By Ryan Dickey
Steve Wing captured the first of two National Harness Handicapping Championship (NHHC) qualifiers held at Northville Downs this spring.
Wing, 60, defeated 31 other competitors to earn a seat in the NHHC Final at the Meadowlands on April 29.
A “live-money” contest, each NHHC competitor paid a $100 entry fee, $50 of which was channeled into a prize pool. The remaining $50 was a contestant's bankroll, used for win bets costing a minimum of $10. Each contestant was required to wager on a minimum of five races on the Northville Downs' card on Friday, March 24, with three races on the card being "mandatory" betting races.
|NHHC Qualifier winner Steve Wing|
After the 12 program, Wing sat atop the leaderboard with a bankroll of $130, which he was awarded, along with $800 in prize money in addition to hotel accommodations and airfare for the finals in New Jersey.
Wing, a resident of Owosso, Michigan, first took the lead in the contest after race nine, which saw Kayla Grace, driven by Skip DeMull win in 1:56.1 in a conditioned filly and mare pace. She paid $11.80 to win.
Wing lost his lead to Tom Hawkins after the second race, increasing his bankroll to $178. Yet, Hawkins, who finished fourth overall, succumbed to Wing’s conservative one-race-at-a-time strategy.
“I had the horses I liked, and was only going to bet $10 per race and waited to the end to see if I needed to bet a little more,” said Wing.
This was the first handicapping contest using this format that Wing had ever tried.
“I was sitting third (after 10 races) and I didn’t need to bet all that much, and luckily the two guys ahead of me bet a little more than I did,” Wing said. “That’s how I won, because their horse didn’t win.”
Wing said he wagered on ten of the 12 races, failing to pick the winner of either of the last two.
The three mandatory races were won by Fly Amelia Fly ($9.00 to win, driven by Tyler St. Louis), Ultimate Winner ($4.40, Jason Merriman), and Thatillbsweet ($6.20, Skip DeMull).
None of the contestants could tab race-five winner Hemlock Tough Guy, who won one of the Northville Downs mini-series trot races paying $95.80 to win.
Then, in the 11th race, Rainbow Gold ground a first-over mile to upset a conditioned trot at 25-1 (paying $52.60). With many contestants down to their last $10, all eyes were on the leaderboard as it displayed the new totals--and again, not one player chose the long-shot winner.
|The Northville NHHC Qualifier Leaderboard at the end of|
Following the 11th race, Jim Hostetler was on top, with $155.50 in winnings, followed by Wing at $140, and Hawkins at $138.
None of the top three players selecting the winner of the final race (P C Shockwave, $11.00 to win, driven by Kin Pluta). Wing, who had only bet $10 on the final race, finished in first place with $130, followed by Hostetler at $115, and Aaron Hayes in third with $110.
Hostetler failed to select PC Shockwave with his $40 wager, but kept his $115 bankroll and $500 in prize money. Hayes wagered his final $20 on the winner, skyrocketing him to third place where he got to keep his $110 bankroll to go with $300 in prize money.
When asked how his handicapping of Meadowlands racing has been lately, Wing simply responded, “Good. I hit a dime superfecta there for over $3,000 last year.”
|Tim Second (Left) talking to Steve Wing (Right)|
The winner of the next NHHC qualifier at Northville Downs, scheduled for April 7, will join Wing at the Meadowlands for the Final. The grand prize is $50,000.
Northville Downs Tournament Director Tim Second was pleased with the first qualifier.
“Very exciting. Thirty-two players in tonight’s contest, right down to the twelfth race at Northville--and we crowned the winner,” said Second.
Second stated that there was no takeout by the host track, meaning all money placed into the prize pool was returned to contestants in cash as well as the airfare and hotel arrangements for Wing.