Chris Littlemore, a retired autoworker from Whitby, Ontario, Canada, took home the top prize of $800,000 and an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year on Sunday after winning the 19th annual National Horseplayer Championship (NHC) at Treasure Island Las Vegas.

It was the second straight year that a Canadian from the Toronto area won the NHC, as Ray Arsenault of Thornhill, Ontario, captured the 2017 championship.

The 58-year-old Littlemore accumulated a $348.30 bankroll 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 in the Final Table contest exclusive to the overall top 10.

“I didn’t feel that confident,” Littlemore said of entering Day 3 as the leader. “I didn’t like the card that well; I didn’t like the races. I got lucky that a lot of chalk came in and kept me on top. I kept my distance. As the day wore on, I wasn’t having a good day, so I just kept picking away, picking away. I was fortunate enough that no big long shots came in to overtake me, and I picked the right horse in the last and it got me through.”

In addition to the prize money and Eclipse Award, Littlemore also earned a berth to next year’s NHC finals, an entry to the Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship and an entry to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

Littlemore was in 11th place at the end of Day 1 with $124.60, and shot to the lead Saturday afternoon after tabbing an 18-1 winner (Holiday’s Angels, 7TH at Oaklawn Park) and 12-1 shot (Dano’s Dream, 8TH at Golden Gate Fields).

“My goal the first day was to try to get to $100,” he said. “I got $125. That was a good day. You have to have two pretty good days here to get to the money (top 10 percent). So when you have a good day, you’re just trying to get to the money. That’s my mindset.”

This was the fifth NHC appearance for Littlemore, who had a single entry, earned as one of the top 150 NHC Tour finishers (67th). His previous best NHC finish was 29th in his first attempt, 2014. The father of two has one daughter currently in Australia on a student exchange program.

“It’s life-changing for me,” Littlemore said. “I’m paying for their education now, and that’s great. It’s ironic. I’ve got a buddy I retired with from work. He won $1 million two weeks ago on the lottery in Canada. For me to do this two or three weeks after that is astonishing, really. It’s nuts.”

Littlemore is now eligible for the $3 million NHC-BCBC Rolling Double bonus should he go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) this November.

Keith Fenton of Fort Worth, Texas, took second with a final bankroll of $315.10, good for a $250,000 prize. Garett Skiba of Hinsdale, Illinois came in third with a $314 bankroll, worth $125,000.

The NHC had a record field size of 702 entries (568 individual players, 134 of whom held the maximum two entries) and offered record overall cash and prizes totaling $2,974,700.

PLACE   NAME (HOMETOWN)   BANKROLL   PRIZE
1st   Chris Littlemore (Whitby, Ontario, Canada)   $348.30   $800,000, Eclipse Award, berth to NHC 19
2nd   Keith Fenton (Fort Worth, Texas)   $315.10   $250,000
3rd   Garett Skiba (Hinsdale, Illinois)   $314   $125,000
4th   Tom Noone (Redondo Beach, California)   $287.60   $100,000
5th   Stephanie Schmidt (Goodyear, Arizona)   $277.90   $75,000
6th   Scott Carson (New York City)   $267.80   $62,000
7th   Gloria Kahlden (St. Petersburg, Florida)   $262.50   $58,500
8th   David Watts (Vancouver, Washington)   $260.70   $55,500
9th   John Roe (Brookfield, Illinois)   $260.10   $52,000
10th   Daniel Hart (Batesville, Arkansas)   $256.10   $50,000

Photo courtesy of Horsephotos.com