Thomas Goldsmith captured the 21st edition of the NTRA National Horseplayers Championship at Bally’s Las Vegas on Sunday, winning the $800,000 top prize along with an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year.
“I’m just like in shock,” Goldsmith said in an NTRA press release. “This is it. I’m never going to top this, right? $800,000? How am I going to top that?”
The 57-year-old trucking company manager from Montgomery, California, rallied from a quiet Friday into contention on Saturday, took over Sunday from Day 2 leader John Vail, and finished with a total mythical bankroll of $404.10. That tally came close to the record NHC bankroll ($407.70) amassed by Ray Arsenault when he won the 2017 NHC.
Vail’s bankroll of $384.30 secured runner-up honors worth $250,000. Arsenault checked in third with $362, the best result by any former NHC champion, and took home $125,000. NHC newcomer Ashley Taylor was fourth ($350.40), and the rest of the top 10 comprised NHC Hall of Famer Trey Stiles ($334.90), Ralph Magnetti ($334), Eric Bialek ($333.30), Christopher Podratz ($312.40), Michael Odorisio ($312.20), and Mike Goodrich ($296.20). There were 564 individual players and a total of 694 entries.
Goldsmith explained his strategy that produced several clutch longshots Saturday, including the 21-1 Admiralty Pier in the Tampa Bay (G3), the 15-1 Golden Tapit in the 5TH at Gulfstream Park, and the 12-1 Touching Rainbows in Oaklawn Park’s 3RD that propelled him all the way into sixth at the conclusion of Day 2.
“I was just trying to find something that’s going to win, like anything else. I’m not a numbers guy. I look for horses that are in trouble…whatever. Bad break. Excuse trips. Bad trips. And in this place you’ve got to bet longshots. Most of these are horses I’m not going to easily play. It’s hard. You’ve got to find winners at all different race tracks.”
“It didn’t ever change. I wasn’t going to play any first-time starters,” Goldsmith said of his approach once he advanced to the Final Table on Sunday. “I was looking for horses with trouble. Looking for horses that go to the lead on the turf. And basically that’s it. I wasn’t going to play any long layoff horses.
“Some of it is just searching for and looking…because you’re not going to win this thing betting a chalk. I was feeling good but I was still sweating.”
Goldsmith’s key plays Sunday at Aqueduct were the 7-1 Blugrascat’s Smile in the 5TH and Gringotts who was second at 24-1 in the 9TH; the 6-1 Classy of Course in the 10TH at Tampa Bay; the 4-1 Sweet Mia in Gulfstream’s 9TH; and at Oaklawn, the 7-1 All Fact in the 2ND and the 9-2 Misty Blue who solidified his lead in the 9TH.
Making only his second appearance in the NHC, Goldsmith qualified with a runner-up finish in a Lone Star Park contest July 13. Now he’ll be among the champions feted at next January’s Eclipse Awards gala.
“I got lucky for two, three days,” Goldsmith summed up. “Two big days I got lucky. Those days come.”