Canadian Chris Littlemore Wins $800,000 at National Horseplayers Championship in Las Vegas
The National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) is considered the Super Bowl of horse racing and handicapping. The world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping tournament concluded Sunday and a retired auto worker, Chris Littlemore from Canada, won the top prize of $800,000 and an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year.
The NTRA National Horseplayers Championship is presented by Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens, and Treasure Island Las Vegas. The interest in tournaments continues to grow, and this year’s NHC drew a record 702 entries (568 individual players, 134 of whom held the maximum two entries) and offered record overall cash and prizes totaling $2,974,700.
The 58-year-old Littlemore amassed a winning score of $348.30 over the three-day tournament from 53 mythical $2 win and place bets—18 each on Friday and Saturday, 10 in Sunday morning’s semifinal round and seven in the dramatic Final Table contest exclusive to the overall top 10.
“I didn’t feel that confident,” Littlemore said of entering day three as the leader. “I didn’t like the card that well; I didn’t like the races. I got lucky that a lot of chalk came in and kept me on top. I kept my distance. As the day wore on, I wasn’t having a good day, so I just kept picking away, picking away. I was fortunate enough that no big longshots came in to overtake me, and I picked the right horse in the last and it got me through.”
Advancing deep in a horse handicapping tournament takes some good fortune and some close long shot winners to come out on top. Littlemore was able to score on a few long shots and then avoid others cashing in on long shots late in the event as more favorites and chalk won races.
Littlemore first assumed the lead Saturday mid-afternoon when he landed an 18-1 winner, Holiday’s Angel, in the seventh at Oaklawn Park, followed later by a 12-1 shot, Dano’s Dream, in the eighth at Golden Gate Fields. At the end of Day 1 Littlemore was in 11th place with a bankroll of $124.60.
“My goal the first day was to try to get to $100,” he said. “I got $125. That was a good day. You have to have two pretty good days here to get to the money (top 10%). So when you have a good day, you’re just trying to get to the money. That’s my mindset.”
But to win a big tournament you have to also attack and take some chances and risk on long shots. Littlemore was able to score on some key long shots and cash in a huge payday.
“It’s life-changing for me,” Littlemore said in winning $800,000.
Littlemore would have been a big long shot himself of more than 125-1 had he been offered in the individual wagering at Treasure Island. Instead, in the NHC Future Wager offered by Treasure Island’s race book, Littlemore was part of the favored Field, consisting of those who qualified after Dec. 10. The Field closed at 4-1, returning $10 on a $2 wager.
The #NHC2018 finals awarded cash to the top 70 finishers (the top 10% overall) from a total purse of $2,311,750. An additional $50,000 went to the top 20 in Sunday’s consolation tournament. Including $400,000 paid out to top finishers in the year-long NHC Tour, NHC Tour travel awards, and other prizes, plus $42,000 worth of Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship entries, the aggregate value of payouts this weekend in NHC cash and prizes totaled a record $2,974,700.
Following Littlemore in the standings was 2nd place finisher Keith Fenton from Texas ($315.10), who earned $250,000, Garett Skiba from Illinois finished 3rd ($314) and won $125,000, and Tom Noone from California ($287.60) rounded out the six-figure payout winners with $100,000 for 4th place.
This is the fifth consecutive year of the three-day format including the semi-finals and finals, and the seventh straight year Treasure Island in Las Vegas has hosted the NHC.
Littlemore is now eligible for the $3 million NHC-BCBC Rolling Double bonus should he go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge this November.
Full standings of the NHC can be viewed online at NTRA.com.