David McCarty, 78, a biotechnology consultant from San Diego who regularly plays horses at Del Mar, took the lead early Friday and held it through the end of day one of the $3.5 million National Horseplayers Championship.
McCarty participated in his eighth straight NHC and was $162.80 in good after the 18 mythical $2 bets he and the other 508 players had to make on Friday. That put him $42.60 ahead of second-place finisher Frank Paros, 62, a general contractor from Jupiter, Fla., who has a $129.20 score in his first NHC.
Tim Gavin, 67, a retired Dallas attorney who is playing in his third NHC, placed third with $120.20. Kevin Smith finished fourth with $108.50.
Among former champions, 2019 winner Scott Coles of Mokena, Illinois placed fifth with $106.20. NHC Hall of Famer Judy Wagner, the 2001 champion from New Orleans, placed 21st with $96.60.
For comparison, the average cutoff for being in the 10 percent who qualify for the semifinals over the past five years has been a prorated $180.99, meaning McCarty might have a 6-1 or 7 : 1-winner might need to be sure get to day 3.
With the 509 players having a total of 643 entries, the top 64 players from Saturday’s 18 races will qualify for Sunday morning’s semi-finals and each secure $10,000. From there, the top 10 players will sit at the final table on Sunday afternoon, competing for a minimum of $50,000 and a top prize of $725,000.
Hosted by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the tournament will be held for the third consecutive year at Bally’s Las Vegas, which will be renamed Horseshoe Las Vegas next year.