New Yorker Tops Field of 629 Entries To Win $800,000 at National Handicapping Championship
The 17th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship was another rousing success at Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Paul Matties, a 46-year old from Ballston Spa, NY topped a field of 629 entries to take home the first place prize of $800,000 and an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year.
The National Handicapping Championship (NHC) offered a record overall cash and prizes totaling $2,778,760 including money awarded for the NHC Tour.
Matties comes from a family of horsemen, and his younger brother Duke finished fourth in this year’s NHC.
“My brother Duke’s the greatest,” Paul Matties said. “He was rooting for me more than he was rooting for himself the whole time. I’ve never seen him so nervous.”
Their father, Chick Matties, a contest-playing veteran himself, was as pleased as could be after the tournament.
“It’s better than winning myself,” he said, “and they really deserve it because there’s nobody that works any harder than they do at the game.”
Paul Matties amassed a winning score of $399.50 over the three-day tournament from 53 mythical $2 win and place bets – 18 each on Thursday and Friday, 10 in Saturday morning’s semifinal round, and seven in the dramatic Final Table contest exclusive to the overall top 10.
Roger Cettina of Rumson, N.J., finished second with $389.10, good for $250,000, as well as a $25,000 bonus and berth into next year’s NHC as the highest finisher among the 2015 NHC Tour top 20. Cettina takes a big jump up the career earnings list at the NHC – he now owns two second-place finishes at racing’s most prestigious contest.
“I went for the win the whole time. I absolutely did,” he said. “I didn’t even look at the sheet to see what each position paid. I didn’t even know I got 250 for second until my friend Frank told me.”
Cettina was followed by 36-year-old Charlie Davis of Tennessee ($340.60 final bankroll; $125,000 prize) in third with Duke Matties ($337.30; $100,000) fourth.
“I’m thrilled for him,” said Duke Matties, referring to his brother. “Every time I thought I could catch him then he hit something else. I wasn’t playing for second or third, I was playing for first.”
Stanley Bavlish was attempting to become the first two-time NHC winner but checked in ninth.
In the NHC Future Wager offered by Treasure Island, Paul Matties closed at 25-1, returning $52 on a $2 wager.
The NHC 17 finals awarded cash prizes to the top 63 finishers (the top 10 percent overall) from a total purse of $2,304,760. An additional $50,000 went to the top 20 in Saturday’s Consolation Tournament. Including $250,000 paid out to top finishers in the year-long NHC Tour, a $100 TI casino chip for every entrant, NHC Tour travel awards, RTN subscriptions and the $10,000 charity tournament prize, plus $30,000 worth of Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entries, the aggregate value of payouts this weekend in NHC cash and prizes totaled a record $2,778,760.
I attended the handicapping event Saturday and the ballrooms at Treasure Island were filled with screaming horse players and fans. The Treasure Island team and supporting staff members roll out the red carpet with a well-run event that includes great food and beverage service. Plenty of comments about how genuinely nice and gracious both the Matties brothers are, and congratulations to those two, the top finishers and all the participants for making the event another success.