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Mall
02-22-2009, 10:49 AM
If you havenít gotten around to joining, or investigating whether or not it makes sense to join, the 2009 Tour, thereís no better time than the present, since the first online, no entry fee contest limited to Tour members only is on the Fountain of Youth card this coming Saturday.

The FOY contest is the first of five online, no entry fee contests for Tour members, which more than covers the same, and imo modest, $125 cost to join, which also covers your membership in the Horseplayersí Coalition and makes you eligible for the discounts and benefits of the NTRA Advantage Program.

Those who join the 2009 Tour will once again compete for a $100k guaranteed prize for finishing first, which will make you eligible for a $2 million bonus if you also come out on top in NHC XI in January, 2010. While anyoneís chances of winning the entire $2.6 million up for grabs is obviously a longshot, thereís no doubt in my mind that the chance of accomplishing that exacta is a whole lot better than taking down a similar size PK6 carryover on a $125 ticket.

There will once again be worthwhile cash prizes for all five top finishers on the Tour, but in what I think has to be viewed as a very positive change, the top five will also receive a qualifying spot in NHC XII, which will take place in 2011. The reason the qualifying spots are in the following yearís NHC results from another big improvement this year, which is outlined in the next two paragraphs.

Last year the top three finishers on the Tour who were not otherwise qualified earned a spot in the NHC. As the year progressed, the competition for those three spots turned into a sort of contest within a contest, and finishing all the way down in 42nd was good enough for Jim Templin to secure the final spot.

This year the number of spots available to Tour members who have not otherwise qualified has been doubled to six. Given how things went last year, itís anybodyís guess how far down the leaderboard a Tour member will be able to finish and still qualify for the NHC. More to the point, in my view being eligible for one of those six spots is also worth much more than the modest cost to join the Tour.

The 2009 schedule, which is on the NTRA site, includes a wider than ever variety of formats and in my considered opinion, everyone should be able to find multiple online and live contests which suit his or her handicapping strengths. Deciding which contests to enter depends on oneís time and resources and is itself a question of strategy, and while I'd be glad to try to answer--or get the answer-- to any questions anyone has about a particular contest, I obviously canít comment on too many in this already long post.

However, in addition to the many live betting competitions from last year, there are a few noteworthy new contests which also use the cash format which seems to be a preference for many:

(1) XpressBet is offering 12 spots this year in cash contests which include (a) a three spot no entry fee, eight $5 win bets on mandatory races contest with the finals on 3/14; (b) a three spot $100 entry fee and eight $20 win bets on mandatory races contest on 3/21; and (c) a six spot $500 entry fee and $20 win bets on some as yet unspecified number of mandatory races contest on 4/18-19.

(2) On 3/21 FG is holding a three spot, $3k live bankroll contest on their live card which has a $500 entry fee and is limited to 60 entries.

(3) The final details could change slightly, but this Friday Kee is expected to announce that their 4/19, three spot contest will be limited to the first 30 entries and will consist of a $1200 entry fee and eight bets of at least $200 on the first eight races of their live card, followed by a mandatory 50% of bankroll play on the finale.

(4) No details available yet, but I am led to believe that the joint Mth/Cby contest scheduled for 7/11 will be a cash contest where the leaderboard from both tracksí will be tied together the way the leaderboard was in the four track contest in the Northwest last fall.

(5) Although itís technically not a new contest, the six spots in the six different TwinSpires Leaderboard cash contests started late and to a certain extent slipped under the radar last year. Although as with any contest itís important to review the rules very carefully, thatís particularly true for these contests. With that qualification, each of the six contests is based on an entire monthís results and therefore favors those who are able to demonstrate some consistency in coming up with either short or long price horses.

Additional details and a link to sign-up for the Tour, which takes about a minute, are on the NTRA site.

Finally, in addition to signing up, I ask that each of you not be shy about explaining the benefits of joining the Tour to your friends and anyone else who is horseracing enthusiast and might have an interest. Over the last ten years, the NHC is one of far too few player success stories in this industry and this is after all our Tour, so itís every one of our best interests for it to continue to grow.