WHO’S WHO AT THIS WEEKEND’S $1.5 MILLION NHC
FAMILIAR FACES – RETURNING NHC CHAMPS
Defending champion Michael Beychok is not the only former winner to be returning to the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. There are seven others: 2011 champ John Doyle, 2010 winner Brian Troop, 2008 winner Richard Goodall; 2006 Champion Ron Rippey, 2005 victor Jamie Michelson; 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 2012, Mark Streiff 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 $750,000.
Approximately 230 participants—or slightly less than half the NHC 14 field—have qualified for the NHC in previous years (pending the Last Chance Tournament), and no fewer than 28 of this year’s field of 4XX have qualified seven or more times. They include: Sally Wang Goodall (11 times), David “Trey” Stiles (11-all in a row), Robert Bertolucci (11), 2011 NHC Tour champ Paul Shurman (11-all in a row), William Shurman (10-brother of Paul, William has made last 10 in a row), Rich Nilsen (10, including last 7 in a row), Richard Goodall (10- husband of Sally Wang Goodall), Judy Wagner (10-including 7 in a row), Louis Constan (10), Mike Mayo (10), Patrick Gianforte (9, including last 7 in a row), Craig Kaufman (9-and last 8 in a row), Duke Matties (9-all in a row), Ron Rippey (9-last 8 in a row), Dave Gutfreund (9), Bryan Wagner (9), former NHC champ Steve Wolfson Jr. (9), Dennis Decauwer (8), Les Harris (8), Steve Hartshorn (8), Howard Hong (8), 2010 NHC Tour champ Tom Noone (8),. Joe Scanio (8), Kevin Geraghty (8) and Chris Larmey (8). The husband and wife combination of Sally Wang Goodall and Richard Goodall have qualified a combined 21 times, as have brothers Bill and Paul Shurman. Judy and hubby Bryan Wagner have reached Las Vegas on a total of 19 occasions.
YOUTH VERSUS EXPERIENCE
This year’s NHC contestants range in age from 23-year-old Matthew Bernier of West Springfield, Mass., to 76-year-old Dick Mueller of White Bear Lake, Minn.
THE FAIRER SEX
What are the odds that a woman wins NHC 14? About 11-1. That’s because no fewer than 38 females will be in the expected field of 460.
A GOLDEN NHC STATE
California is the home state of 75 of this year’s 460 contestants—almost one in six. Second in the parade of states is New York with 48 representatives, followed by Illinois (27), Ohio (24), Florida (20) and New Jersey and Texas with 18 apiece. Canada is represented by 31 competitors, with the majority (16) hailing from Ontario. In all, 40 U.S. states (including Alaska and Hawaii) and three Canadian provinces will be represented at the NHC.
Steve Wolfson Jr.’s grandfather and Steve Wolfson Sr.’s father was Louis Wolfson, the owner of Affirmed. Corey Johnsen is the president of Kentucky Downs. Howard Hong is the TV commentator at Turf Paradise, and his wife Jacque is clerk of the course there. Ron Rippey, the 2006 NHC champ, is the handicapper for the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger, the 10th largest newspaper in America. Before he recently became the Executive Director of the Ohio HBPA, 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. Bill Downes is the track announcer at Beulah Park. Jim Peake has called a few races at Tampa Bay Downs on a fill-in basis—but his main gig is calling the races at the popular Derby Lane greyhound track in St. Petersburg. He has also called Jai Alai games in Tampa. Kevin Geraghty operates HPqualify.com. Scott Carson is the founder of publichandicapper.com. 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 eighth NHC appearance is Dennis Decauwer, who is in the Accounting Hall of Fame at Cal Poly Pomona.
COMFORTABLE TAKING A STAND
Patrick McGoey, an attorney from Metairie, La., won last November’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge for the second consecutive year thanks to a $7,000 real-money win bet on Fort Larned in the tournament’s final race, the Breeders’ Cup Classic. When he won the BCBC in 2011, McGoey employed an identical strategy, betting $7,000 to win on Drosselmeyer. Joel Einhorn was a Bronze Star recipient in 1966 for his meritorious service in the Vietnam War. Last year, Einhorn was the winner of the Kentucky Derby DreamBet contest and had the opportunity to make a $100,000 win bet on the Run for the Roses. He will hope his NHC runners perform better than Alpha did that day.
THE FAMILY THAT PLAYS TOGETHER…
There are several husband and wife qualifiers in this year’s tournament including Bryan and Judy Wagner, Richard and Sally Goodall, Craig and Cheryl Kaufman, Mike and Marsha Mayo, Howard and Jacque Hong and Brett and Sarah Wiener. Bill and Paul Shurman are brothers. So are Myles and Mark Richards, Albert and Dennis Tiernan, and Duke and Paul Matties. Chris Larmey and his daughter Klara—who had just turned 18—entered a contest at Emerald Downs earlier this year. Chris finished first and Klara came in second. Mike Harrington’s wife did not qualify. But the two Harringtons live in a bus and travel from track to track together. Tim Herboth and his wife try to attend at least one new foreign racetrack each year. Recent visits have included racing sojourns to Switzerland, Japan, Ireland and Dubai
The NHC always seems to have its share of CEOs, attorneys, professional horseplayers and postal workers, and this year is no exception. But NHC contestants truly come from all walks of life. Defending champion Michael Beychok is a political consultant and longtime friend of popular pundit James Carville. It was Carville with whom Beychok made his first trip to the races (Fair Grounds) as a teenager. Robert Schintzius owns Jerktown USA—a beef jerky company. Christian Hellmers, who goes by the nickname “Planet”, is a wellness coach. One of his specialties is giving dating advice. Don Allen is a logger. Tim Herboth is a retired nuclear power plant designer. Patrick Gianforte owns a utility company called Pic Six LLC. Les Harris is a pilot. Cara Yarusso is a chemical engineer for General Mills. Jim Covello is a Wall Street analyst specializing in the semiconductor industry. Craig Kaufman is the poker tournament director at Hustler Casino in California.
THERE’S NO BIZ LIKE…
Joe Scanio is an accomplished stage actor. James Schwartz wrote the script for and was the on-camera host of the cult film Faces of Death. Ken Seeman is a director for MSG Networks. Steve Wolfson Sr. financed Mel Brooks’s first two movies—“The Producers” and “Twelve Chairs”. Stephen Levine works for Panavision, making the cameras and lenses that are used to capture motion pictures and TV shows.
When not working for pay as a dentist, Francis Boustany volunteers his service to the poor and uninsured at a volunteer health clinic. Nicholas Alpino has visited more than 100 foreign countries. Albert Wong, the fourth-place finisher at NHC IX, is a nationally-ranked chess player.
Frank Mariani is the CEO of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers. Dick Harris was a top defensive back for the San Diego Chargers in the 1960s during the heyday of the American Football League. Kevin Geraghty played basketball at both Marist and St. John’s. Rocky Hardy officiated as a line judge at both the 1990 U.S. Open Men’s Final and the 1990 Davis Cup Final.
SUPPORTING RETIRED THOROUGHBREDS
Should they win the $750,000 grand prize, Christian Hellmers, Dan Shugar, Debbie Watson and Albert Wong plan to make a sizable donation to Thoroughbred retirement. Defending champion Michael Beychok has pledged 10% of his NHC winnings to Thoroughbred aftercare charities.