Arsenault Tops NHC Field of 654 Entries to Win $800,000 First Place Prize
The ballrooms were buzzing at Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas last weekend. The 18th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) was held over 3 days, and 64-year-old Ray Arsenault of Thornhill, Ontario, Canada topped the field to win the $800,000 first-place price. Arsenault was also awarded an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year.
The NHC had a record field size of 654 entries (529 individual players, 125 of whom held the maximum two entries) and offered record overall cash and prizes totaling $2,900,600.
Arsenault amassed a winning score of $407.70 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.
Arsenault jump started his move up the leaderboard Saturday when he hit a long shot.
“I had that $100 horse yesterday that got me off the schneid to get me in the game, and the rest is history,” Arsenault said Jan. 29.
He entered the semifinals knowing he wanted to protect his lead, but still staying true to his play of finding value and some long shots.
“I played the same way I always play,” he said. “I rarely play a horse under 5-1 and I love playing bombs because the feeling of hitting a longshot is just great. Today I happened to hit quite a few.”
Arsenault was leading at the final table when 2nd place finisher Steve Wolfson, Jr. made his move up the leaderboard hitting a 7-1 shot to bolt from 8th place to 3rd. Wolfson, the 2003 NHC winner, then nailed a 12-1 winner in the next mandatory race, but so too did Arsenault.
As the final races came in with more favorites winning, Arsenault’s lead was too big to overcome. In his seventh NHC appearance, Arsenault won the National Handicapping Championship. A long journey for a transportation broker who fell for racing as a child during Woodbine and Greenwood visits with his father.
“I cut my teeth when I could barely walk,” he said. “My dad would go to Greenwood all the time and I’d tag along. I’d look for programs on the ground so I could sell them to the guys coming in for the last two races.”
Arsenault held a single NHC entry, which he earned with a fourth-place finish at the Del Mar Handicapping Challenge in July. For winning this year’s NHC, Arsenault also automatically earns an exemption into next year’s NHC finals.
I had a great experience and knew this was where I wanted to come,” he said. “This is it. This is like the Super Bowl of horse racing.”
Final top-10 standings at the NHC.
First—Ray Arsenault, Thornhill, Ontario, Canada ($407.70)—$800,000, Eclipse Award, and berth to NHC 19
Second—Steve Wolfson Jr., Holly Hill, Fla. ($361.10)—$250,000
Third—Ryan Scharnowske, Westfield, Ind. ($320.20)—$125,000
Fourth—Louis Filoso, Asbury, N.J. ($309.30)—$100,000
Fifth—Dan Kovalesky, Shorewood, Minn. ($308.70)—$75,000
Sixth—Steve Hartshorn, Fallbrook, Calif. ($299.40)—$65,000
Seventh—Joe Jarvie, Renton, Wash. ($284.10)—$59,500
Eighth—Frank Mustari, Des Plaines, Ill. ($279.40)—$54,500
Ninth—David Bernal, Grand Prairie, Texas ($270.80)—$52,000
Tenth—Michael Caposio, Temecula, Calif. ($265.40)—$50,000