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HOF local handicapper to compete in horseplayers championship

Updated February 6, 2020 - 7:05 pm

When the action begins Friday at the National Horseplayers Championship, the nation’s richest and most prestigious handicapping tournament, Las Vegas residents Richard and Sally Goodall already will have cause for celebration as they set out in pursuit of the big money.

The Goodalls are regulars at the annual Las Vegas tournament, which is offering a record $2.95 million in prize money in its 21st renewal. Richard even won the three-day contest in 2008, taking home what was then a grand prize of $500,000. This year, $800,000 will go to the winner.

But before play began in this year’s tournament at Bally’s, the 17th he has participated in and the 18th for his wife, the 76-year-old retired attorney learned this week that he had been inducted into the NHC Hall of Fame.

“It’s very exciting” he said Tuesday, taking a brief break from preparing for the tournament, which requires players to place mythical $2 win and place bets on 36 races over the first two days. Those who finish in the top 10 percent of the field advance to day No. 3, in which they must play 10 additional races.

Also honored was Roger Cettina, 53, of Rumson, New Jersey, who has finished second twice in the NHC. He and Goodall were the 11th and 12th players to be enshrined in the handicappers’ equivalent of Cooperstown.

Richard Goodall, who moved to Las Vegas from Baltimore in 1995 and has been handicapping horses for 50 years, said he is very “pro-contest” and believes more players should give the NHC a whirl.

“Racing has become a game where it’s hard on a day-by-day basis to grind it out unless you’re a whale,” he said. “With contests, it’s a lot cheaper. You can spend a good bit of your time preparing for the contest, which doesn’t cost any money, and the online feeder tournaments offer a chance to win a lot of money with a smaller investment. On top of that, you just have a hell of a lot of fun.”

To get involved and begin trying to qualify for next year’s NHC, players need to join the NHC Tour for as little as $50 a year, then play in either online or bricks-and-mortar contests to advance to the final tournament. Additional details are available at ntra.com/membership/.

#RJhorseracing featured races

The #RJhorseracing handicappers are hunting smaller game this weekend in the $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes (Grade 3), a 1 1/16th-mile turf race for 4-year-olds and up, and the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (Grade 3), a Kentucky Derby prep for 3-year-olds run at 1 1/16th mile on the main track at Tampa Bay Downs.

In the former, the handicapping crew is strongly endorsing 5-2 morning line favorite Caribou Club, a multiple graded stakes winner who is a neck shy of being on a three-race victory streak. They have Halladay (6-1) edging March to the Arch (7-2) for second.

Caribou Club does look tough here, but I’ll try to beat him with Devamani (8-1), who makes a big barn switch from trainer Rob Atras to king of the lawn Chad Brown. The 6-year-old gelding will have to improve, but he’s in the right hands to do that. I’ll use Caribou Club to place and class-dropping Real Story (4-1) to show.

In the Sam F. Davis, the crowd ’cappers are again sticking with the chalk, 6-5 morning line favorite Independence Hall. They have 3-1 second choice Premier Star to place and Sole Volante (8-1) to show.

“Blew the field away in three straight races, and Constitution is a very hot sire,” wrote #RJhorseracing handicapper Bruce Shepard of the crew’s pick. “Wins by 12 lengths the first time Jose Ortiz climbs aboard.”

Independence Hall, who is 3-for-3 and has won the Nashua Stakes (Grade 3) and Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct in his past two starts, may indeed waltz home by a dozen. But I’ll attempt to beat him with Chapalu (8-1), winner of the Grey States (Grade 3) at Woodbine in his last start, who turns up here for red-hot trainer Arnaud Delacour. I have Independence Hall to place and Ajaaweed (4-1) to show.

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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