A physical education teacher outlasted 416 players to win $10,000 and a trip to the National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas as the 5th annual TwinSpires.com Online Handicapping Series Championship winner.
 
Leigh Vanwinkle, 55, picked four winners and a pair of runners-up from 15 races to land on top of the 544-entry leaderboard. The TSOHS Championship win capped a big year for Vanwinkle who not only got engaged but also finished second in a live bankroll contest at Prairie Meadows.
 
“Getting another entry into the NHC was a major goal, and I really love the way TwinSpires runs its contests in November with the satellites into the big one,” Vanwinkle said. “I [have two NHC entries] now, and have my vacation days saved up for the last week of January.”
 
Vanwinkle is one of 50 players from the TSOHS Championship to qualify for trips to Vegas: he will join 19 others at the NHC January 28-30 at Treasure Island, and another 30 head to the Horse Player World Series March 31-April 2 at the Orleans.
 
“We’re delighted to give players like Leigh the best opportunity to qualify for the NHC and Horse Player World Series of the year,” said Lucky Kalanges, Twinspires’ director of marketing and tournaments. “With 50 Vegas seats awarded among 544 entries, that’s close to a 10 percent chance of winning a seat, and the support we’ve received from tournament players over the past five years has been tremendous.”
 
Vanwinkle credits some of his success to Tom Proctor, who trained both Family Meeting and Chiropractor to stakes wins at Del Mar. Vanwinkle picked both to generate 112.80 of his 148.40 contest points.
 
“My approach is to mix it up,” Vanwinkle said of his contest strategy. “If I feel like the favorite can’t be beat I’ll use him, but I’m first looking for prices. I have a lot of respect for Proctor; he’s a great horseman who wouldn’t have shipped without a chance, so his confidence gave me confidence. I was definitely screaming when Chiropractor got up to win.”
 
Vanwinkle got into racing going to the track with his father and brother, who is a trainer in the Midwest. Together they bred and raced stakes winner Letthebigredroll and have owned other horses through the years.
 
TwinSpires.com is the official wagering site of the Kentucky Derby (G1), Breeders’ Cup, and the Churchill Downs Inc. family of tracks. Players who wager with TwinSpires.com receive free handicapping information from the official data source of the Kentucky Derby, Brisnet.com. To open an account, visit TwinSpires.com, call 1-877-SPIRES-1 (1-877-774-7371), or download our app from the Apple/iTunes Store.