Ray Arsenault 2017 Champion at 2017 National Handicapping Championship, Treasure Island Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV 1.27.2017
Ray Arsenault 2017 Champion at 2017 National Handicapping Championship, Treasure Island Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV 1.27.2017

Horseplayer of the Year Receives $800,000, Eclipse Award

LAS VEGAS (NTRA press release) – Ray Arsenault of Thornhill, Ontario, Canada, near Toronto, entered the Final Table as the leader and widened his advantage throughout the afternoon to win the $800,000 first-place prize and an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year at this weekend’s 18th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) presented by Racetrack Television Network and Treasure Island Las Vegas. The NHC had a record field size of 654 entries (529 individual players, 125 of whom held the maximum two entries) and offered record overall cash and prizes totaling $2,900,600.

The 64-year-old Arsenault (b. June 10, 1952) amassed a winning score of $407.70 over the three-day tournament from 53 mythical $2 Win and Place bets – 18 each on Friday and Saturday, 10 in Sunday morning’s Semifinal round and seven in the dramatic Final Table contest exclusive to the overall top 10.

Steve Wolfson Jr., the 2003 NHC winner, posted the best finish ever for a former champion, checking in second with $361.10, good for a $250,000 prize. Wolfson, whose father Steve Wolfson Sr. will be inducted into the NHC Hall of Fame this evening, made a move up the LuxAir Jets Leaderboard during the Final Table, jumping from fourth to the runner-up spot, but never could close the gap on Arsenault.

Wolfson was followed by Ryan Scharnowske ($320.30 final bankroll; $125,000 prize), who started the day in 65th place, in third, and Louis Filoso ($309.30; $100,000) in fourth.

The official Top 10:

Place – Name, Hometown (Final bankroll) – Cash and awards

First – Ray Arsenault, Thornhill, Ontario, Canada ($407.70) – $800,000, Eclipse Award, and berth to NHC 19
Second – Steve Wolfson Jr., Holly Hill, Fla. ($361.10) – $250,000
Third – Ryan Scharnowske, Westfield, Ind. ($320.20) – $125,000
Fourth – Louis Filoso, Asbury, N.J. ($309.30) – $100,000
Fifth – Dan Kovalesky, Shorewood, Minn. ($308.70) – $75,000
Sixth – Steve Hartshorn, Fallbrook, Calif. ($299.40) – $65,000
Seventh – Joe Jarvie, Renton, Wash. ($284.10) – $59,500
Eighth – Frank Mustari, Des Plaines, Ill. ($279.40) – $54,500
Ninth – David Bernal, Grand Prairie, Texas ($270.80) – $52,000
Tenth – Michael Caposio, Temecula, Calif. ($265.40) – $50,000

Arsenault first assumed the lead at the end of Day 2 (Saturday) with a $24.80 winner, Friend to Me, in the ninth race from Fair Grounds. It was his fourth double-digit winner on the afternoon, also including a $100 winner, Proctor’s Ledge, in Gulfstream Park’s fourth (worth the maximum $64 for contest scoring). Arsenault had a slow start to the NHC, finishing Day 1 (Friday) tied for 313th with a $56.50 bankroll. But then the barrage of longshots began.

“I had that $100 horse yesterday that got me off the schneid to get me in the game, and the rest is history,” Arsenault said.

Entering the Semifinals this morning, Arsenault debated whether to play it safe to protect his lead or stick with the longshots that got him there and that he typically plays on a daily basis.

“I played the same way I always play,” he said. “I rarely play a horse under 5-1 and I love playing bombs because the feeling of hitting a longshot is just great. Today I happened to hit quite a few.

“You know how hard it is to get to this Final Table? It’s tough. You’re playing against 650 of the best players out there. They’re all great.”

This is the seventh NHC appearance for Arsenault, a transportation broker who fell for racing as a child during Woodbine and Greenwood visits with his father.

“I cut my teeth when I could barely walk,” he said. “My dad would go to Greenwood all the time and I’d tag along. I’d look for programs on the ground so I could sell them to the guys coming in for the last two races.”

Arsenault was cool and composed in the immediate aftermath of the final contest racing going official, but in a live interview moments later with Daily Racing Form tournament editor Peter Thomas Fornatale on At the Races with Steve Byk, a question about the especially tight-knit group of Canadian contest players made him emotional.

“These people are outstanding,” Arsenault said. “I’ve met so many good people. It’s breaking me up.”

