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Familiar Faces – Returning NHC Champs
Defending champion John Conte is not the only former winner to be returning to the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. There are six others: 2008 winner Richard Goodall; 2007 victor Stanley Bavlish; 2006 Champion Ron Rippey, 2005 kingpin Jamie Michelson Jr.; 2004 winner Kent Meyer; and 2001 victress Judy Wagner also have qualified. So each of the past six DRF/NTRA Handicappers of the Year will be in the field, plus Wagner. The best performance in the NHC by a former champion, thus far, is the 11th place effort in 2005 turned in by 2004 winner Kent Meyer.
$2 Million Bonus at Stake for one player
As the winner of the NHC Tour in 2009, Bryan Wagner (Judy’s husband) not only won $100,000 and an NHC berth. Should he go on to win this year’s NHC, he would receive a $2 million bonus in addition to the NHC grand prize of $500,000.
Wagner enjoys political races too
When not trying to solve horse races, Wagner likes to manage political races. A former New Orleans City Councilman, Wagner helped orchestrate the successful 2008 Congressional campaign of Anh “Joseph” Cao, the first Vietnamese-American to serve in Congress. Wagner guided the Republican Cao to victory despite the fact that Cao’s district had not sent a Republican to the House since 1891.
An Oscar Winner in the NHC Field
Eric Roth is one of Hollywood’s top screenwriters. He scored a recent hit in 2008 with “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” And in 1994 he won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Forrest Gump.”
It's Already Been One Heckuva Month
If Shawn Turner wins the NHC, the $500,000 grand prize will only represent his second biggest payday of 2010. He was the lone winner of a $511,000 Pick Six at Santa Anita on January 2nd of this year. Dan Touchette is another who is no stranger to Pick Six scores. He hit three within a seven-day period in 2003—good for over $129,000
Approximately 170 participants in NHC XI have qualified for the NHC in previous years (pending the Last Chance Tournament), and no fewer than 17 of this year’s field of 302 have qualified six or more times. They are: Sally Wang Goodall (8 times), Trey Stiles (8-all in a row), Ross Gallo (8), Rich Nilsen (8, including last 4 in a row), Paul Shurman (8-all in a row), William Shurman (7-brother of Paul, William has made last 7 in a row), Richard Goodall (7- husband of Sally Wang Goodall), Judy Wagner (7-including 4 in a row), Louis Constan (7), Mike Mayo (7), Steve Wolfson, Sr. (7), Craig Kaufman (7-and last 5 in a row), Robert Bertolucci (7), Duke Matties (6-all in a row), Ron Rippey (6-last 5 in a row), Ron Geary (6-all in a row), and Howard Dennis (6-last 5 in a row). The husband and wife combination of Sally Wang Goodall and Richard Goodall have qualified a combined 15 times, as have brothers Bill and Paul Shurman. Judy and hubby Bryan Wagner have reached Las Vegas on a combined 13 occasions.
Without question, the “first family” of the NHC is the Gallo family of Florida. The clan has had at least one family member represent it in each NHC renewal to date. This year’s designated Gallo is the most “NHC-seasoned” member of the family: Ross Gallo, who will be competing in the NHC for the eighth time.
It’s a good thing Ellis Park is not open during the NHC. If it were, Ron Geary might have an advantage. He owns the Henderson, Ky. track. Ron’s son Mark Geary is an executive there. And Bill Downes is the track announcer there, and at Beulah Park. Steve Wolfson Sr.’s father was Louis Wolfson, the owner of Affirmed. His son, Steve Jr., is a former NHC winner. Corey Johnsen is the president of Kentucky Downs. Noel Michaels, who wrote a highly popular guidebook about tournament play during the years he covered the NHC for Daily Racing Form, will be making his NHC debut as a contestant. Michaels now works for Nassau OTB. Before he recently became the Executive Director of the Ohio HBPA, David Basler was an Equibase chartcaller for 15 years and a freelance reporter for Daily Racing Form. Howard Hong is the TV commentator at Turf Paradise. Ron Rippey, the 2006 NHC champ is the handicapper for the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger, the 10th largest newspaper in America. Rich Nilsen, at the NHC for an eighth time, is the marketing director for Brisnet. Gary Johnson would like to add an NHC title to the 26 meet training titles he has won at tracks including Thistledown and Mountaineer Park. Scott Carson is the founder of publichandicapper.com. And while Howard Dennis, a six-time NHC qualifier, Monte Engler and Derek Ball do not work in the racing industry per se, all have held coveted distinctions within it. Dennis once owned a share in the great stallion, Mr. Prospector. Engler was a part owner of Tale of the Cat. (Engler also was a bigwig in another industry—he helped create the first cellular telephone company in the U.S.) And Ball, a Canadian, was a former co-owner of Mine That Bird! Richard Goodall, the 2008 NHC winner, had his first job in the racing industry, but you wouldn’t have exactly called him a bigwig. He was responsible for cleaning the bathrooms at Pocono Downs.
