Who’s Who at NHC XII

The 12th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship begins tomorrow at Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas. The two-day event offers $1 million in prize money with a half-mil going to the winner. NTRA’s Eric Wing provides some facts about the field’s makeup. Many of these notes serve as myth-busters for the public perception of a horseplayer.

Best of luck to those that qualified at Canterbury Park: David Walczak, Tom Anderson, Jason Ige, Joe Gauthier, and Tim Stupka. Other locals that qualifed include Cara Yarusso, Mike Ferrozzo and Brian Chenvert. Canterbury’s 2006 Handicapper of the Year, Jerod Dinkin, also will be competing.

You’ll have your chance to qualify at Canterbury Park for the 2012 NHC which will feature an estimated $2 million in prizes. The annual Road to Kentucky Tournament, with first prize being an NHC berth, begins Feb. 12. jm

WHO’S WHO AT NHC XII
by Eric Wing NTRA Posted: Wednesday, January 26,2011

FAMILIAR FACES – RETURNING NHC CHAMPS
Defending champion Brian Troop is not the only former winner to be returning to the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. There are five others: 2008 winner Richard Goodall; 2007 victor Stanley Bavlish; 2006 Champion Ron Rippey, 2003 kingpin Steve Wolfson Jr. and 2001 victress Judy Wagner also have qualified. The best performance in the NHC by a former champion, thus far, is the 11th place effort in 2005 turned in by 2004 winner Kent Meyer.

$2 MILLION BONUS AT STAKE FOR ONE PLAYER
As the winner of the NHC Tour in 2010, Tom Noone not only won $75,000 and an NHC berth. Should he go on to win this year’s NHC, he would receive a $2 million bonus in addition to the NHC grand prize of $500,000.

FREQUENT ‘FIERS
Approximately 155 participants–or slightly more than half the NHC XII field–have qualified for the NHC in previous years (pending the Last Chance Tournament), and no fewer than 31 of this year’s field of 305 have qualified six or more times. They are: Sally Wang Goodall (9 times), David “Trey” Stiles (9-all in a row), Robert Bertolucci (9), Paul Shurman (9-all in a row), William Shurman (8-brother of Paul, William has made last 8 in a row), Rich Nilsen (8, including last 5 in a row), Richard Goodall (8- husband of Sally Wang Goodall), Judy Wagner (8-including 5 in a row), Louis Constan (8), Mike Mayo (8), Mike Labriola (8), Craig Kaufman (7-and last 6 in a row), Duke Matties (7-all in a row), Ron Rippey (7-last 6 in a row), Ron Geary (7-all in a row), Dave Gutfreund (7), Bryan Wagner (7), former NHC champ Steve Wolfson Jr. (7), Mark Bertolucci (6), Dennis Decaauwer (6), Les Harris (6), Steve Hartshorn (6), Howard Hong (6), Dane Moore (6), 2010 NHC Tour champ Tom Noone (6),. Damian Roncevich (6), Joe Scanio (6), H. Mitchell Schuman (6), Kevin Geraghty (6), Chris Larmey (6) and Paul Weizer (6). The husband and wife combination of Sally Wang Goodall and Richard Goodall have qualified a combined 17 times, as have brothers Bill and Paul Shurman. Judy and hubby Bryan Wagner have reached Las Vegas on a combined 15 occasions.

YOUTH VERSUS EXPERIENCE
This year’s NHC contestants range in age from 21-year-old college student Chris Bertolucci to 79-year-old author Frank Jakubowsky, who considers himself an expert on the spirit of truth. Jakubowsky uses astrology, numbers and the qualities of horses’ names to help him handicap.

THE FAIRER SEX
What are the odds that a woman wins NHC XI? About 14-1. That’s because no fewer than 21 females will be in the field of 305

A GOLDEN NHC STATE
California is the home state of 50 of this year’s 305 contestants–nearly one in six. Second in the parade of states is New York with 27 representatives, followed by Texas (16), Kentucky (15), Illinois (12) and Ohio (10). Canada is represented by 13 competitors who will try to keep the crown north of the border. Eight of the Canadians reside in Ontario, three in British Columbia and two in Alberta.

THOSE BETTIN’ BERTOLUCCIS
The Bertolucci family of California has managed to qualify four members to this year’s NHC. The clan is led by Robert Bertolucci, who is one of four 2011 competitors playing in a record ninth NHC. Other Bertoluccis in this year’s field are Chris Bertolucci, Mark Bertolucci and Tosca Bertolucci. For Mark, this will be his sixth NHC appearance. Because four Bertoluccis have qualified, Bertolucci is officially tied with Turner as the surname most likely to be on the NHC grand prize check this year.

