to go into detail about the severity of his stroke or the pains of his recovery, preferring instead to focus on the positive. Considering how far he has come since the last week of October, though, Neumeier summed up his gratitude simply: “I’m one of the lucky ones.”
The top five in the Charity Challenge standings was rounded out by Horse Racing Radio Network’s Mike Penna ($59), Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey ($57.40) and Daily Racing Form handicapper Dan Illman ($55).
TWO-DAY LEADER O’NEIL RELAXED GOING INTO SUNDAY – NHC 16 two-day leader John O’Neil could not have been more relaxed entering the Final 50. While most of his competition was cramming over their past performances Saturday night, the Huntington Station, N.Y., resident and contest regular was casually testing his luck with the roulette wheel at Treasure Island Las Vegas.
O’Neil finished Day 2 with a $253 bankroll. He had ended Day 1 in 11th place with $92.80, meaning he charged up the standings with a $160.20 run Saturday.
“I could have had a great day but I had a bad day,” O’Neil said, fixated on the ones that got away. “I got lucky that nobody really jumped up. I feel fortunate that I’m where I am.”
O’Neil qualified for the NHC as one of the top 150 finishers on the NHC Tour. His best previous NHC finish was 18th at NHC 11 in 2010.
FINAL TABLE COVERAGE – Sunday’s Final Table will be covered live on HRTV, The Network for Horse Sports. Host Aaron Vercruysse is on site at Treasure Island Las Vegas for reports between coverage of live racing. HRTV will also produce a half-hour “Inside Information” documentary for airing at a later date. Meanwhile, DRF Live’s online coverage at DRF.com also will include Final Table action.
AT THE RACES ON NTRA.COM – At the Races with Steve Byk, Thoroughbred racing’s longest-running and best known daily radio news magazine, is broadcasting on site from the National Handicapping Championship this weekend. Today, from 5-8 p.m. EST, NTRA.com is proud to host an exclusive Final Table episode of At the Races. To listen click here: http://shar.es/1bE6yv.
For more information on At the Races, visit thoroughbredracingradionetwork.com.
FOLLOW ON TWITTER – Follow the NTRA on Twitter (@NTRA) for the latest news, scoring updates and behind the scenes photos from the NHC. The official hashtag of this year’s contest is #NHC16.