How to win in Thoroughbred Handicapping Tournaments

The tournament scene has really begun to expand of late. With all of the online and on-site tournaments that take place, there are several ways to become involved and there is some serious money at stake if you can be good enough and lucky enough to qualify for one of the big ones. I say lucky enough because let’s face it, you will always need some good fortune along the way to go with the excellent handicapping skills that it takes to win.

By far the largest and most sought after is the National Handicapping Challenge (NHC) which is held in Las Vegas every year January 23-25th, 2015. This is the Big One, and for good reason. You must qualify your way in-you cannot purchase an entry. There are hundreds of qualifiers and “feeders”, which are qualifiers for the qualifiers. The winner of the NHC receives $1,000,000 for the 2015 event and also receives an Eclipse award for his/her efforts as the nation’s top handicapper. There are several websites online

where you can qualify for the NHC and win a prize package which includes entry and some travel/hotel expenses. Check out nhcqualify.com for more information on qualifying directly into the NHC.

The strategies to do well in tournaments whether online or on-site vary according to the rules and what type of contest. The most common is the bullet contest in which everybody has the same bet amount in each of the contest races. Usually it is $2 win and place. The races are chosen for you and you select a horse in each. The amount that you accumulate during the events in the contest becomes your “score”.

The general rule is that you will need 2 1⁄2 times your starting bankroll ($4 per race) to win one of these. So for example, if there are 8 races in the contest, you would need about an $80 final score on average to win. In these types of contests, you will have to use different strategies nearing the end depending on where you are in the standings. If you are leading or near the lead, you may want to play more conservative. If you are behind, you may want to be more aggressive and look for horses that will pay boxcars. I will usually stick with my original picks until about 3⁄4 of the way through and then I assess where I stand and what I need to do. This comes with experience and you can only learn by trying.

Another common format is the lockdown, or pick and pray as it is sometimes called. You make your selections before the first event in the contest and you cannot change them during. You may also have an option for an alternate selection in case of a scratch or you will be given the post time favorite in other instances. In these, you are stuck with your original picks, hence the name pick and pray. Just good old-fashioned handicapping skill will serve you well in these.

When you first begin to try your skills in handicapping tournaments, you should put having fun at the top of your priorities. The first few contests will be learning experiences, I can guarantee that. Try to just have some fun and observe how things play out. This will be valuable experience and you will gain confidence as you go along.

Check out the following websites to get involved or just learn more:

www.derbywars.com they have several contests every day and plenty of variety. From head to head

matchups up to hundreds of players per contest. Cash prizes and qualifiers.

www.horsetourneys.com qualify here for the big ones like NHC, Breeder’s Cup Betting Challenge, Wynn,

and Horseplayer World Series.

www.horseplayerqualify.com another site where you can qualify for one of the big tournaments.

www.bcqualify.com here you can qualify for the Breeder’s Cup Betting Challenge annual two day event

at the Breeder’s Cup.

Follow @loomsbodly on twitter. Peter Fornatale-contest player and author of “The Winning Contest Player”.