Ron Hafner told himself the morning of December 18 that he was going to win that day’s NHC Last Chance Qualifier Contest in the Canterbury Racebook. Premonition, coincidence, luck; call it what you will, but it happened. Hafner finished first, won a trip to the January $3 million National Horseplayers Championship in Las Vegas, and built an insurmountable lead in the 2021 Canterbury Park Handicapper of the Year competition.
“The last couple of hours of the Last Chance contest that clinched the HOY award seemed like
an eternity,” Hafner said. “It was only appropriate for a long shot player like me to make the final winning wager on a 3 to1 horse. Who says that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!”
The title of H O Y has been awarded each year since 2002. Handicappers enter contests; some free, others pay-to-enter; and earn Handicapper of the Year points by performing well. There are contests each week, every week. The competition is a marathon requiring stamina and persistence. The winner receives $2,000 and potentially much more by cashing in contests along the way. Hafner held off the 2020 winner and 2019 runner-up Shaun Rau by a score of 17 to 13. Rau will receive $500 for second, as the point awarded this Friday via the In The Money Contest would not be enough for third-place Dave Handeland to move in.
“The HOY contest was hotly contested as it seems to be each year,” Hafner said. “I was fortunate to capitalize early in the year on the super satellite contests that included Canterbury live races, and then hold off the familiar contenders down the stretch.”
Hafner last won Canterbury Handicapper of the Year in 2010 making him only the second horseplayer to win the title multiple times. He joins Bruce Meyer, a six-time champion, who finished the year with a non-threatening eight points. Since winning his first title in 2011, Meyer, known as The Oracle, has never gone two years without being crowned Handicapper of the Year.
“Maybe the game has passed him by,” said a local observer. “Could be the computer needs a re-boot?”
Reflecting his 2021 finish and a 2020 where he scored a meager three points, Meyer is not the betting line choice to win HOY in 2022, as he has been for as long as a line has been published. The line looks like this:
Shaun Rau – 7/2 ( +350 )
Ron Hafner – 9/2 ( +450)
Bruce Meyer – 5-1 ( +500 )
Young Guns 10-1 ( +1000 )
Fred Williams – 10-1 ( +1000 )
Ron White – 20-1 (+2000 )
Pamela Kight – 20-1 ( +2000 )
Mike Ferrozzo – 30-1 (+3000 )
Rick Dahl – 100-1 ( +10,000 )
The Spring Tune-Up Super Satellite series begins Thursday, Jan. 6 and runs each Thursday through Saturday through March 19, culminating with the March 26 Satellite that awards a $3,000 entry to the $120,000 Big Ten Contest. Entry to the super satellites is $10 and the weekly winner earns one HOY point in addition to the $100 satellite entry.
Later in January begins the annual Road to Kentucky Handicapping Tournament. With 16 weekly contests through Kentucky Derby Day, and $16,000 in cash and prizes, the popular contest, which remains free to play, will award HOY points to the top three each week.