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Paul Hoffman Wins Arlington’s First NHC Trip of 2013

Arlington Park Communications | 03/24/2014 #

John Preble, Jim Benes, Mark Turchik, and Dan Pavlik Split Runner-up Pool

 Starting this year, Arlington Park is re-introducing handicapping contests with a top prize of a trip to Las Vegas to play in the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association (DRF/NTRA) National Handicapping Championship (NHC).  The first contest in Arlington’s 2013 series was held on March 30 at Arlington’s Trackside OTB in Tavern on North in Villa Park.

“Relief,” answered Paul Hoffman, without pause, when I asked him how it felt to win his way to the 2014 NHC.  

“Like everyone who’s been to either of the two national handicapping tournaments, I can’t wait to get back there,” continued Hoffman.  “It’s particularly gratifying to qualify so early in the year.

“I didn’t do well in last January’s NHC,” admitted Hoffman, “but I have to believe that I can do better if I just have a couple of strong days in succession.”  Knowing Paul well, I don’t doubt him.

Hoffman was once a win-only bettor, or at least primarily so.  “I decided a couple of years ago that many of the people I play against in these local contests are getting better with the contest experience.  Therefore, I had to step up my game to achieve higher totals if I wanted to continue to have success.”

Hoffman’s approach is perfectly illustrated by his successful performance in the March 30 contest.  “My target race was the Canadian Wish (8th) race,” began Hoffman.  “I liked him to win it and narrowed down the likely second-finisher to three prospects.

“I did what I call a ‘measured’ exacta part wheel,” continued Hoffman.  “I took Canadian Wish over three others, in varying amounts according to my assessment of their chances to finish second.  My second-choice for second finished second, so I had the exacta.

“My bet on the winning combination was $80, the exacta paid a bit over $25 for a dollar, so I collected $1,992 after the OTB surcharge,” concluded Hoffman.

Hoffman’s other three bets in his exacta part wheel were for $120, $50, and $50.  He invested his entire $300 bankroll in one race.  One trip to the window equals one trip to Las Vegas.

For his win Hoffman receives the Las Vegas NHC Trip which includes a paid entry into the NHC, accommodations in Las Vegas, plus a travel voucher.  The winner of the 2013 NHC won $750,000!

Arlington added a unique runner-up prize for the March 30 contest.  Any and all runners-up who finished with a bankroll of over $1,000 shared equally in a prize pool of $1,000.  Five contestants qualified and received $200 each.

For Andy Evans it was a free roll.  “I won the qualifier for this contest that Arlington held at the South Elgin parlor on March 9, so my bankroll was staked,” he explained.  “I was fortunate to be able to parlay that into some decent winnings plus a $200 bonus.”

Evans is just getting back into racing.  “I used to be a fairly frequent racegoer up until about a year-and-a-half ago,” he began.  “Then I had a big increase in demands on my time so I had to take a break from it.  But now I’m back in a position to devote more time to handicapping, and especially to these contests, which I really enjoy.

As for this most recent contest, I made a $300 win bet on Greydar, the winner of the feature at Fair Grounds,” explained Evans.  “Then I came back with $75 across the board on the winner of the last at Santa Anita.  They were both small mutuels, but at least they put me over the $1,000 threshold for the bonus.”   

For Dan Pavlik it was a sweep.  “I went to the contest with three bets in mind,” he began.  “All three worked.

“My best score was a consolation in the Rainbow Pick Six at GP,” continued Pavlik.  “That consolation paid over $700. 

 “I also was interested in the Gulfstream late Pick Four, and hit that.  Its basic payout was around $140,” Pavlik added.

“Finally, Fair Grounds had a Pick Four that featured their big race.  Its basic payout was around $40 and I added proceeds from that to my bankroll,” Pavlik concluded.

How does he feel?  “A little like Harvey Haddix,” Pavlik responded.  “Haddix was pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1959 when he pitched a perfect game for 12 innings against the Milwaukee Braves.  But the Braves scored a run in the 13th inning to win the game, and Haddix didn’t get official credit for his pitching feat, even for being perfect for nine innings, because his team lost.

I went to the contest with three somewhat complicated bets in mind, hit them all, but still didn’t get the big prize,” compared Pavlik.  “But I’m happy with showing a nice profit for the day, and winning the bonus $200.  I’m forever an optimist with confidence in my skills, so I’ll be back, you can be sure of that.  My time’s coming.” 

John Preble was playing in his first NHC qualifier.  “However, I’m not new to handicapping contests,” he clarified.  “In fact, I have played in tourneys at The Orleans and Gold Coast in Las Vegas.” 

Both properties are now part of the Boyd Gaming family of properties, so Boyd Gaming is now the sponsor of the Horse Player World Series (HPWS).  The NHC and the HPWS are the two national, capstone handicapping tournaments held each winter/spring in Las Vegas. 

“I got off to a poor start with a number of near misses,” Preble began.  “In fact, I commented to my girlfriend that I was on way to zeroing out, at the rate I was going.

“Yet, I had bet the pick five at Gulfstream and as each race was run, I realized that I continued to remain alive,” Preble revealed.  “I finally hit that pick five, which gave me about 90% of my bankroll.

“I’m psyched now, and I will definitely be ready to play in the next Arlington handicapping contest on May 11,” concluded Preble.

Mark Turchik feels the same.  “If Arlington schedules a real-money contest anywhere in the general area, I’ll be there,” he declared.  “There isn’t an Arlington OTB that’s too far away!

“I’m happy that Arlington instituted real-money handicapping contests several years back,” Turchik added.  “I much prefer this format over the “mythical bankroll” type of contests where the player is locked in to a $2 win/place bet, or multiple thereof.

“My view is probably strengthened by the fact I did so well in the most recent contest,” Turchik added.  “I hit the super high five at Tampa Bay, and I added a superfecta at Santa Anita to accumulate the bulk of my final bankroll.”

Jim Benes considered his day more routine than exciting since, “I didn’t hit something big to get to my total, I basically just ‘ground it out’ through the day.

“I concentrate on Illinois racing,” Benes explained.  “I spend a lot of time studying every little nuance of racing at the local tracks.

“To be sure, it’s important to be a good handicapper and money manager, but you must have information and insights that your competition doesn’t have, knowledge that gives you an information edge.  I invest a lot of time assembling and recording such information for later use.  That’s what works for me.  And, there isn’t enough time to do that for several tracks, and do it correctly.”

Benes is talking about the very approach I teach in my handicapping classes.  It is better to be an expert in one track than to try to be a ‘jack of all tracks.’     

To view the results from the March 30 contest, click here

Our next handicapping contest will be on May 11 at Arlington's Waukegan Trackside facility.  First prize will be a trip to Las Vegas to play in the March 26-29, 2014, Boyd Gaming (aka Coast Casinos) HPWS.  The prize package includes a paid entry into the HPWS, hotel accommodations, and a travel voucher.  

Check back on this site for updated information regarding Arlington handicapping contests.  To make it easier to stay up to date, you can also send me your email address and I will add you my list of persons who wish to be notified on a regular basis of information related to handicapping seminars/contests.  Send your email address to

If you have any questions about the handicapping seminars and contests, send to me at the same email address,

We want to send you to Las Vegas, but you must get in it to win it.


M. Scott McMannis

  • Handicapping Seminar and Contest Host, Arlington Park
  • Midwest Correspondent, The HorsePlayer Magazine
  • Owner and Publisher, The McMannis Speed Figure & Trip Note Service Newsletter,
  •      Arlington Trainer Patterns, and
  •          Hawthorne Trainer Patterns