The Horse Player World Series—Back at HorseTourneys This Weekend and…Just Maybe…More Popular Than Ever

Qualifiers begin this week at HorseTourneys for one of the mileposts of every contest year, the Horse Player World Series. The first direct qualifier comes this Saturday, Travers Day. It’s an entry-only qualifier for $90.

Always more steak than sizzle, the Horse Player World Series seems like it goes in and out of fashion more often than skinny ties.

It has been a “major” stop on the tournament scene for decades, yet some have criticized in for lacking the glitz of the NHC, the BCBC or even some of the Southern California tour stops. Others have commented that three solid days of six- or seven-track handicapping is just too hard a “grind.” Some have commented that the prize structure is too top-heavy for a tournament that typically boasts well more than 500 entries.

At HorseTourneys, we’re really bullish on the 2019 renewal of the HPWS and here’s why:

For years, the Horse Players World Series was a must-attend tournament and as prestigious as any, save for the NHC. Then, however, more and more tournaments came aboard, creating what is now a pretty crowded contest calendar—and many of the new ones were live-bankroll affairs, some with hefty buy-ins of $5,000 or more.

This was no accident. For a long time, players seemed to clamor for more high-end, live-money events—the ones where the more you liked a horse, the more you could bet.

Take a look around now, though, and there aren’t as many mythical, brick-and-mortar win-place tourneys as there used to be. In fact, it could be argued that the HPWS is an archetype of the sort of “bourgeois” tournaments that have contracted of late. Oddly enough, though, players seem to be missing these tournaments.

Our qualifiers for the 2018 Orleans Fall Classic—a fun event also held at The Orleans though one not considered a “major”—have been more popular at HorseTourneys than ever.

Meanwhile, the NTRA recently announced a series of three NHC super qualifiers (one at Belmont, one at Fair Grounds and one at Santa Anita) that, while they involve live bankroll wagers, also incorporate pre-determined win-place wager amounts a la mythical tournaments. Coincidence? We shall see.

Add in the fact that one of the most popular live, mythical-money tourneys—the Wynn Handicapping Challenge—was not held in 2018, and we think the live-bankroll vs. mythical scale may have tipped to the point where players are starting to vote with their feet (and their wallets) that they’d now like to see more of the mythical tournaments that caused them to fall in love with contest play in the first place.

While live-money events will, understandably, always have their staunch advocates, others prefer competitions that don’t depend as heavily on the outcome of the final race or on relatively gigantic all-in plays. These live-bankroll contrarians feel that a clever longshot selection early in a contest should mean as much as one that takes place at the end. The HPWS is unquestionably a more populist event and, with 45 plays required, no one can argue that the winner hasn’t earned his or her stripes.

There are no absolute right or wrong answers here, of course. Certainly, there is plenty of room for both styles of tournament play. But our reading of the tournament tea leaves suggests that mythical play is alive and well in the hearts of a great many contest players and that—especially with its return next year to a late March date (March 28-30)—the Horse Player World Series is poised for a big year in 2019.

If you agree, your road to the HPWS begins this Saturday.