No fewer than 16 horseplayers with a Canterbury connection are headed to Las Vegas this week seeking a share of $3.2 million in prize money in the 24th National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) presented by Caesars Entertainment, Horseshoe Las Vegas, and Racetrack Television Network (RTN).
They will convene with more than 600 like-minded others in ballrooms at Horseshoe Las Vegas Casino Hotel competing for top prize of an estimated $750,000 and an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year. Players may have two entries to NHC meaning there are about 750 total entries in this prestigious event. The only way to gain entry is through a qualifying contest. According to the NTRA, contests were hosted over the past 12 months by 34 racetracks, casino race books, handicapping contest websites, Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) platforms, simulcast distribution networks, horse owner associations, media outlets, and other Thoroughbred racing organizations. Outlets that held qualifiers to the #NHC2023 included At the Races with Steve Byk, Bally’s Las Vegas, Breeders’ Cup, Canterbury Park, Colonial Downs, Del Mar, FanDuel TV, FTHA, Gulfstream Park, Hawthorne, Hialeah, Horseplayers.com, Horsetourneys.com, Horseshoe Indianapolis, Keeneland, Kentucky Downs, Laurel Park, Little Red Feather, Lone Star Park, Los Alamitos, Meadowlands, Monmouth Park, NTRA, Race Lens, Sam Houston Race Park, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga Bets, Sport of Kings, Tampa Bay Downs, Treasure Island, The Big One, and Xpressbet.
Canterbury Park awarded five 2023 NHC berths, two via the 26th annual Dog Days of Summer Contest with local player and “NHC godfather” Mike Ferrozzo winning. Ferrozzo, a regular on the national contest scene for years, qualified for the fifteenth time. Canterbury also teamed with Xpressbet.com and 1/ST Racing to present three seats with locals Terry Severson earning his fifth trip and Fred Williams gaining entry for the first time.
Williams has been trying for many years to qualify for NHC. He has played in Dog Days off and on for two decades and is a regular participant in weekly contests at Canterbury. “It’s a huge burden lifted,” Williams quipped.
Others in Vegas this week include brothers Brian and Dave Chenvert, Caro Yarusso and father Mike Yarusso, Dan Flanigan, Steve Laurent, Jay Lietzau, Dave Santoni and Bob Moore who have all qualified in previous years. First timers include Al Carrick, Dave Handeland and Steve Leeper. Leeper bested more than 2,000 NHC Tour players in a free contest in 2022. In all there are 142 ‘rookies’ competing in NHC 2023.
Lietzau, who provides Canterbury race analysis for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, won his entry through a live bankroll contest at Horseshoe Indianapolis racetrack. He
will be making his second NHC appearance. “I learned many valuable lessons the first time I experienced the NHC in ’19,” Lietzau said. “Most important is to focus on your strengths and to ignore the noise. There are many distractions in that ballroom, remember what you’re there for.”
Play runs this Friday through Sunday, March 10 – 12. Players attempt to earn the highest possible bankroll based on mythical $2 Win and Place wagers. Eight “mandatory” races are assigned on Day 1 and Day 2 and players also make seven optional bets daily choosing from an array of tracks. The NHC field is reduced to the top 10 percent of players after the first two days and those players all earn cash prizes. The highest 10 cumulative scores after the Semifinals round on Sunday morning will fill out the Final Table and battle immediately after. Bankroll totals during Day 1, Day 2 and the Semifinals round roll over to the Final Table, with the 10 finalists competing in a seven-race playoff. On Ferrozzo’s resume is a Final Table appearance.
Pictured at top from left to right: Leeper, Handeland, Severson, Carrick, Ferrozzo, Flanigan and Laurent.
It will be possible to follow the action online. Rachel McLaughlin, Racing Analyst at Horseshoe Indianapolis, will be hosting the NHC broadcast which can be watched on NTRA’s YouTube channel and will be available on all NTRA social media platforms. At the Races with Steve Byk will broadcast live on SiriusXM satellite radio (Sirius 219; XM 201) from the Horseshoe Las Vegas and online at www.stevebyk.com daily, from 9-12 a.m. ET/6-9 a .m. PT on Friday and Monday, with bonus NHC coverage at www.SteveByk.com/listen-live-SiriusXM slated for 2-8 p.m. ET/11 a.m.-5 p.m. PT) next Friday-Sunday. America’s Best Racing and Hawthorne will also be streaming live from the event.
Local handicapper Bruce Meyer, who has participated multiple times in NHC but did not win his way in for 2023, produced a betting line for best finish by the 16 hopefuls. Much weight was placed on prior qualifying efforts. Following each name in parentheses is the number of times the player has qualified for NHC followed by best-finish odds for entertainment purposes only.
Mike Ferrozzo (15) 4 -1
Brian Chenvert (13) 6-1
Dan Flanigan (10) 6-1
Cara Yarusso (10) 12-1
Dave Santoni (2) 15-1
Mike Yarusso (7) 15-1
Terry Severson (5) 15-1
Dave Chenvert (4) 15-1
Steve Laurent (2) 15-1
Jay Lietzau (2) 15-1
Bob Moore (3) 15-1
Dave Handeland (1) 20-1
Steve Leeper (1) 20-1
Fred Williams (1) 20-1
Al Carrick (1) 30-1
Eric Schmidt (1) 30-1
Canterbury Park will again host NHC qualifying contest in 2023. Dates have not yet been announced however Dog Days, the first and longest running live-bankroll handicapping contest, is certainly returning for a 27th year sometime in late summer.
To qualify for NHC, membership to the NHC Tour must be purchased for $50. With that membership comes multiple opportunities to win an NHC berth through free online contests offered by NTRA. Information can be found at https://www.ntra.com/nhc/ .