FG Regular Bryan Wagner Wins $100k as 2009 NHC Tour Champion

Fair Grounds regular Bryan Wagner, a 66-year-old insurance executive from New Orleans, used a second-place finish at the December 26-27 Surfside Race Place qualifier in Del Mar, Calif., to clinch the 2009 crown as Daily Racing Form/NTRA NHC Tour Champion and a $100,000 first-place prize. Should Wagner capture the title later this month at the January 29-30 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) finals in Las Vegas, he will receive a $2 million bonus in addition to that event’s estimated first prize of $500,000.

After earning 1,383 NHC Tour points for his efforts in Del Mar, Wagner finished the 2009 contest year with 11,425 points. Finishing in a tie for second with 10,000 points was Wagner’s wife Judy. She and fellow runner-up Steven Hartshorn of Newport Beach, Calif., each received $37,500. Judy Wagner, who finished third in the Surfside qualifier, also received a big contest payday back in January 2001 when she earned $100,000 for becoming the first—and still only—woman to win the NHC finals.

Rounding out the top five in the 2009 NHC Tour standings are Mike Labriola of Richmond, Calif., (9,422 pts., $10,000) and Shawn Turner of Middletown, Md., (9,275 pts., $5,000).  The top five overall NHC Tour point earners also earn automatic berths in the 12th annual NHC in January 2011. Only a player’s top five scores count toward his or her overall total.

“With so many excellent Tour players I feel very fortunate to have finished at the top,” said Bryan, who is a Republican Party leader in New Orleans and helped guide the successful Congressional campaign of Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao. “The excitement of this gets better every day.  Those who know Judy know she is a fighter to the end.  She did just that at Surfside until the last race.  Seeing her move from fifth place to a tie for second made my victory even better.  After Judy won NHC II, I thought I would forever be ‘Mr. Judy Wagner’. I hope the NTRA is as thrilled as I am that I can finally have my own identity and be a good ambassador for the horseplayer.”

More than 380 NHC Tour members earned points in 2009 handicapping qualifiers hosted by 39 different NTRA-member organizations. Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa will host a “Last Chance” qualifier on January 27 that will offer the final berths for the January 29-30 NHC at Red Rock, where 302 contestants will compete for an estimated $1 million prize pool.  But that Last Chance qualifier on January 27 will not award NHC Tour points.

The Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers and is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino racebooks, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping Web sites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals. This year, an estimated 100,000 people attempted to qualify for the 2010 NHC at Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa in Las Vegas.

The NHC Tour is a yearlong bonus series offering additional prize money and qualifying berths to the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. Tour members receive NHC Tour points for top finishes in NHC qualifying events held during the year. In addition to potential prize money and berths in the NHC, benefits for NHC Tour members include automatic enrollment in the Horseplayers’ Coalition. The Coalition seeks legislative and regulatory solutions to tax and business issues that impact pari-mutuel racetracks and their customers and provides grass roots support for the NTRA’s lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill. Tour members also are automatically eligible to participate in NTRA Advantage, offering preferred pricing on products and services from leading suppliers, including John Deere, Sherwin-Williams, OfficeDepot, UPS and Toshiba. Registration for the 2010 NHC Tour will begin in late January.