Kentucky Downs’ one-of-a-kind online handicapping tournament is getting super-sized: the 2021 King of the Turf Handicapping Challenge presented by Daily Racing Form will feature a trio of two-day handicapping contests spanning the all-grass meet’s Sept. 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 and 12 dates.
Last year’s inaugural event involved a pair of one-day contests with the cumulative winner, Andy Muhlada of Lawrenceburg, Ind., crowned the first National Turf Handicapping Champion. The separate online tournaments are live-money events, meaning that entrants use a real bankroll and get to keep whatever they might earn. All contest bets must be placed through the TVG, 4NJBets, or Xpressbet ADW platforms.
“The philosophy at Kentucky Downs has been that if something works well, how can we make it even better?” said Kentucky Downs Vice President for Racing Ted Nicholson. “Those were the marching orders for our marketing team. The beauty of this format is the flexibility it provides for those who might face scheduling conflicts that prevent them from playing in one or two of the tournaments. But we also wanted to reward those who play all six days.
“With the ever-growing popularity of Kentucky Downs racing, with our big fields and low takeout, we believe the Turf Handicapping Challenge will be a big hit with simulcast players and NHC Tour members alike. We also wanted to award prizes to make it worth players’ time and money. And as with last year, all the buy-in fees are returned to the players through either the prizes or their bankrolls.”
Seats at the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) will be awarded to the top finishers in all three individual competitions, with seats for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) also up for grabs in the final two contests. The overall winner who participates in all three contests over the six dates will be crowned National Turf Handicapping Champion and earn additional prize money, along with the National Turf Handicapping Champion Trophy presented by BetMakers.
“The 2020 Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge proved to be a massive success,” said tournament director Brian Skirka, who also is Monmouth Park’s director of marketing. “We look to build off that success this season with three, two-day contests encapsulating the entire Kentucky Downs meet. The uniqueness of all-turf cards combined with full fields, great betting opportunities, and the chance to become the National Turf Handicapping Champion make these contests a can’t-miss for contest players across the country. I look forward to being part of the contest team yet again and thank Kentucky Downs for the opportunity.”
Based on conservative estimates, a projected minimum of 13 qualifying seats and prize packages (hotel and airfare up to $400) to the 2022 National Horseplayers Championship and three seats with the $10,000 buy-in to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at Del Mar will be awarded. The exact numbers of automatic qualifiers to the NHC and BCBC buy-ins depend on entries, with more than $100,000 in cash projected to be paid out.
Muhlada says he plans to defend his title.
“The format looks intriguing and intense,” he said. “Seems fitting that this unique track and meet is hosting such a challenging tournament series. I am excited to participate!”
Half of the buy-in amounts for the three stand-alone tournaments goes to the entrant’s live bankroll and the other half goes toward the prizes, including cash payments to the top 10 finishers in each contest. Players must wager on a minimum of five races each day, with no maximum. All contests are based on Kentucky Downs racing that day. Also new this year: doubles join the betting menu in addition to straight and exacta wagering.
Here’s a quick look at the three contests (with projected prizes based on 175 entries per contest):
Sunday Sept. 5 and Monday Sept. 6: $600 buy-in, $30 minimum bet per race. Projected prizes: four NHC prize packs, $10,000 to the winner down to $800 for 10th.
Wednesday Sept. 8 and Thursday Sept. 9: $800 buy-in, $40 minimum bet per race. Projected prizes: One BCBC seat and $10,000 buy-in, four NHC seats and prize packs, $12,000 to the winner down to $1,000 for 10th.
Saturday Sept. 11 and Sunday Sept. 12: $1,200 buy-in, $60 minimum bet per race. Projected prizes: Two BCBC seats and $10,000 buy-in, five NHC prize packs, $18,000 to winner down to $1,500 for 10th.
The National Turf Handicapping Champion is the player with the highest aggregate six-day bankroll once scores are combined from the three individual contests. Based on 175 entries for each contest, the Turf Handicapping Champ will receive $25,000 in addition to prizes earned during the three tournaments.
“This is a unique tournament series with reasonable entry fees and great prizes for each individual tournament,” said Scott Coles, a Chicago futures trader who in 2019 became the youngest NHC champion at age 34. “If you play them all, you can win your entries into the major championships, pick up a lot of NHC Tour points and be crowned King of the Turf all in the same week. Get involved!”