Stories to Follow at #NHC2020 on Championship Sunday

I already doctored the official press release covering the players at the top of the leaderboard as we approach the start of Day 3 at the NHC and you can read that here but what other stories should folks be paying attention to?

First off, Steve Byk and I will have all the coverage on Championship Sunday starting at 1:30 ET. You can listen live at:

In terms of storylines, I am psyched to see what Eric Bialek does today. EB, as we call him on the podcast, has been a friend for years. A 20-something still, Bialek has qualified for this event five times, an impressive feat for one his age. He has been mentored by the Matties brothers, and their tutoring has paid off.

Bialek made an impressive move late in the tournament yesterday, tournament between a logical 5-1 shot and a big price in one of the late mandatories. His place already secured in the semifinal round, EB was tempted to just chip away and go with the shorter price and that’s what he did, initially. But the more he thought on it, he realized the cap horse would put him in a far better position when it came to making the final table and he really liked the horse. He switched his bet to the capper and BOOM he now sits seventh, with a good chance to make it to his first ever final table. One of his aforementioned mentors, Duke Matties, advanced to Sunday (he’s in a tie for 46th) despite not having either cap horse in those two late mandatories. Most impressive.

Day 1 leader A. J. Benton is still in the hunt — eighth with $246.40.

Three former NHC champions made their way to the Semifinals: Ray Arsenault is 15th, Steve Wolfson Jr (who also owns a second in this event) is  21st, and Brian Troop (who also has a Final Table on his resume in addition to his win) is 35th. No player has ever won the NHC twice and that’s a story I’m dying to write.

Speaking of champions, former NHC Tour champ Paul Shurman sits 31st and is a player all eyes will be on. He already owns three top 10 NHC appearances. If you think this contest is a mere crapshoot, think again. Shurman and Duke Matties are the two most successful players in history in terms of cumulative scoring, and wouldn’t you know, they are both poised to make another Final Table run.

Three NHC Hall of Famers are still in the mix: Shurman, Wolfson, and last year’s inductee (and 18-time qualifier) Trey Stiles, who sits fifth with $275.50.

If you’re not rooting for Robbie Courtney, currently part of a tie for 42nd, well, then there’s nothing I can do to help you.

Shoutout to my friend and fellow Barolo lover Kevin Costello. At one point during the day, we was top 10 with a score that normally would have allowed him to skate to the semis. Then the bombs starting coming in. In the end, he grimly hung on to advance. He finished in a tie for 69th. The top 10 percent of the field advances but there are no tiebreakers so this year 71 players are moving on to win their share of $3 million.

I don’t know Ken Zelin but I feel for him — he missed qualification and a spot in the prize pool by a mere $0.20.

What will it take to make the Final Table? I’m hesitant to guess after missing the mark yesterday. I thought it would be $180 but that went out the window with the prices in the late mandatories and it ended up being $192.90.

I’ll go ahead and guess $290. If I’m right, that would mean only John Vail is secure to advance.

Sunday’s Semifinal will consist of 10 optional plays from 28 eligible races concluding around noon local time. Bankrolls will then carry over to the Final Table, made up of seven mandatory races.

Post Time Track Race Number
2:18 PM TAMPA BAY 10
4:00 PM* SANTA ANITA* 8*


PLEASE NOTE: In the event that Race 8 at Santa Anita comes off the turf, Golden Gate Race 8 will takes its place as the day’s concluding Final Table race.

Follow the leaderboard here:


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