Later today (2 ET/11 PT) live coverage will continue on Steve Byk’s At the Races show. Click here to listen.

*

Robert Gilbert, a 68-year-old former high school teacher and military veteran leads the NHC after Day 1 with a mythical bankroll of $198.20.

I interviewed him back in 2016 and was enjoyed his description of racing back in the day:

“People actually went to the track, handicapping tools were few, and all bets were placed with a live person who gave you a fancy color ticket,” he said.

He likened his handicapping process to a Rorschach test. “To me, past performances have become like looking at abstract art or those inkblots psychologists use – you see what you want to see, or you see too many things, or you’re not sure what you’re looking at is real,” he said. “I like to look at a number of different sources and try to reach a consensus.”

A resident of Yardley, Penn. Gilbert is a five-time NHC qualifier with his best finish being a 37th place effort in 2016. He started his day off on a big note when he cashed on 15-1 shot Wicked Boy in the day’s first mandatory race – the fourth at Tampa Bay Downs. He further padded his bankroll when he had 7-1 shot Headland in the fifth at Oaklawn but his biggest scores came in the form of 40-1 winner Unk’s Red Man in the ninth at Fair Grounds and Forestation, who delivered at 20-1 in the fifth at Santa Anita.

As Day 1 leader, Gilbert earned a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry. He credited the TV show Horseplayers with sparking his interest in tournaments.

Speaking of Horseplayers, cast member Christian Hellmers currently sits in fourth. His reputation is as more of a live bank player but here he’s seeking an elusive double — trying to become the first person to win both the NHC and Horse Player World Series. It would be an incredible achievement for a player whose resume is already very impressive.

Over the years, Hellmers has accused me of everything from having it out for him to ruining tournaments to the Kennedy Assassination — he even made what some have called the most boring video in the history of the internet about me* — but sometimes you just gotta give a guy his propers.

John Pinder is a close second on the leaderboard with a bankroll of $184 and Matthew Ache is third with $150.20. Hellmers has ($150) and William Haliziw($149.60) round out the top five.

Full standings can be viewed online at NTRA.com.

The three-day NHC continues Saturday at Treasure Island. Day 1 bankrolls will carry over to Day 2, which will require mythical wagers on eight mandatory races and 10 optional plays. The top 10 percent of the field after Day 2 will continue on to the Semifinal round Sunday and the top 10 will play at the Final Table to determine the ultimate rankings, including the $800,000 grand prize and Eclipse Award winner as Horseplayer of the Year. Players outside the final cut will play in a separate $50,000 Consolation Tournament on Sunday with reset mythical bankrolls.

 

* if you clicked that link, you deserved what you got.

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