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"DRF/NTRA NATIONAL HANDICAPPING CHAMPIONSHIP" TO AIR FEBRUARY 20 ON ESPN
The excitement and drama of horse race handicapping in a high-stakes environment will be captured on camera for the first time when ESPN airs “The Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship” from 5:00-6:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, February 20.
Held last month at Bally's Las Vegas, the $412,000 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers and is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments. “Buy-ins” are not permitted at the NHC—one must earn a berth. This year's 214 finalists, who were vying for a $200,000 top prize in Las Vegas, advanced from 92 local tournaments held at 57 different sites across North America. In all, nearly 100,000 people competed to be part of the final field of 214. Those 214 finalists, including 25 women, represented 35 states and three Canadian provinces and came from every imaginable walk of life—from CEO of a NASDAQ-listed company to milkman.
The 60-minute special will be hosted by ESPN's Kenny Mayne and ESPN and ABC Sports analyst Randy Moss. The show is being produced by NTRA Productions in association with ESPN and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
During the two-day tournament at Bally's, 13 cameras captured more than 160 hours of footage. From there, producer Peter Lasser and the production team began the difficult process of distilling the raw footage down into an hour-long format. “You want to develop story lines,” Lasser said. “You want to generate emotional attachments between the viewers and players so that the viewer has someone to root for or against. One thing you'll see is how quickly a player's personality can take control.”
Technical advisors on “DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship” included the producers of ESPN's popular World Series of Poker programs. “They gave us guidance on what tends to work best,” said Lasser. “What we did was different, though, due to the element of action in the races. We identified a guy as having selected a certain horse, then we watch as his horse wins or loses, and then personality comes into play as we see his reaction during and after the race.”
“We're very excited about this show, which represents a pretty significant leap ‘outside the box' from traditional horseracing telecasts,” said Chip Campbell, senior vice president of media and sponsorship for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. “We are grateful to ESPN for its support in making this project a reality.”
The NTRA is a broad-based coalition of horseracing interests, including the American Quarter Horse Association, charged with increasing popularity of horseracing and improving economic conditions for industry participants. The NTRA and Breeders' Cup Limited also administer the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, Thoroughbred racing's year-end Championships consisting of eight races and $14 million in purses and awards, and the Breeders' Cup Stakes Program. The NTRA has offices in Lexington, Ky., and New York City. NTRA press releases appear on the NTRA Web site, ntra.com.
ESPN, Inc. is the world's leading multinational, multimedia sports entertainment company featuring a portfolio of over 50 multimedia sports assets. The company is comprised of seven domestic television networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPNU, ESPN Today), ESPN and ESPN2 HD, simulcast services, ESPN Regional Television, ESPN International (networks, syndication, radio, web sites), ESPN Radio, ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine, SportsTicker, ESPN Enterprises, ESPN Zones (sports-themed restaurants), and other growing new businesses including ESPN360 (Broadband), ESPN Mobile, ESPN on Demand, ESPN Interactive and ESPN PPV. Based in Bristol, Ct., ESPN is 80 percent owned by ABC, Inc., which is an indirect subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. The Hearst Corporation holds a 20 percent interest in ESPN.