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Californian wins $800K prize in National Horseplayers Championship

Updated February 9, 2020 - 7:16 pm

Thomas Goldsmith, a trucking company employee from Northern California, saved the best for last, putting on a strong showing in the final day of the National Horseplayers Championship on Sunday to win the $800,000 grand prize and handicapper of the year title.

“I’m shocked. I’m not even thinking right now,” Goldsmith said moments after cementing his victory over runner-up John Vail in the three-day handicapping contest at Bally’s. It’s life changing, (but) I don’t know what it means yet. It’s still sinking in.”

Goldsmith, 57, amassed $404.10 in earnings from imaginary $2 win and $2 place wagers over the contest, just under $20 more than runner-up John Vail put on the board. Nearly 600 players qualified for the 21st annual tournament in qualifier contests at racetracks around the country and online.

Goldsmith, who was playing in his second NHC after qualifying in a tournament at Lone Star Park, started the day in sixth place, but used several early scores to vault past the front-runners.

He said he doesn’t focus on speed figures in his handicapping, instead concentrating on finding speed horses and horses who had trouble in their previous starts by watching lots of replays.

Asked how winning the title compared to his best previous moments playing the horses over 40 years, he said it was no contest.

“This is it,” he said. “I’m never going to top this.”

Las Vegas horseplayers had a rooting interest at the final table in Ashley Taylor, 38, who wore a Vegas Golden Knights hat en route to a fourth-place finish in her first NHC appearance, good for a $100,000 payday. She also won an all-expenses paid entry into the berth in the $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge as the top points earner on Day 2 of the contest.

Taylor, a graduate of Green Valley High School in Henderson, now lives in Encinitas, Californiabut said she’s a big Golden Knights fan.

“They brought the city together” after the Oct. 1 mass shooting on the Strip, she said of her allegiance to the team.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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