Robbie Courtney’s Special Seat at the NHC

When you play in — or report on — enough contests, it’s easy to overlook how much a victory might mean to someone…especially when it’s not us doing the winning.

About 10 days ago, we mentioned in our blog and on Twitter that Robert “Robbie” Courtney, a 53-year-old from Fort Worth, Tex., had qualified to the NHC for finishing second in a $75 qualifier at HorsePlayers.

The achievement seemed particularly notable given that Courtney, a longtime racing fan but a relative newcomer to contest play, managed to pick eight winners out of 10 races.

We didn’t know the half of it.

Robbie Courtney

Yesterday, we received the following email into our general email account at HorseTourneys. With Robbie Courtney’s permission, we share it with you now.



Thank you for providing the platform ( / for opportunities to qualify for the NHC Championship. In my second year of handicapping this is a special one for me and my family, even if I don’t place.

I had sat out for about two months earlier not playing any contests due to my precious bride battling cancer that had come back with a vengeance. She was in the hospital for weeks and finally came home for hospice care. As I cared for her, gratefully taking in every moment with her, one of the things she said to me was, “Don’t give up on qualifying for the NHC. You are great at this and I know you can do this. Promise me you will continue.”

She passed away on October 31st with all of the family (me and my 2 kids).

I decided the third week of November to enter the qualifier for 11-22 and the rest is history. My kids watched the last race on RTN (Woodbine) as the #1 horse (my pick) ran hard and won in the stretch. It was something I’ll never forget. You should see the video of me and the kids yelling when the horse finished first. I SWEAR MY WIFE MUST HAVE BEEN WHISPERING IN ALL 8 HORSES THAT GOT FIRST PLACE.

I just wanted you to know that this isn’t just a hobby for me or just a business you are running. It’s much more. It’s played a big part in helping me get through a tough season and helping me now walk through a new season as a widower.

Thank you McKay for making a difference in my life and introducing me to some great friends in this Horse Racing community that now serve as my second family.

God bless you!


We are already blessed, of course, by Robbie having told us the story about himself and his wife Molly. It’s a reminder of the countless things in our life that are more important than horse racing — and, at the same time, of the inextricable place that racing (and, yes, contests) holds in so many of our hearts. It disappoints us, even infuriates us, at times, and yet we know it will always be a part of us — and that we are richer, figuratively if not literally, for that being the case.

Those who love us — who really love us — understand this about us too.

Robbie and Molly Courtney

Boiled down to its essence, HorseTourneys is basically just a group of like-minded people who share the same passion. Happily, thanks to on-site tournaments like the NHC, we get the opportunity to meet many of these people who, as Robbie points out, can be like our second family in many cases.

When Robbie participates in the NHC for the first time next February at Bally’s, his beloved Molly won’t be with him. It’s safe to say, however, that he won’t be alone — neither in spirit nor in person.