Arsenault held a single NHC entry, which he earned with a fourth-place finish at the Del Mar Handicapping Challenge in July. He has been a dedicated contest player since Woodbine started hosting NHC qualifiers around 2004. He made his first NHC appearance in 2005, finishing 29th back when prize money was only paid to the top 20.

“I had a great experience and knew this was where I wanted to come,” he said. “This is it. This is like the Super Bowl of horse racing.”

By virtue of his victory, Arsenault also automatically earns an exemption into next year’s NHC finals.

Wolfson, meanwhile, nearly made NHC history with his bid to become a repeat winner.

“Ray did a great job,” he said. “I’m very happy for him and even happier for me to finish second.”

The NHC was held for the sixth straight year in the Treasure Island ballroom and will return to Treasure Island for NHC 19 in January 2018.

In the NHC Future Wager offered by Treasure Island’s race book, Arsenault closed at 100-1, returning $202 on a $2 wager.

The NHC 18 finals awarded cash to the top 66 finishers (the top 10 percent overall) from a total purse of $2,440,000. An additional $50,000 went to the top 20 in today’s Consolation Tournament. Including $250,000 paid out to top finishers in the year-long NHC Tour, a $100 TI casino chip for every entrant, NHC Tour travel awards, RTN subscriptions and the $10,000 charity tournament prize, plus $30,000 worth of Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entries, the aggregate value of payouts this weekend in NHC cash and prizes totaled a record $2,900,600.

To reach the Semifinals, the 654 NHC entrants were required to place 36 mythical $2 Win and Place wagers – 18 on Thursday and 18 on Friday. This is the fourth consecutive year with a three-day format including the Semifinals and Final Table.

Final Table participants were relocated to a single table on the stage of the Treasure Island ballroom that serves as NHC headquarters.

Full standings can be viewed online at NTRA.com, where the LuxAir Jets Leaderboard features sortable/searchable standings of the entire field.

Final Table Race Results

Track and Race # Winner (Win-Place) Second (Place)

Oaklawn 6 9-Malibu Tide ($5.40, $3.20) 2-Dynabeaver ($4)

Santa Anita 4 8-Peach Cove ($17, $7.20) 3- Shehastheritestuff ($6.60)

Gulfstream 12 9-Tribal Again ($17, $6.60) 7-Spring for More ($3.80)

Fair Grounds 9 3-Mr. Tickle ($27.60, $16) 8-Woodmans Luck ($8.60)

Santa Anita 7 7-Fritz Johansen ($6.80, $5) 4-Atomic Rule ($5.80)

Golden Gate 8 7-Mi Bouchon ($17.60, $8.40) 2-Westley ($13.40)

Santa Anita 9 10-Stormy Liberal ($6, $3.80) 8-Forever Juanito ($17)

photo credit Horsephotos.com/NTRA

About NHC
In its 18th year, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers and is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino race books, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping Web sites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals. Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards. In addition to the founding title sponsor, the NHC is presented by Racetrack Television Network and Treasure Island Las Vegas.

About the NTRA
The NTRA, based in Lexington, Ky., is a broad-based coalition of more than 100 horse racing interests and thousands of individual stakeholders consisting of horseplayers, racetrack operators, owners, breeders, trainers and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity, welfare and integrity of Thoroughbred racing through consensus-based leadership, legislative advocacy, safety and integrity initiatives, fan engagement and corporate partner development. The NTRA owns and manages the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance; NTRA.com; the Eclipse Awards; the National Handicapping Championship; NTRA Advantage, a corporate partner sales and sponsorship program; and Horse PAC®, a federal political action committee. NTRA press releases appear on NTRA.com, Twitter (@ntra) and Facebook (facebook.com/1NTRA).

Meyer wins Canterbury Handicapper of the Year a fourth time


Bruce Meyer captured Canterbury Park’s Handicapper of the Year title for the fourth time. He did so by out-performing other local handicappers throughout the 2016 calendar year in various contests for which points are awarded to top finishers. Meyer finished second in the 20th annual Dog Days of Summer Tournament which helped cement the HOY win but also sends him to Las Vegas later this month to compete in the $2.5 million National Handicapping Championship. He earned a $2,000 cash prize for winning the title.

Bruce Meyer      17

Ray Davis             13

Ron White           8

Michael Tomatz    8

Pat Larson           7

The 2017 Handicapper of the Year competition is underway with the year’s first contest beginning Thursday, the Horse Player World Series Super Satellite.  Canterbury’s annual Road to Kentucky Contest begins Jan. 21. That awards HOY points weekly to top players as well as overall awards.

Last year CanterburyLive.com staff posted a morning line for the HOY title and made Meyer the 5 to 1 favorite to win the 2016 title.

