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Illinois man wins National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas

Richard “Scott” Coles conquered more than 670 other horseplayers to win the 20th National Handicapping Championship on Sunday in Las Vegas.

Coles, 34, who qualified for the tournament in an online competition, leapfrogged several competitors with 12-1 shot I Love Romance in the penultimate contest race at Golden Gate Fields, then hung on for the final race, a scratch depleted off-the-turf affair at Santa Anita.

Coles said he will use the first-prize money of $800,000 to pay off student loan debt from attending law school.

“It was a different experience,” he said of playing in the live three-day tournament at Treasure Island, “but it’s working out OK.”

Jim Meeks of Elko was the runner-up in this year’s contest, which is open to members of the NHC Tour who qualify in live and online tournaments throughout the year.

Coles becomes the third player to take home the top prize in the first year they qualified, joining Judy Wagner (2001) and Stanley Bavlish (2007).

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

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