The 2023 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) is just around the corner, coming up on March 10-12 at the Horseshoe Las Vegas (formerly Bally’s), but one of the biggest and most prestigious prizes in horse racing has already been decided with the conclusion of the 2022 NHC Tour. The official winner was Jay Johns of Meridian, Idaho, who will take home a top prize of $75,000 in prize money.
Johns, 59, holds a high-profile professional title as President of IHOP Restaurants (formerly International House of Pancakes), a corporate rank he ascended to in 2019. He finished the 2022 NHC Tour season with 22,370 points from the 34 contests he played in during the season, which went from February 2022 to February 2023.
Trey Stiles, an NHC Hall of Famer who has qualified for the NHC Finals 20 times dating back to 2002, was the runner-up with 22,019 points, which earned him second prize of $30,000. Dylan Donnelly finished in third with 21,998 points. Michael Kavana finished right behind in fourth with 21,782 points and Scott Cavalieri was fifth with 21,697 points. The third- through fifth-place finishers all won $20,000 each. Tim Kindlon won the Jim Nace Award as the top rookie finisher of the year with 17,460 points to earn a $5,000 prize.
All told, the top 20 NHC Tour finishers earned pieces of the overall purse which totaled $300,000. They, along with the top finishers from the NHC Finals main event, will be honored at the NHC Champions Dinner at the conclusion of the 2023 NHC Finals on March 12. The complete 2022 Tour results and information about the upcoming renewal of the NHC, can be found at www.ntra.com/nhc/leaders/.
In addition to his prize money, Johns, who has been playing in contests for almost two decades, became eligible for a $5 million bonus if he goes on to win the 2023 NHC main event.
“It’s such an honor coming out on top in this yearlong tour against arguably the absolute best handicappers out there. It’s quite a mind challenge of both picking horses and tournament strategy,” Johns said. “I finished third last year and was determined to improve on that. I’m just happy I won and a big congrats to all those folks competing with me. They made it difficult and exciting.”
More than 5,500 handicappers joined the 2022 NHC Tour and participated in handicapping qualifiers leading up to the 2023 NHC. The NHC Tour is a yearlong bonus series where players earn points based on wins or high finishes in NTRA sanctioned handicapping contests and tournaments held both on track and online. Most of the high finishers on the NHC Tour have already qualified for the NHC Finals at some point along the way, but if not, all players finishing in the top 75 on the NHC Tour who were not qualified for the NHC Finals all earned automatic berths into the 2023 NHC.
In the NHC Finals, a field of roughly 600 qualifying entries will compete for cash prizes in the neighborhood of $2 million. Since the NHC’s inception in 2000, the event has paid out more than $44 million in total prize money. Additionally, the event annually decides the Eclipse Award for outstanding handicapper.
Previous winners of the NHC Tour have included some of the most well-known players in the history of handicapping tournaments: Kevin Costello (2021), Sally Goodall (2020), David Snyder (2019), David Gutfreund (2018), Mike Ferrozzo (2017), Cheryl McIntyre (2016), Jonathon Kinchen (2015), Eric Moomey (2014), Brent Sumja (2013), Mark Streiff (2012), Paul Shurman (2011), Tom Noone (2010), Bryan Wagner (2009), and Sam Brooks (2008).
The new 2023 NHC Tour season begins March 4. To sign up for the 2023 NHC Tour, go to www.ntra.com/membership. For more information on the NHC Tour benefits and to view the official rules go to www.nhctour.com. Membership in the NHC Tour is mandatory in order qualify for the NHC Finals. Membership in the NHC Tour is open to adults 21 years of age or older and requires a one-time annual membership fee of $50.