National Handicapping Championship Day 1 Has Surprises

Retired Fire Fighter Leads Field of 654 Entries at National Handicapping Championship

Day 2 of the 2017 National Handicapping Championship (NHC) continues Saturday, and a retired fire fighter is on top of the leaderboard of 654 entries. Paul Nufrio, 56, leads the world’s richest horse handicapping contest, which has a record prize pool of nearly $3 million this year. Nufrio finished with a $188.70 bankroll at the end of the first day of the three-day tournament at Treasure Island in Las Vegas.

Nufrio collected points in 10 of the 18 races on Day 1. In five races he cashed for more than $20.

“Basically, I hit 10 out of the 18 races we had to play, and they were all middle-priced horses,” Nufrio said. “The highest-price horse was $19.40. And I ran second in a few races, so I got points.”

As Day 1 leader, Nufrio earned a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge berth worth $10,000.

This is Nufrio’s second NHC appearance, and he is already faring better than in 2012.

“I feel a lot more focused and prepared than I did then,” said Nufrio, who describes himself as an old-school Daily Racing Form handicapper. “Basically, everything went my way today,” he added following Friday’s Day 1 finish.

Nufrio is a retired New Jersey firefighter who was part of the massive 9/11 recovery at Ground Zero.

Should Nufrio continue his strong handicapping into Saturday, he’ll return with the additional top 10% finishers for Sunday’s semifinal round and a chance at the ‘final table’ of ten. Those players will compete for the top first-place prize of $800,000 and an Eclipse Award as “Horseplayer of the Year.”

Chris Larmey and Thomas O’Connor are in a tie for the runner-up spot with $168. The top 10 was rounded out by Chris Olsson ($167.70), 2003 NHC winner Stephen Wolfson Jr. ($148.30), Thomas Reed ($148.10), David Lam ($146.90), Harlan Malter ($140), Michael Ray ($133.20), and Stephen McNatton ($132.50).

Last year’s NHC champion Paul Matties, Jr. is tied for 340th place.

NHC entrants were required to place 18 mythical $2 win-place bets – eight on mandatory races and 10 more across the eight designated contest tracks.

For more information about the tournament, including a searchable leaderboard with Saturday’s mandatory races, visit

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