TJ Sonde Leads After Day One 

March 16, 2024

TJ Sonde leads the field of 765 entries. (NHC Photo)

The 25th National Horseplayers Championship, Field Set for NTRA NHC Charity Challenge

Charity Challenge Set for Saturday

NTRA Press Release

LAS VEGAS, Nev.—After an exciting first day at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), presented by Caesars Entertainment, Horseshoe Las Vegas, and Racetrack Television Network (RTN), TJ Sonde leads the field of 765 entries with a bankroll of $164.90 after all players wagered on 16 races from around North America, including six mandatory races. 

TJ Sonde, a 64-year-old retired accountant from Manasquan, New Jersey, is playing in his first NHC. He said today is hands down the best day he’s ever had and compared today to the 1989 movie “Let It Ride.” When asked about his strategy for today, TJ said, “I just went for the horses I liked. My expectation was just to try not to embarrass myself and I can’t believe I’m here.” 

Sonde has been involved in racing for much of his adult life. He’s been a part of ownership groups and was at the 2007 Breeders’ Cup to see one of his horses race on the undercard. “I married a good woman and have a wonderful family. After that this is my true passion.” 

In addition to bragging rights, Sonde takes home a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) spot valued at $10,000 for finishing at the top of the field. Second place finisher from Memphis Tennessee was Marshall Gramm, the former 2020 BCBC champion who wrapped up the day with a bankroll of 164.20 and will take home a cash prize of $5,000. Third place finisher Ramon Calzadias ended the day with a bankroll of 143.60 and will take home a cash prize of $2,500. 

The action will kick back off at the Horseshoe Event Center Saturday morning in Las Vegas with 8 mandatory and 12 optional races.

The 2024 NHC winner, who will be named on Sunday at the conclusion of the Final Table, will take home a whopping $800,000 grand prize and an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year. Total cash prizes to be offered over the three days are $3,013,550. The top 77 finishers are guaranteed cash prizes, with the 77th finisher receiving $10,150. The full prize structure can be found online

Charity Challenge Set for Saturday

The 10th NHC Charity Challenge kicks off Saturday. Presented by NTRA Charities, the invitation-only field will compete for the $10,000 charitable prize pool. $5,000 is set to be donated to the winner’s charity of choice and an additional $2,500 will be donated to each the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF). HorsePlayers.com hosts the online event.

The one-day contest will see contestants play 8 races selected by the NTRA from the same tracks as those playing in the NHC. Some of the faces at this year’s challenge are Rachel McLaughlin of Horseshoe Indianapolis who is also serving as 2024 NHC host, sportscaster Lindsay Czarniak, Dave Weaver of FanDuel TV, Laffit Pincay III of NBC Sports, Ahmed Fareed of NBC Sports, and many more. 

Last year Jude Feld won the 9th Annual Challenge with a final bankroll of $84.40 from eight contest races. Feld, broadcaster for Horse Racing Radio Network and a former trainer, who was the first repeat winner of the Charity Challenge, selected Old Friends to receive a $5,000 donation in his name to go along with an additional $2,500 donated to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.  

Defending Charity Challenge winner Feld will attempt a three-peat and other past winners expected to participate include: Michael Canale (2022), Jimmy McNerney (2021), Jude Feld (2020), Dawn Lupul (2019), Ed DeRosa (2018), and Matt Bernier (2016). Inaugural winner Bob Neumeier passed away in October 2021. Ellis Starr, National Racing Analyst for Equibase and the 2017 Charity Challenge winner, won’t be playing as he is double qualified and participating in the 25th NHC. 

Similar to the NHC format, players will select one horse to Win and Place in eight races using a “Pick and Pray” format. All selections are due Saturday morning and any scratches will result in the player being assigned the post-time favorite. The player with the highest hypothetical bankroll after the final contest race will be declared the winner. In the event of a tie, there will be no playoff; the donations will be split among the winners.

The 25th NHC

2024 NHC Official Prize Structure 

The official prize structure of the 25th National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) was announced this Friday. The winner, who will be named on Sunday at the conclusion of the Final Table, will take home a whopping $800,000 grand prize and an Eclipse Award as the Horseplayer of the Year. Total cash prizes to be offered over the three days are $3,013,550. 

The top 10 finishers will receive the following payouts:

1.    $800,000
2.    $250,000
3.    $200,000
4.    $150,000
5.    $125,000
6.    $85,000
7.    $80,000
8.    $75,000
9.    $70,000
10.  $65,000

The top 77 finishers are guaranteed cash prizes with the 77th finisher receiving $10,150. The full prize structure can be found online

New to the 25th NHC will be a Final Table livestream, co-hosted by Steve Byk and Rick Hammerle, that will be streamed on NTRA’s X (formerly Twitter), YouTube, and Website for the final seven races of the Championship on Sunday March 17. Interested spectators will have the ability to watch and listen to the action unfurling all weekend long at the NHC. Rachel McLaughlin, Racing Analyst at Horseshoe Indianapolis, will be providing coverage throughout the weekend on all NTRA social media platforms. 

Additionally, At the Races with Steve Byk will broadcast live on SiriusXM satellite radio (Sirius 219; XM 201) from the Horseshoe Las Vegas and online at www.stevebyk.com daily, from 9-12 p.m. ET/6-9 a .m. PT on Friday and Monday, with bonus NHC coverage at www.SteveByk.com/listen-live-SiriusXM slated for 2-8 p.m. ET/11 a.m.-5 p.m. PT next Friday-Sunday. America’s Best Racing and Hawthorne Race Course will also be streaming live from the event. 

The tournament format for the NHC is meant to be the best possible test of picking winners. Players attempt to earn the highest possible bankroll based on mythical $2 Win/Place wagers. Assigned “mandatory” races – six per day on Day 1, eight per day on Day 2, and seven at the Final Table – are announced at least 24 hours prior to each contest day via direct e-mail to players and publicly on Twitter (@NTRA) and NTRA.com. 

The NHC field will be reduced to the top 10 percent of players after the first two days. The highest 10 cumulative scores after the Semifinal round on Sunday morning will fill out the Final Table. Bankrolls amassed during Day 1, Day 2 and the Semifinals round will roll over to the Final Table, with the 10 finalists settling the NHC score in seven “mandatory” assigned races.

Also new to the 25th NHC program will be the Silver Sunday Contest, available to all individuals competing in the tournament with no entry fee. Every individual will receive a maximum of one entry and will have to place mythical Win/Place bets throughout Sunday, March 17 on ten optional and seven mandatory races (the seven mandatory races will coincide with the NHC Final Table). The top 25 highest bankrolls, including ties, will receive a share of $100,000 in prize money. The top five highest finishers will win an entry into the 2025 NHC and the top 10 percent will receive on track 2024 NHC Tour points. A “First Five” free-to-play online contest will be available to non-NHC participants and will offer five berths to the 2025 NHC. Full contest rules can be found on ntra.com.

All information on the 25th NHC can be found at www.ntra.com/nhc including the 2024 full schedule of events, the 2024 Official Rules, and more. To sign up for the 2024 NHC Tour and win your way to next year’s NHC visit to www.ntra.com/membership.

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