LAS VEGAS -- Halfway through the opening day of the two-day Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship at the Red Rock Resort on Friday, the leaderboard was getting crowded at the top.
The NHC, in its ninth year, has a purse of $1,017,700 with $500,000 going to the winner, who will also be named Handicapper of the Year.
Contestants make 15 mythical $2 win-and-place bets each day with eight races being mandatory and the other seven being player's choice from the remaining contest tracks, which included just Aqueduct, Tampa Bay, Gulfstream, Fair Grounds and Golden Gate after both Santa Anita and Oaklawn canceled their cards. For contest purposes, payoffs are capped at $42 to win and $22 to place.
David Neuburger of Forest Hill, N.Y., was in first place with a bankroll of $82.30 after Friday's fourth mandatory race. Phillip Lam, of Fresh Meadows, N.Y., was in second place with a score of $78.70, with Paul Stath of Floral Park, N.Y., who earned his berth by winning Wednesday's Last Chance Qualifier at the Red Rock, and Ann Goldstone tied for third with $78.10.
Steve Stupka of Ankeny, Iowa, was fourth at $76.90 and early leader William Marsh of Oak Lawn, Ill., who hit a 31-1 long shot in the opener at Tampa Bay Downs, the very first race of the tournament, was hanging around in fifth at $75.40.
But none of the above were pulling away from the field with 36 contestants within $30 of the lead and 181 within a cap horse ($44 to win and $22 to place) of the top.
The contestant with the top score Friday will earn the daily prize of $3,000, with $1,500 for second, $1,000 for third and $700 for fourth.
With Oaklawn and Santa Anita not running, today's action will wind up earlier than past NHC finals with Golden Gate being the only track running after the Fair Grounds' last race at 2:57 p.m. Pacific time.
The NHC was supposed to have 278 contestants but Jay D. Clark, who had qualified at Santa Anita, was a no-show.