Edited Press Release
Paul Calia, a retired disability advisor for Social Security from Kansas City, Missouri, toppled a field of 779 entries to take home the grand prize of $800,000, in addition to finishing in fourth place with his second entry–good for another $150,000– to earn an Eclipse Award and Horseplayer of the Year honors during the NTRA National Horseplayers’ Championship which concluded Sunday in Las Vegas. This is the first contest that Calia has ever won.
Calia amassed winnings of $362.50 on his first entry, and $305.50 on his second entry, over the three-day tournament from 53 mythical $2 win and place bets–18 each on Friday and Saturday, 10 in Sunday morning’s semifinal round, and seven at the exciting Final Table which ultimately yielded his victory. He is the first winner to also finish in the top 10 with a second entry.
“I started a little slow on Friday, thought I handicapped okay with some seconds and thirds,” said Calia. “But Saturday I was pretty hot, and pretty much hit every longshot. It’s hard to put into words how many winners I picked on Saturday.”
When asked his approach to playing two cards in the final table he said, “I don’t know how to describe it. I didn’t switch a lot of picks, I don’t let the odds affect me. I only switched about 10-15% of my picks between cards, one or two a day that’s it.”
With this victory, Calia also earns an exemption into next year’s NHC and a berth to the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge worth $10,000. In lieu of winning a second BCBC entry, which he won from finishing first on day two (Saturday), he will instead take home $10,000 cash. That makes his full earnings from the weekend a whopping $960,000 and a 2024 BCBC seat valued at $10,000.
“There are three pillars to the sport of Thoroughbred racing–you have the horse and its connections, the racetracks and the horseplayer,” said NTRA President and CEO Tom Rooney. “So, if horse racing is a three-legged stool, we aren’t anything without the horseplayer. My family’s relationship with this sport and with football all traces back to playing horses. The excitement at the NHC is vital to everything we do as an industry. This year’s NHC is bigger than ever before and I’m proud that the NTRA has this unique opportunity to showcase the best of the best in handicapping and celebrate what it means to be a horseplayer.”