FLORENCE, KY . . . December 10, 2009 . . . Brian Feldman, a driver from Mason, Ohio, picked a 16-1 long shot winner in the last race of the Turfway Park handicapping contest on December 6 and vaulted from 13th place to first, earning $8,250.
"I was running along the track apron yelling for her as she was coming down the stretch," said Feldman of the filly, Helen Belen, the first-time starter that gave him the lead. "Based on the past performances it didn't seem like a strong field, so I figured a first-timer would have a shot."
Michael Labriola, a Veterans Affairs medical ratings specialist from Richmond, California, jumped from 21st place to second on the strength of the same long shot and earned $4,950.
Finishing third and earning $2,750 was Ricky Hurd, a concrete contractor from Lexington who led going into the last contest race. Brian Troop of Barrie, Ontario, was fourth, good for $1,100, and Paul Parker of Woodstock, Georgia, finished fifth and earned $550.
More important than cash prizes, however, are berths earned at the 11th annual Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship (NHC) and points toward the year-long NHC Tour. The winner of the 2010 national championship takes home $500,000. The winner of the tour earns $100,000. If the same player wins both, he or she earns a $2 million bonus. The NHC is Jan. 29-30 at Red Rocks Casino in Las Vegas.
To qualify for the national championship and earn tour points, players enter contests at tracks around the country and online. Turfway’s qualifier sends three players to the national event. Because Feldman and Labriola qualified previously and played at Turfway primarily for points, Hurd, Troop, and Parker will take Turfway's three spots at the NHC.
Feldman, who qualified online for the 2010 NHC, moved into eighth place on the tour with 8,073 points. He has qualified for the NHC twice before, finishing 14th in 2001 after winning the Turfway qualifier and competing again in 2007. Turfway is his home track.
Labriola's runner-up finish at Turfway moved him into second place on the tour with 9,422 points, 620 points off the lead as of Dec. 10. He has played in tournaments since 1984 and qualified "eight or nine times" for the NHC. Labriola, who focuses on trainer profiles and pedigree data, qualified this year for the national championship at Minnesota's Canterbury Park.
Troop will be making his second trip to the NHC, having qualified for the 2009 event by finishing in the top three on the related tour. He ranks 33rd on the current tour. Parker, currently 138th on the tour, also will make his second trip to the NHC after qualifying at Beulah Park for the 2009 championship. Hurd is not involved in the tour and will be making his first trip to the NHC.
Starting with a $48 live bankroll, players in Turfway's qualifier made $2 win and place bets on up to 35 races from five tracks. Feldman finished with $199.70 in winnings, Labriola with $191.70, Hurd with $182.90, Troop with $180.80, and Parker with $177.00.
See full results by contestant number here