Shopping for Value in Online NHC Qualifiers

Horseplayers are getting smarter and smarter each year.

When a track raises its takeout rates they stop betting and when a track offers player friendly takeout rates they bet with both hands.

Recently this behavior has been on display in online handicapping contests as well.

More specifically for those online qualifying contests that award seats to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC) those that offer player friendly rates are selling out and those that are not are being ignored by many.

In the online NHC qualifying arena there are two major players that award most of the seats: NHC Qualify and Horse Tourneys.

The former is the “official online qualifying site of the NHC” and awards more seats than any other host (both online and brick and mortar).

The latter is (and this is my name for it) “the player friendly online qualifying site for the NHC.”

Here’s a quick comparison of the two and it’s easy to see which is offering far better value for those trying to earn a seat in Las Vegas next January.

NHC Qualify

Horse Tourneys

Entry Fee



Entries per NHC Seat



Cost per NHC Seat



Contribution to NHC



Travel Voucher



Hotel Room



Total Seat Value




$2,265 (20.80%)

$1,550 (14.29%)

NHC Qualify has a takeout rate of 20.80% while Horse Tourneys has a takeout rate of 14.29%.

Both are awarding seats to the same major handicapping contest but one has a takeout rate that is 46% higher than the other.

To compare this to race tracks NHC Qualify is like Parx while Horse Tourneys is like Kentucky Downs.

Which track would you rather bet on?

Like I said before players are taking notice of this discrepancy in pricing and here’s the proof:

  • Through March NHC Qualify has hosted 9 NHC qualifiers and only 2 sold out. Only 88% of the entries have been sold and that number would be lower had they not reduced the maximum number of entries from 396 to 330 per qualifier. Additionally they have only awarded 83% of the potential NHC seats during this time.
  • Through March Horse Tourneys has hosted 4 NHC qualifiers and has sold out all 4. They have awarded 100% of the potential NHC seats during this time.

I have two questions, one for those participating in these contests and one for those operating the NHC.

For the players why would any of you try to qualify via NHC Qualify when they are clearly gouging you?

You have Horse Tourneys as well as several other online sites (such as Derby Wars and HP Qualify) that offer NHC seats with a much lower takeout rate.

You also have the brick and mortar qualifying sites, most of which have zero percent takeout rates.

For those operating the NHC (NTRA and DRF) why don’t you let the market decide which online site(s) award the most seats?

It doesn’t take an economics major to see that if you let the host with the better value (Horse Tourneys) award the most seats you would end up with more players in Las Vegas next January.

Clearly many of you already know the facts listed above because you are investing your time and money in the site with the better value.

For those that weren’t aware of these facts now you know and I hope that you will seek value in handicapping contests just as you do when deciding which tracks and pools to wager into.

Note: Throughout the year I will be tracking the NHC qualifying events on the major online qualifying sites to see how they rank in terms of entries sold and seats awarded.  You can find the tracking sheet on the Contest Central page.  It will be updated weekly.


Becoming a Better Horseplayer Part III: Picking the Proper Parimutuel Pools

In the first two parts of this series we talked about “Getting Over Lazy Bettor Syndrome” and “Mastering Money Management.”

In this installment we’ll discuss the current parimutuel wagering options available to horseplayers and how to determine which of those options is right for you.

Deciding which wagering pools to bet into should be dictated on two fronts.

The first, which will be covered here, is the size of your bankroll.

The second, which will be covered in the next post, is your success (profitability) in a given pool.

[Read more...]

Becoming a Better Horseplayer Part II: Mastering Money Management

Horse Racing Money ManagementIn Part I of this series we talked about getting over “Lazy Better Syndrome,” which is when you spend a disproportionate amount of time handicapping a race and almost no time planning your bets for the race.

Now we’ll cover another area that many horseplayers struggle with: money management.

Specifically we’ll discuss:

  • Bankroll – what is it and the two different types
  • Prime Bets vs. Non-Prime Bets vs. Action Bets
  • Learning how to pass a race
  • Focusing on one to three tracks

[Read more...]

Breeders’ Cup Saturday: Catch Phrases

Watching the races on Breeders’ Cup Friday was like looking back in time to one year ago.

Speed was king on the main track and unlike last year was also good on the turf.

Overnight rain will add some needed moisture to the track but until I see otherwise I’ll be giving extra consideration to speed and less to off the pace runners.

There are a few races that could have pace meltdowns and in those I’ll definitely use some off the pace runners.

Following is my opinion, in one line (or two), about each of the nine Breeders’ Cup Saturday races.

[Read more...]

Breeders’ Cup Friday: Pick 4 Play

Breeders’ Cup 2014 is upon us with 13 races over two days plus 9 supporting races.

Betting opportunities will be plentiful but they will not be easy with large, competitive fields.

Finding an edge is the key to turning a profit this weekend so let’s look at a few key facts that will hopefully help you find the right spots to take a shot.

[Read more...]

Becoming a Better Horseplayer Part I: Getting Over Lazy Bettor Syndrome

How much time do you spend, on average, handicapping a race?

How much time do you spend, on average, planning your bets/deciding to pass on a race?

While you think about those two questions listen to the video below and when the music finishes I’ll need your answers.


If you are like the average person that I have asked this question to the ratio is probably somewhere between 10 and 20 to 1 in favor of question number 1.

That means for every 10 or 20 minutes you spend on handicapping a race you spend around 1 minute planning your bets or deciding not to bet at all.

If your ratio is lower you are on the right path but if it’s higher it’s time to re-evaluate your process.

[Read more...]

Press Release: The Truth About the Recent Santa Anita Press Release

Santa Anita

Tomorrow Santa Anita will kick off it’s 2014 fall meet, which is highlighted by the Breeders’ Cup on October 31st and November 1st.

A few days ago Santa Anita issued a press release regarding the wagering menu for the fall meet.

After reading through it I found it to be very disingenuous.

To the lay horseplayer it would appear that Santa Anita has a fabulous, player-friendly wagering menu.

The truth is Santa Anita (and the rest of California race tracks) are far from player-friendly and they are heading in the wrong direction.

[Read more...]