The biggest score of Bruce Warren’s life might be just the first step on a $50 parlay that leads to a $750,000 payday and an Eclipse Award as the nation’s top handicapper at the National Handicapping Championship January 24-26 in Las Vegas.

Warren, 56, of Melville, New York, finished first in the TwinSpires Online Handicapping Championship to win $10,000 and an entry to NHC 15. It’s his biggest win in racing to date and the first time he’s qualified for the NHC.

“I haven’t entered too many contests but have been an NHC Tour member for a few years mainly in case I ever qualified from a free tournament,” Warren said. “I’ve done a few brick and mortar contests, but the best I’ve ever finished is tenth or so, and I’m not a big bettor, so I’ve never won close to this.”

Warren won big bucks for the November 30 tournament at TwinSpires.com, and he’s in line for an even bigger payday at the NHC, but all that separated him and the second-place competitor in the TwinSpires competition is a dime, which Warren equated to the desperate nose of a horse who made the lead too soon and just did hold on for victory.

“I was in first after the tenth race [of 15], so I was in more of a nervous state of wanting to hold on than getting excited about winning,” Warren said. “There’s more pressure when you’re in the lead, so I didn’t really enjoy the ride as much until it was over but then I realized what a big thrill it was.”

As far as strategy goes, Warren said that his primary goal entering any tournament is not to overthink it, and he plans a similar approach for the NHC.

I’ll handicap the races and my primary objective is to pick whoever I think is going to win,” Warren said. “If I think two horses are close and one is 10-to-1 and the other is 8-to-5 then obviously I’ll pick the 10-to-1 horse, but if I really like a horse I won’t not pick him because he’s the favorite.

“I know some players won’t consider a horse who’s less than 8-to-1 or some other arbitrary price, but I try to stay patient. If I need a big price later in the tournament then I’ll go for it, but I start out just trying to pick winners.”

Warren got into racing growing up on Long Island and attending Roosevelt Raceway and Belmont Park as a teenager. He said he worked as a groom in high school and always tried to get his friends to go to the track with him in college. Warren’s wife and several friends plan to go to Las Vegas with him next month to cheer him on at the NHC.

“I feell in love with the sport from an early age and love introducing people to the sport,” Warren said. “To me, there’s nothing better than a freshly printed set of past performances. It’s pages of puzzles, and I absolutely love it.”

Warren’s publishing sales company, the Pegasus Group, does work throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions, including printing a directory for Meadowlands Racetrack.

Warren is one of 20 NHC qualifiers from the TwinSpires.com championship that also will send 30 people to the Horseplayer World Series March 27-29 at the Orleans Casino in Las Vegas. In 2012, TwinSpires.com qualifier Michael Beychok won the $1-million first prize at the NHC.

Your chance to qualify for those tournaments on TwinSpires.com has passed (at least for this year), but TwinSpires.com is giving away $5,000 on December 28 as part of its holiday freeroll—just bet $100/day for five days before Christmas to qualify (see site for more details).