Mustari Leads NHC After Day 2, Championship Concludes Sunday

Justin Mustari of Des Plaines, Illinois, holds a slim advantage over 2014 champion Jose Arias following the second day of competition in the 22nd National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) presented by Racetrack Television Network, Caesars Entertainment, and Bally’s Las Vegas.

Mustari has amassed $283.30 leading 563 entries in the richest and most prestigious handicapping contest in the world. Arias, of Bell Gardens, California, has $278. All players made mythical win-place wagers on 17 races Friday and 18 races on Saturday from seven North American racetracks. Mustari began the day in 14th place with a mythical bankroll of $135.70.

Mustari, 26, is participating in his third consecutive NHC. He took the lead in the final eligible race of the day, Del Mar’s 11th, selecting $8 winner U.S. Danger.

“It’s definitely pretty crazy,” Mustari said. “I had one of those days where you just try to put yourself in a good position. I hit my last three or four races. I just played horses I thought would win and didn’t worry about playing prices like a lot of people do.”

Mustari said after the contest day was done that he would try his best to relax by going to dinner with his family. His father Frank and his uncle Dan also qualified this year, and the Mustaris are well-known regulars in the contest world.

“I learned everything from my dad,” Mustari said. “He’s been playing horses since he was young. That’s how I got into the game. I started playing contests as soon as I turned 21.”

Mustari works for his dad’s insulation contracting company. He double-qualified at Hawthorne Race Course (the other entry finished out of the money in 266th).

Arias held the lead going into the final eligible race and sits in the enviable second position entering the Semifinal round.

“It’s a blur right now,” he said of the afternoon, citing Grade 2 Pat O’Brien Stakes winner Ginobili ($12.80) as one of his best plays of the weekend and crediting owners Slam Dunk Racing and trainer Richard Baltas for their handling of the emerging top-class sprinter.

Defending champion Thomas Goldsmith will continue on to the Semifinals with both of his entries – one in 38th place with a $184.60 bankroll and the other in 42nd with $183.20

Other recognizable names making the cut are defending 2020 NHC Tour winner and 2021 NHC Hall of Fame inductee Sally Goodall (39th, $184.20) and husband-and-wife duo Cheryl McIntyre (47th, $178.50) and Mike McIntyre (48th, $176.80), right next to one another in the standings.

The three-day NHC concludes Sunday at Bally’s. The top 56 entries after Saturday will carry their mythical bankroll into Sunday’s Semifinal round, which will require mythical win-place wagers on 10 races from a menu of 22 races. The top 10 from the Semifinal round advance to Sunday afternoon’s DraftKings Final Table to determine the 2021 NHC champion. The grand prize winner will receive the $725,000 first-place prize and an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year.

Greg Knepper of West Lawn, Pennsylvania earned $157.00 to win the individual Day 2 honors. That effort earned him a free berth into the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

Sarah Wiener, Norma Mendoza, Sally Goodall, Jeannie King, Karen Richards, and Cheryl McIntyre comprise a group of six female players who are in the top 56 moving on to Sunday’s Semifinal round.

This year’s track menu for mandatory and optional races is comprised of Del Mar, Ellis Park, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Monmouth Park, Saratoga Race Course, and Woodbine Racetrack. All but Gulfstream and Golden Gate are part of the NHC for the first time.

The National Horseplayers Championship is presented by Racetrack Television Network, Caesars Entertainment, and Bally’s Las Vegas and sponsored by 1/ST BET, Breeders’ Cup, Capitol OTB, Century Bets, Daily Racing Form, Draft Kings, EquinEdge, FanDuel Group, Four Roses Bourbon, Hawthorne Racecourse, Hialeah Park,,, Keeneland, Monmouth Park, NYRA Bets, Roberts Communications, Santa Anita Park, STATS® Race Lens, The Stronach Group, TVG, and Xpressbet.

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