(Los Angeles, December 18, 2003) – As a result of their performances in last Saturday’s TVG National Handicapping Contest, four knowledgeable horseracing fans have earned the right to be part of “Team TVG” at the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship V, January 23-24 at Bally’s in Las Vegas. TVG will be on-location to provide live updates throughout the tournament.
Heading to Las Vegas to compete for the $100,000 grand prize and the $200,000 in total prize money, as well as for the coveted “Handicapper of the Year” title, will be Fred Hirano, 57, a Los Angeles truck dispatcher; Philip Maniatty, 51, a Miami attorney; Juan Lopez, 29, an Albuquerque medical salesman; and Nicholas Grant, 31, a Waterbury, Conn., mechanical engineer. Each will make his first trip to the National Handicapping Championship.
“This is the first time I’ve been in this contest,” said Hirano, who became interested in horseracing when he was a Los Angeles-area high school student, He has been a handicapper ever since because, he said, “It keeps my mind active.” Hirano labeled himself a small bettor who plays the exotics most of the time. When not wagering through TVG, he can be found cashing tickets at Hollywood Park.
“This is the second year I tried to qualify for Las Vegas,” said Maniatty, who became a horseracing fan when he was 15. “I grew up in Vermont, about two hours from Saratoga Race Course, and it seemed like everyone there followed racing.” Maniatty’s key to handicapping: “I look for horses coming off bad performances with good excuses.”
Lopez had never entered any handicapping contest before this one, despite the fact he considers “playing the horses a second living.” Like the other TVG winners, Lopez was introduced to racing as a teen. “When I was 18 I went to the old Santa Fe Downs with my father, and the rest is history,” he said. Lopez visits New Mexico’s Sunland Park, and makes regular trips to Southern California’s Hollywood Park, Del Mar and Santa Anita.
For Grant, his fourth attempt to qualify for the Handicapping Championship was a lucky one. He became “hooked on the sport” when he was 15 after taking a tour of the Belmont Park backstretch that was arranged by an assistant trainer who was a friend of his father’s. Originally from the Big Apple, Grant gets to Belmont when he can.
TVG contest rules mirrored those of the DRF/NTRA National Championship with participants required to place mythical $2 bets on 10 designated races from tracks across the country. Payoffs were on win and place. At the conclusion of Saturday’s event, Hirano had a bankroll of $134.80, Maniatty had won $128.20, Lopez had earned $126.20 and Grant had taken home $126.00. While there was no real money involved, the foursome did cash the ticket they were hoping for – a trip to Las Vegas, including airfare and accommodations at Bally’s, where they will compete against 236 other handicappers who have qualified for the National Championship.
“Since we’ll be covering the event we h
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