Long-shot bid lifts Illi­noisan to NHC crown

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - SPORTS - By Mike Brunker Las Ve­gas Re­view-jour­nal

Richard “Scott” Coles con­quered more than 670 other horse­play­ers to win the 20th Na­tional Hand­i­cap­ping Cham­pi­onship on Sun­day at Trea­sure Is­land.

Coles, 34, who qual­i­fied for the tour­na­ment in an on­line com­pe­ti­tion, leapfrogged sev­eral com­peti­tors with 12-1 shot I Love Ro­mance in the penul­ti­mate con­test race at Golden Gate Fields, then hung on for the fi­nal race, a scratch de­pleted off-the-turf af­fair at Santa Anita.

Coles said he will use the first­prize money of $800,000 to pay off stu­dent loan debt from at­tend­ing law school.

“It was a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said of play­ing in the live three-day tour­na­ment, “but it’s work­ing out OK.

“There are so many amaz­ing hand­i­cap­pers here and I feel like I had a good strat­egy, be­cause I knew I wasn’t go­ing to be the best hand­i­cap­per here,” the Illi­nois res­i­dent said. “There are leg­ends here, peo­ple who have been do­ing it for­ever. I had to come up with a dif­fer­ent game plan.”

Jim Meeks of Elko was the run­ner-up in this year’s con­test, which is open to mem­bers of the NHC Tour who qual­ify in live and on­line tour­na­ments through­out the year.

Coles be­comes the third player to take home the top prize in the first year they qual­i­fied, join­ing Judy Wag­ner (2001) and Stan­ley Bavlish (2007).

Mike Brunker’s horse rac­ing col­umn ap­pears Fri­day. He can be reached at [email protected] re­viewjour­nal.com or 702-383-4656. Fol­low @mike_brunker on Twit­ter.

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