By Noel Michaels

The calendar has flipped over to December, and for all of us that means the holiday season is on its way. For tournament players however, the month of December also has an added meaning – the season of the “Last Chances” has now officially begun.

When looking down the list of tournaments still remaining on the NHC Tour schedule from now until the National Horseplayers Championship [NHC], two words begin to show up more and more . . . “Last Chance.”  If you are one of the thousands of handicappers still seeking a spot in the upcoming NHC, these last chances offer hope while at the same time conveying a sense of urgency that time is running out.

In addition to the online qualifying contests still remaining on the schedule, ranging in price from $50 to $500, plus more post-NHC Tour online contests that will follow throughout the month of January, there are still three on-site venues left on the calendar offering hopefuls last chances to qualify for the NHC. These venues include Hawthorne, Monmouth, and the Surfside Race Place at Del Mar.

With those on-site contests to the online qualifiers remaining, plus the NHC Tour Finals online handicapping tournament on Jan. 6 and the Treasure Island Last Chance tournament on the eve of the NHC on February 8, there is still hope left for everyone to grab a coveted seat in the estimated $2.5 million National Horseplayers Championship, presented by STATS Race Lens and Racetrack Television Network.

The final round of on-site contests on the weekend on Dec. 29-31 are the ones that can really be called “Last Chances.”  They include contests from the three most prolific on-site qualifying venues in the country – Monmouth on Dec. 30, Hawthorne on Dec. 29-30, and at the Surfside Race Place on Dec. 29-31.

Monmouth Park boasts that no other racetrack will send more qualifiers to the NHC than Monmouth, and the last one of their plentiful 2017 tournaments will be held on December 30 with the Monmouth $250 Last Chance Qualifier.  As the name of the contest suggests, the Monmouth Last Chance features a $250 buy-in, with $100 going into a prize pool and $150 going towards player’s bankrolls for win, place, and show bets in the races from Gulfstream, Tampa, and Aqueduct. The top two finishers will be on their way to the NHC.

Also taking place on the final weekend of 2017 will be the Xpressbet Holiday Extravaganza Handicapping Tournament at Hawthorne on December 29 and 30.  This is actually two separate contests, both with $400 buy-ins and both offering two qualifying berths into the NHC (a total of four NHC spots for the weekend).  The entirety of the $400 buy-in goes to a player’s bankroll that can be wagered in any way throughout the day on live or simulcast races handled by Hawthorne. Both of these contests are also notable because the winners of each will become eligible for $1 million bonuses of they go on the win the NHC finals.

Rounding out a big weekend of qualifying in the final days of the year will be the Surfside Race Place’s Last Chance Friday, Saturday, and Sunday contests on December 29, 30, and 31.  These will be three separate contests, each with $325 buy-ins ($25 discount offered for early entries).  All three contests will have two NHC berths up for grabs for a total of six NHC spots offered over the weekend.  Players will make win-and-place bets in the Friday and Sunday contests, and in the Saturday contest players will be also able to bet exactas and trifectas.

Already on the schedule in 2018 with even more NHC qualifying chances at stake are the NHC Tour Finals for only $100 an entry on January 6, and of course the last chance of all last chances, the Treasure Island Last Chance tournament on February 8.  Watch this space for more info on those two great contests.  Both of those contests will offer five big NHC spots apiece as prizes to the top finishers.