Francis Boustany, in his seventh NHC, led after the first day with a $149.40 bankroll
After an electric first day at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), presented by Caesars Entertainment, Horseshoe Las Vegas, and Racetrack Television Network (RTN) on Friday, Francis Boustany of Lafayette, La., leads the record field of 779 entries. Boustany amassed a bankroll of $149.40, after all players wagered on 18 races from around North America, including eight mandatory races.
Boustany, 72, has been handicapping for decades and has made six prior appearances to the NHC. A dentist by trade, he grew up watching the greats like Secretariat and fell in love with horses. He calls himself a student of pedigrees, handicapping, and pace, and hopes that his lead can hold up through the weekend. When asked how he felt about finishing in first place he said one word, “shocked.” In addition to bragging rights, Boustany wins himself a $10,000 berth at the 2023 BCBC for finishing atop the Caesar’s Race and Sports Book NHC Leaderboard at the end of NHC day one.
Right on his tail is Albion J. Benton with a bankroll of $135.30 finishing in second, Cara Yarusso with $133.40 in third, Ken Seeman with $129.20 in fourth, and Paul Cush with 128.80 in fifth. The action will kick back off at the Horseshoe Event Center Saturday morning with another eight mandatory and 10 optional races.
The 2023 NHC winner, who will be named on Sunday at the conclusion of the Final Table, will take home a whopping $800,000, up from last year’s grand prize of $725,000. Total cash prizes to be offered over the three days are a record $3,115,350, a 33% increase over last year. The 2022 NHC paid out the top 68 finishers. This year, the top 78 finishers will take home prize money. The full prize structure can be found online.
Charity Challenge Set for Saturday
Additionally, the field is set for the ninth Annual NHC Charity Challenge, presented by NTRA Charities. The invitation-only field will compete for the $10,000 charitable prize pool, which is double what was donated last year. $5,000 is set to be donated to the winner’s charity of choice and an additional $2,500 will be donated to each the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. HorsePlayers.com hosts the online event.
The one-day contest, happening Saturday March 11, will see contestants play eight races selected by the NTRA from the same tracks as those playing in the NHC. Last year Michael Canale won the Charity Challenge with a final bankroll of $87.30 from eight contest races. Canale selected the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance to receive a $2,500 donation in his name to go along with another $2,500 committed to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
Defending Charity Challenge winner Canale will attempt a title defense and other past winners expected to participate include: Jimmy McNerney (2021), Jude Feld (2020), Dawn Lupul (2019), Ed DeRosa (2018), Ellis Starr (2017), and Matt Bernier (2016). Inaugural winner Bob Neumeier passed away in October 2021.
Similar to the NHC format, players will select one horse to Win and Place in eight races using a “Pick and Pray” format. All selections are due Saturday morning and any scratches will result in the player being assigned the post-time favorite. The player with the highest hypothetical bankroll after the final contest race will be declared the winner. In the event of a tie, there will be no playoff; the donations will be split among the winners.
More on This Year’s NHC
The NHC, the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping contest, features more than 600 top horseplayers competing for more than $3.1 million in cash and prizes. All qualifiers will received a complimentary four night stay at the Horseshoe Las Vegas and travel reimbursements which total more than $1 million.
The tournament format for the NHC is meant to be the best possible test of overall handicapping ability by picking winners. Players attempt to earn the highest possible bankroll based on mythical $2 Win and Place wagers. Assigned “mandatory” races – eight per day on Day 1 and Day 2, and seven at the Final Table – are announced at least 36 hours prior to each contest day via direct e-mail to players and publicly on Twitter (@NTRA) and NTRA.com.
The NHC field will be reduced to the top 10 percent of players after the first two days. The highest 10 cumulative scores after the Semifinals round on Sunday morning will fill out the Final Table. Bankrolls amassed during Day 1, Day 2 and the Semifinals round will roll over to the Final Table, with the 10 finalists settling the NHC score in seven “mandatory” assigned races.
In addition to its three presenting sponsors ― Caesars Entertainment, Horseshoe Las Vegas and RTN ― the NHC is supported by official partners Daily Racing Form, EquinEdge, Four Roses Bourbon and Race Lens.
Interested spectators will have the ability to watch and listen to the action unfurling at the NHC all weekend in multiple places. Rachel McLaughlin, racing analyst at Horseshoe Indianapolis, will be hosting the NHC broadcast which will be available on all NTRA social media platforms. Additionally, At the Races with Steve Byk will broadcast live on SiriusXM satellite radio (Sirius 219; XM 201) from the Horseshoe Las Vegas and online at www.stevebyk.com daily, from 9-12 a.m. ET/6-9 a .m. PT on Friday and Monday, with bonus NHC coverage at www.SteveByk.com/listen-live-SiriusXM slated for 2-8 p.m. ET/11 a.m.-5 p.m. PT) next Friday-Sunday. America’s Best Racing and Hawthorne will also be streaming live from the event.
To sign up for the NHC Tour, go to www.ntra.com/membership.