Youth versus Experience
This year’s NHC contestants range in age from 24-year-old college student Andy Pham to 84-year-old retiree Gerard Oberle. Oberle was in the stands at Suffolk Downs to watch Whirlaway win the 1942 Mass Cap.
The Fairer Sex
What are the odds that a woman wins NHC XI? About 11-1. That’s because no fewer than 27 females will be in the field of 302.
Good with numbers?
Making his fifth NHC appearance is Dennis Decauwer, who is in the Accounting Hall of Fame at Cal Poly Pomona.
Every Penny Counts at the NHC
Don Beardsworth finished second at the NHC in 2008, good for $150,000. He only finished 40 cents ahead of the fourth-place finisher that year. Those extra 40 cents meant a difference of $105,000 to Beardsworth.
The Family That Plays Together...
Should 2008 NHC Champ Richard Goodall fail to win—and should his wife Sally Wang Goodall also not win—he can always root for his son, attorney Christopher Goodall. There also are several husband and wife qualifiers in this year’s tournament including Bryan and Judy Wagner, Mike and Marsha Mayo, Rich and Marta Nilsen, Mack and Diane McClyment, and James and Roberta Templin. Mark and Gary Petersen are brothers. So are Bill and Paul Shurman.
For News and Entertainment Purposes Only
Despite this being her fifth consecutive appearance at the NHC, Stephanie Davis says she does not gamble—she only plays contests. It was her cousin Joe who turned her on to horse racing and led her down her current path of…virtue.
For Medicinal Purposes Only
One of the reasons Brent Weiner first got into playing the races was because he somehow felt healthier at the track. Many years later, Weiner was diagnosed with diabetes and realized that the adrenaline rush of being at the track had helped stabilize his sugar levels.
Sam Darron is only 50 years old, yet he already has eight grandchildren!
Going the Distance
2005 NHC winner Jamie Michelson Jr. has completed 13 marathons, including the Boston Marathon twice. This will be his fifth NHC.
Look for them at Red Rock Lanes
Jimmie O’Nail has bowled 14 perfect 300 games. 52-year-old Gerald McClenin has bowled a 300 game in every decade dating back to the 1970s. A back injury forced him to quit bowling, however, so that streak will not continue. Now McClenin spends a lot of time hanging around his cousin, Paul Pompa, Jr. the co-owner of Big Brown.
Whatever it Takes
For good luck, Robin Buser will be taking to the NHC a “DNA card” produced by Upper Deck. The card contains hair strands of Smarty Jones.
The NHC always seems to have its share of CEOs, professional horseplayers and postal workers, and this year is no exception. But NHC contestants truly come from all walks of life. Don Allen is a logger. Timothy Herboth, like Homer Simpson, works in a nuclear power plant. Michael Markham will be crossing enemy lines for the NHC—he is the race and sports supervisor for the nearby Suncoast Hotel & Casino.. Patrick Gianforte owns a utility company called Pic Six LLC. Speaking of electricity, Dane Moore doesn’t mind taking a few risks—he is a high voltage line foreman. Michael Elsass is a fulltime abstract artist who paints on weathered steel. Les Harris is a pilot. John P. Kelly must be a very popular guy in the upstate New York town of West Henrietta, N.Y., where it snows very frequently He drives the town plow. Dan Riddell advises dairy farmers how to feed their cows. Shilo Merwitz is no stranger to the green—he is a produce supervisor. Lastly, Stephen Thompson owns a funeral home.