HE WROTE THE BOOK
Noel Michaels has chronicled the NHC for publications, including Daily Racing Form and American Turf Monthly, since the event’s inception in 2000. In 2003, he authored the respected “Handicapping Tournament Handbook” which has helped guided countless players through the nuances of tournament play. This year, Michaels will make his second appearance as an active NHC contestant.

INDUSTRY BIGWIGS
It’s a good thing Ellis Park is not open during the NHC. If it were, Ron Geary might have an advantage. He owns the Henderson, Ky. track. Ron’s son Mark Geary is an executive there.. Steve Wolfson Jr.’s grandfather was Louis Wolfson, the owner of Affirmed. Corey Johnsen is the president of Kentucky Downs. Noel Michaels works for Nassau OTB. Howard Hong is the TV commentator at Turf Paradise. Ron Rippey, the 2006 NHC champ is the handicapper for the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger, the 10th largest newspaper in America. Rich Nilsen, at the NHC for an eighth time, is the marketing director for Brisnet. Before he recently became the Executive Director of the Ohio HBPA, David Basler was an Equibase chartcaller for 15 years and a freelance reporter for Daily Racing Form. Gary Johnson would like to add an NHC title to the 26 meet training titles he has won at tracks including Thistledown and Mountaineer Park. Scott Carson is the founder of publichandicapper.com. And while Howard Dennis, a five-time NHC qualifier, and Monte Engler do not work in the racing industry per se, both have achieved coveted distinctions within it. Dennis once owned a share in the great stallion, Mr. Prospector. Engler was a part owner of Tale of the Cat. (Engler also was a bigwig in another industry–he helped create the first cellular telephone company in the U.S.) Toby Turrell is the publisher of the popular Winners Card sheet in California. Brian Wayne occasionally appears on TVG under the moniker “Exactor Man”. Richard Goodall, the 2008 NHC winner, had his first job in the racing industry, but you wouldn’t have exactly called him a bigwig. He was responsible for cleaning the bathrooms at Pocono Downs.

GOOD WITH NUMBERS
Making his sixth NHC appearance is Dennis Decauwer, who is in the Accounting Hall of Fame at Cal Poly Pomona.

TOURNAMENT SPECIALISTS
Mark Heider won the 2010 Horseplayer’s World Series. By Mike Labriola’s count, he has won 14 horse racing handicapping tournaments over the past 27 years. Ken Seeman has finished in the top 15 in the last two NHCs.

A BREED APART
Gary Schulz has yet to win a horse handicapping tournament, but he has won several Greyhound racing handicapping contests.

COMFORTABLE TAKING A STAND
Robert Hansan achieved his greatest business success perfecting the software that enables citizens to easily contact their elected officials online. In last November’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, he finished in first place thanks to a $7,000 win bet on Blame in the tournament’s final race, the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

THE FAMILY THAT PLAYS TOGETHER…
There also are several husband and wife qualifiers in this year’s tournament including Bryan and Judy Wagner, Richard and Sally Goodall, Mike and Marsha Mayo, Rich and Marta Nilsen, Edward and Yu’Min De’Ath, Howard and Jacque Hong, Daven and Gina Turner, Kevin and Lee Geraghty, Kevin and Fatma Englehard and James and Roberta Templin. Bill and Paul Shurman are brothers. So are Myles and Mark Richards and Duke and Paul Matties.. Mike Harrington’s wife did not qualify. But the two Harringtons live in a bus and travel from track to track together.

WHATEVER IT TAKES
For good luck, Robin Buser carries a “DNA card” produced by Upper Deck. The card contains hair strands of Smarty Jones.

FINAL ANSWER?
James Dickson was a contestant in 2000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, but he was eliminated on the $32,000 question.

DON’T PARK NEAR THIS GUY
Dan Weisenburger was once a champion Demolition Derby driver.

INTERESTING OCCUPATIONS
The NHC always seems to have its share of CEOs, professional horseplayers and postal workers, and this year is no exception. But NHC contestants truly come from all walks of life. Don Allen is a logger. Timothy Herboth, like Homer Simpson, works in a nuclear power plant. Patrick Gianforte owns a utility company called Pic Six LLC. Speaking of electricity, Dane Moore doesn’t mind taking a few risks–he is a high voltage line foreman. Daniel Lavine raises avocados. Les Harris is a pilot. Don Johnson is a geologist. Darrel Lerner is the co-founder of an online dating company. Stephen Diaz is the master carpenter at the world famous Metropolitan Opera House.

NOT THAT THERE’S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT
Actor Joe Scanio is currently appearing in the off-Broadway show, “My Big Gay Italian Wedding”.

SEE THESE MEN IF YOU WIN
Louis Constan is a tax professional. Fred Siu is a financial consultant.

AVOID THIS MAN IF YOU WIN
Nathaniel Gines is an I.R.S. agent.

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