A pair of astute horseplayers punched their tickets to Las Vegas for next year’s National Handicapping Championship after finishing 1-2 in DerbyWars’ first 2013 NHC Qualifier to award two seats to the world’s richest handicapping tournament.
Mark Hackworth (wonpoint618) of California came out the winner of Saturday’s NHC Qualifier, amassing a mythical bankroll of $79.40. He selected five winners from twelve contest races, including Travers Stakes winner Will Take Charge, which alone comprised $29.80 of the winning sum.
“My tournament strategy is that I do not have a tournament strategy,” Hackworth cagily noted, perhaps as to not tip his hand in advance of the NHC.
But Hackworth’s win almost didn’t happen.
“I had my work basically cancel on both the contest feeder and the NHC Qualifying spot, which normally does not happen,” Hackworth noted. “So I entered the contests at the last minute and figured it was meant to be, and it was meant to be.”
Hackworth changed his mind at the last minute before the Travers Stakes, switching to eventual winner Will Take Charge. It was after that score that Hackworth felt he had a solid chance of qualifying for a seat to the NHC. His confidence continued to grow as he went on to hit three of the final six races to cement his victory.
“The track was speed favoring all day, the turf and the dirt,” observed Roberts in response to how he arrived at his Saratoga picks. “Mentor Cane is super quick; he had schooled since his last race when he was a bit of a nutcase and Shirreffs is a good trainer. And Moreno came in with big speed figures; he figured like a logical play at a huge price. Of course it would have been better if he’d won!”
Even with his Saratoga bankroll contributions, Roberts still needed a strong late showing to secure the much coveted NHC Seat.
“Before the last race I was sitting in fifth about $9 back,” recalled Roberts. “I was trying to get second place, not to win the contest. Wild Dude was a logical horse that could sneak me in. I thought he would go off favored. In his only two starts he’d finished behind (Santa Anita Derby winner) Goldencents and (Southwest Stakes winner) Super Ninety Nine. I was just hoping nobody else took him!”
With Wild Dude’s win and none of Roberts’ close competitors blocking him with the same pick, his plan to sneak into the second position worked out swimmingly. And with that success will come his first chance to participate in the NHC.
“This is my first time qualifying to the NHC; I’m pretty excited!” exclaimed Roberts. “Everyone has told me to enjoy it and have fun.”
When asked about his contest strategy going into the NHC, Roberts said he would seek price horses but will use ‘logical’ horses in the absence of any live longshots.
It won’t be the first trip to the NHC for Hackworth, who ruefully recalled a most heartbreaking tournament experience in the 2009 NHC.
“The first day I was in the top 20 and did not know it until walking into elevator to my room,” Hackworth said. “On the second day, I was playing well and knew it, but I do not like to look at leaderboard for the most part. So I went the whole day never looking at a score on final day until last race. Anyhow, found out I was 20th or 21st. I remember the 10 horse ran on Poly in Europe and was swayed to the #4 if memory serves me. I knew the later horse would not get me in top 5 but I figured he would Win or Place and I would come home with a “Dime” or two. The #10 won and I learned a lesson for myself. If I make it that far again, I may just play the less conservative play like the #10 in that last race of NHC 2009.”
Hackworth was introduced into racing by his parents over forty years ago and has been playing in handicapping contests for over five years; he joined DerbyWars about a year ago.
Roberts grew up right outside of Saratoga and for a time in his younger days worked for NYRA. He claims to have always been in the love with the sport since as early as age nine, recalling early race favorites Bet Twice and Houston. He has dabbled in handicapping contest play before, but really got into it this year with renewed determination.
“I enjoy early Porsches circa 1950’s and 60’s. I have owned many,” Hackworth noted. “A substantial monetary win would get an early ’61 356 Porsche restored sooner rather than later!”
All 21 Players Receive NHC Tour Points
For their efforts, all 21 players in Saturday’s DerbyWars NHC Qualifier received NHC Tour Points. In order to participate in Saturday’s event, players had to have securing a spot in the tournament through successfully competing in a prequalifying event in the weeks leading up to the tournament. Having won a prequalifying event, players are considered to have secured a sufficiently high finishing position to earn tour points on a schedule consistent with tournaments exceeding 300 participants.
Next DerbyWars NHC Qualifier: Labor Day, Monday, September 2
Prequalifying rounds to the next DerbyWars NHC Qualifier continue daily on DerbyWars, racing’s premier contest site. The next DerbyWars NHC Qualifier will be held on Labor Day, Monday, September 2. The contest will be identical to the most recent event held on Saturday, in that it will reward the top two finishers with prize packages set to include NHC seats, hotel accommodations and a travel stipend. As with this past weekend, all players who advance to the NHC Qualifier will receive NHC Tour points.