Here is a look at this year’s line:

Bruce Meyer   7/2 : Four titles, 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2016, earns him favoritism once again.

Michael Tomatz    6-1 : This NHC qualifying ‘capper began playing Canterbury contests late in the season and quickly amassed points.  If he plays for the duration of 2017 he can factor.

Ray Davis   8-1 :  2016 runner-up brings consistency to the game. Could be a break-out season.

Ron White  8-1:  A bad beat here and there prevented a better 2016. He has been top five the past four years.

Mike Ferrozzo  8-1 :  Prominent on the national scene, this local might spend more time playing events in town this year.

Young Guns    10-1:  There are a handful of guys like Malecha, Taarud and Handeland that splashed on to the scene and could jump up to challenge Meyer.

Lannette Sheldon   12-1 : She won the title in 2015 and must be given a chance in ’17.

Pat Larson  15-1:   He wins his share of contests throughout the year.  Just needs a major win to build points.

Ray Hassan, Ron Hafner, and Bill Ender   20-1:   All three have won the title in the past. If you add together their 2016 points they would have been third overall.

Bob Cyza     30-1 :    Plays a lot of contests. If he can string wins together and hit a big point contest he will be in the hunt.

Field    10-1 :  Blasts from the past like former champs like Leeper and Martin are in the field.


Derby Preps this weekend

Santa Anita runs the $100,000 G3 Sham Stakes on Saturday.  Top trainers have entries trying to step into the big time. The winner receives 10 Kentucky Derby points.

While this race offers no Kentucky Derby points, Gulfstream has the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man Stakes on Saturday and some of the contenders could end up on the Derby trail.  Even Thunder, winner of the Shakopee Juvenile in 2016, has been entered. He changed hands in a private sale after the Canterbury meet and immediately won the $100,000 King’s Swan at Aqueduct. The connections have suggested that a good effort Saturday would send him back to New York for the Withers, which is an official Derby prep.


Chasing the Dream Part 5: Playing the Super Satellites

National Handicapping Championship

Bruce Meyer and Dave Handeland discuss the weekly super satellite contests that can qualify players for both September tournaments. The contest feature a low entry fee and feed to larger events. Dave recently won a Dog Days Super Satellite. Meanwhile, Mike Ferrozzo traveled to Southern California to play in the Surfside contest where he qualified for the NHC.  More to come on that……

For more details check out these links:
Dog Days Super Satellites
Ultimate Qualifier Super Satellites

Chasing the Dream Part 4: Success in Dog Days Satellite

National Handicapping Championship


Canterburylive.com continues to follow the trek of three local handicappers as they try to advance to the National Handicapping Championship held in January 2017. Saturday was a satellite contest that would reward the top five players with entry to the Sept. 10-11 Dog Days, itself a feeder to the NHC. There was also a cash prize for sixth. Bruce Meyer and Mike Ferrozzo finished top five. Dave Handeland finished seventh.

The winner was Ray Davis. He won a satellite earlier this year as well as top placings in several super satellites and is a top the leader board in Canterbury’s Handicapper of the Year contest.

Super satellite contests are held each week.



Chasing the Dream: An NHC Odyssey

National Handicapping Championship


Three local handicappers are on a quest to qualify for the National Handicapping Championship held each year in Las Vegas.

Each has a chance to qualify this Saturday, June 4 in a Canterbury NHC qualifier. The contest is open to everyone.

Bruce Meyer: Three-time Canterbury Handicapper of the Year has played once in the NHC and wants back in now.

Mike Ferrozzo: Eight-time NHC qualifier has made it to the final table at the NHC.  Mike travels the country to play in tournaments, but has yet to qualify this year.

Dave Handeland:  Comparatively new to the contest scene, Dave has never made it to the NHC.



Your Chance for Free Money Saturday


The free-to-enter Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest continues Saturday with Fair Grounds being the contest track. Post time and contest entry deadline is 12:30 pm. The double-point Derby prep race is the Risen Star, race 11 on the 12-race program. An additional double-point race, the Fountain of Youth, race 11 at Gulfstream Park, is also part of Saturday’s contest. A total of $1,350 is given away to the top players each week, with $500 going to the player with the highest score.

Also on Saturday is the final 2015 Horse Player World Series Satellite Contest with winners receiving a trip and entry to the HPWS in March. Entry fee to the HPWS Satellite is $100. Each entrant will place 10 mythical $2 Win/Place wagers on 10 races of choice and receive points based on the mutuel payouts of those selections.

