Big handicapping tourneys on deck

Horse racing's two big year-end handicapping tournaments are in Las Vegas in the coming weeks. We make good sense as the host venue because Las Vegas is the convention capital of the country.

The Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship will be at Treasure Island on Jan. 25 and 26. The Coast Casinos Horseplayer World Series will be at The Orleans from Feb. 21 to 23.

There are two local qualifiers to gain free entry into each event. It's worth considering since both year-end tournaments offer six-figure first-prize money.

The fourth and final Coast Casino live-money qualifier is today. You can play at the Gold Coast, Orleans, Sam's Town or Suncoast. I like the live-money format. It allows a player to profit from real cash wagers, plus have a shot at winning prize money, and the host casino benefits from the additional handle to pay for its expenses.

A final NHC qualifier will be at Treasure Island on Jan. 24. The top five finishers will claim berths into the NHC.

The NHC Tour just concluded, with Mark Streiff, from Mission Viejo, Calif., capturing the title and first-prize money of $75,000. He played in 15 tour events, winning three and placing second twice.

Streiff is in position for a $2 million bonus should he also win the NHC. That is in addition to the first prize of $750,000, so Streiff could cash for a $2.75 million payday. He will wear a bull's-eye on his back during the tournament.

A key difference between the two big tournaments is you cannot buy your way into the NHC field. One must qualify in other tournaments throughout the year.

The Horseplayer World Series allows you to buy in for $1,000. But it also has a yearlong series of qualifiers in tournaments in which you can win a free entry.

Bottom line, tournament play continues as a fast-growing segment of the pari-mutuel industry. Outside of chasing pick 6 carry-overs, these two year-end tournaments offer a life-changing score for the winner.

■ CELEBRITY OWNERS - Horse racing has gotten a lot of publicity from renowned sports commentator Jim Rome owning Breeders' Cup champ Mizdirection. The process might happen again this spring with Kentucky Derby hopeful Goldencents. Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino co-owns the 3-year-old colt. Goldencents already has earned $842,000.

■ ONE-RACE MEET - An odd story in the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star this week described a one-race meet at Lincoln Race Course. Three horses ran 220 yards, a single race, to satisfy Nebraska law so the track can conduct simulcast wagering in 2013. About 300 fans showed up for the unadvertised event, proving that people in Nebraska still love their horse racing.

Richard Eng's horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.