Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Survival" at the Shore prize means no more NHC ties

Anyone who frequents might have noticed a number of banner ads touting sign-ups for Monmouth Park's 2012 Survival at the Shore, the free online handicapping contest where, at least since I have been playing (about 3-4 years), the winner gets a coveted seat in the National Handicapping Championship.

Presumably on account of Monmouth Park's recent ownership change (privately held by the NJ Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association) and cut in average daily purses, the widely popular contest (regularly 7,000+ players) appears to be fighting for its own survival a bit, based on the change in prize structure.

The contest rules show that the winner will no longer win the NHC spot, but rather a $2,500 cash prize.

Combined with a $1,000 prize to the second-highest bankroll and $250 each for third-place and most winners, the $4,000 at stake is nothing to scoff at, but clearly a setback for NHC Tour members who use the contest as an opportunity to qualify for the NHC.  Considering my sources put the cost of an NHC seat at roughly $6,500-$7,000, the Survival payouts translate to at least a 50% reduction in payout (in light of NHC qualification for the winner, plus $1,000 for second and $500 for third, or about $8k total in 2011).

Goodbye, caviar dreams!
Again, one cannot argue with a contest that costs nothing to play, but clearly the transition away from an NHC-based prize is surely to ruffle the feathers of NHC regulars to sign up for Survival, namely those in New Jersey (as I have often railed) that, because of legislators' indifference, have no access to the out-of-state ADWs that offer value-added contests (i.e. TwinSpires, DRFBets) for NHC members.  (Note to NTRA/NHC Tour officials -- please wake up and get moving on this front...we need your help.)

Sure, there are plenty of online venues through which to qualify now, such as, and perhaps the majority of Survival contestants are not NHC Tour members and would just rather win cash, but the loss of the Survival NHC seat means that only 8 (of 500) seats to NHC XIV will come out of New Jersey tracks, which in my view is a disservice to NJ-based Tour players.

New Purse Structure for 2013 NHC

Anyone notice the change in purse structure for this year's Championship?

Amid the Triple Crown chaos and other shenanigans, I have been sitting chilly on the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) May 2012 newsletter, where about 3-4 items down HANA notes that the 2013 NHC purse structure has been revised to "reduce the gap between the first-place winner and the rest of the field."

Since my handicapping skills are inferior and I have yet to land myself a spot the last three years in NHC, perhaps I should reserve judgement, but I think this is an awful move.  Cutting the champion's take from a guaranteed $1 million to "50% of the total purse" is the equivalent of Little League sportsmanship trophies -- you're the MVP of those who tried hard, but fell short of being the MVP.

Courtesy of
Great concept for fragile-minded pre-adolescents, but not serious adult horseplayers.

Perhaps my thoughts are askew, but generally I enter contests to win, not finish top 5%.  To cut the champion's take to $750,000 (a beautiful sum, but a 25% reduction from 2012 nonetheless -- based on an estimated $1.5 million purse this year) is ridiculous.  Maybe my opinion will change when I finish second in NHC XIV (wink, wink), but I am still of a firm belief that, from a marketing perspective, it is much more compelling when trying to draw new players into the sport that a cool million is tied to winning the NHC.

Then again, I apparently was in the minority on a lot of items discussed in last year's survey of NHC Tour players pertaining to how the NHC is run, so maybe I need to put my ax grinder aside.


  1. I've always wondered about those estimates of NHC seats' value. I've heard similar numbers, but isn't it simply the total purse value ~$1.5 million divided by the number of players ~500, which hits out to about 3k? Even counting air and hotel tha number wouldn't approach 6.5 or 7.

  2. One would think...but you've got to figure that a lot of tournament organizers have some kind of takeout or pay NTRA fees and such. Otherwise, yeah, I'm not sure how travel could cost $3k-$4k for a 3-night junket to Vegas in January.

  3. Right, I'm sure there's some overhead involved. I guess there should be a distinction made between a track or website's cost to send someone to NHC, and the value of an NHC seat for the contest player, as it seems those numbers are very different.