Super Satellites for the April 4 Spring Tune-Up Satellite are now underway as well. For a $10 entry fee, participants have a chance to win their way in to the April 4 contest which feeds to Canterbury’s National Handicapping Championship and Breeders’ Cup Betting Contest qualifying events in September. One of the contest tracks for Saturday’s Super Satellite is Fair Grounds so if you are planning on playing the Road to Kentucky, you may try to parlay your success in the $10 super as well.

Racebook Latenight Friday

With plenty of simulcast racing action Friday night, plan to be at Canterbury for an evening of horse playing along with a free taco bar beginning at 9:00pm.  Here is a look at the Friday simulcast schedule.

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Locals To Compete in NHC This Weekend

NHC logo

The Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship takes place this Friday through Sunday, January 23-25, at Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas. The NHC is the culmination of a year’s worth of qualifying contests held at racetracks, casinos, and internet sites sending more than 500 players to the championship. Total NHC prize money will exceed $2.3 million. There are no buy-in entries, players must earn a berth in a qualifying event.

Each day players must make selections in eight mandatory races  and seven races selected by the player. Scores are determined by the Win Place payouts of selections.

The top 50 entries – not individuals as players can have two entries  – as ranked by cumulative bankroll from Day 1 and Day 2 will advance to the Day 3 Final 50 Contest. The Final 50 Contest will consist of 10 optional races. The top 10 players advance to the final table where those players make selections in seven mandatory races.

The complete rules are HERE.

Follow the action this weekend at www.drf.com as well as on Twitter @NTRA and @loomsboldly (the handle of Peter Fornatale who covers NHC for DRF)

Canterbury Park held NHC qualifying contests last September sending four players to the NHC. Two locals, Dan Flanigan and Kelly Frost, join John Fisher from Texas and Steven Wells from North Dakota. Other Minnesotans have also qualified including Mike Ferrozzo, Brian Herrity and Paul Mahre.

For the first time, future wagering is allowed on individual NHC contestants at Treasure Island.

Flanigan and Ferrozzo both opened at 40 to 1, while Herrity is 80 to 1. The odds for all players are HERE.

New Year, New NHC

430811_620x349Handicapping contest play is a very interesting and unique gamble in the horse racing world. Some seats to the big tournaments, like the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, come with a hefty price tag; some begin with a $10 super satellite entry. Literally every type of horseplayer can be found in the room at the National Handicapping Championship this weekend at Treasure Island.

There is plenty of money on the line as well as bragging rights to the victorious horseplayer, and the top fifty spots pay out at the NHC. 2014’s new format involves three days instead of two, with the top fifty players from Friday & Saturday duking it out Sunday for the grand prize. Gamblers normally left to their own strategies of constructing bets are put on a level playing field with the simple format of $2 Win-Place wagers for fifteen races each of the first two days and ten the third. An entrant’s “bullets” may be used in a combination of mandatory races and those remaining at a number of tracks: Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Santa Anita, Golden Gate, Gulfstream, Oaklawn & Tampa Bay (I’d still love to see a winner step up and thank Portland Meadows for the 1/5 missing the board in a five horse field and sealing the victory.)

Three contestants won their way in at Canterbury. Heidi Snow, our first qualifier of the year, proved victorious in the Road to Kentucky which begins this year on February 1st. The Road to Kentucky is a free contest each Saturday consisting of each race from a designated track (schedule available here) as well as any derby preps that day. Stewart Winograd won his way in this past summer in the Dog Days of Summer contest in August, a Satellite offered near the end of the summer as a conclusion to the series of Super Satellites available each weekend for $10. Terry O’Connor, the final Satellite entrant from Canterbury is a regular contest player in our Super Satellites as well. All contest details are available on our website. Registering for the NTRA tour is step one in reaching the final destination, a simple one-time entry of $50 covers yearlong tournament play. Registration rules here.

I had the privilege this spring of meeting reigning Handicapper of the Year Jim Benes at Hawthorne. Jim is not the type that plays every track, every race. He is very much a specialized Hawthorne player, and sticks to his guns when it comes to contest play. Everyone has a different approach to it but as he exemplifies, one need not stray from their preferred style of play to make it far in these contests. He typically plays “bankroll” contests, allowing for more freedom with types of bets and races covered. Both are used frequently in online contests and on-track contests, but with the format of the NHC he entered a few online $2 W-P ones to “practice”.

Keep an eye on the National Handicapping Championship all weekend via DRF.com or Twitter ( #NHC15) Standings and results are updated frequently. Play the contests at Canterbury and perhaps YOU could be the next Jim Benes! Good luck!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann.