Local race fans are vying to be America’s next top horseplayer at the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship (NHC) in at the Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas

The Tournament leader at the end of Day 1 was Thomas Mooney, a 55-year-old financial analyst from Lindenhurst, N.Y., who qualified through his second-place finish in the Aqueduct Fall Handicapping Challenge.

Top local players Joe Lods and Jerry McClenin, respective winners of the Belmont Park Summer and Aqueduct Fall Handicapping Challenges, remained competitive in the standings and optimistic about today’s second and final day of the competition.

Lods, a 33-year-old English teacher from Rockville Center, N.Y., was in 46th place and $71 behind Mooney when play concluded on Friday.

“It’s been an emotional roller coaster from race to race,” Lods said. “I’ve been so up and down. I win one, and then I lose one. The whole experience has been better than I ever anticipated…[and] I think I can make a run at it [Saturday].”

Finishing solidly in the middle of the pack after Day 1 in 154th place and $109.30 behind the leader, Jerry McClenin, a 51-year-old printing press operator from Staten Island, N.Y., was hopeful he might also be able to repeat his come-from-behind victory in local Aqueduct competition.

“It’s been a little rough for me so far,” McClenin said. “I’ve only had one winner and two seconds. Most of my horses have been running, but I’ve had a lot of thirds and fourths. [Saturday] there are going to be a lot of wide open races, and usually the leader has a rough day of it on day two, so I’m staying positive.”

The winner of the DRF/NTRA NHC will take home $500,000 and the “DRF/NTRA Handicapper of the Year” title.

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Next Saturday’s feature race will be the 69th running of the $65,000-added Correction for fillies and mares, three and up, at six furlongs on the inner dirt track.

Jeff Singer’s A Rose for You makes her seasonal debut here after a solid three-year-old campaign that produced a 4-2-2 record from 12 starts for trainer Michael Trombetta.

Fox Hill Farm’s Blowing Kisses ran third here in the Interborough Handicap on New Year’s Day, but the 4-year-old Vindication filly had an excuse as she stumbled at the break. Trained by Jeff Barkley, she has a lifetime record of 2-2-4 from nine starts.

Coli Bear, owned by G. Chris Coleman and trained by Bruce Levine, tired as the pacesetter in the Interborough to finish fifth. The 6-year-old Formal Dinner mare has two wins from five inner track starts.

Training well at Belmont Park is Gulf Coast Farms’ Distorted Passion, who will bring a two-race winning streak to the Correction. The Todd Pletcher-trained Distorted Humor filly was able to transfer her solid form on synthetic surfaces to a neck victory on the inner track on December 14.

Runner-up in the Interborough, Edward P. Evans’ 5-year-old Intentional Fever, will likely complete the field. Trained by Anthony Dutrow, she has not won in six starts since a Delaware Park victory on September 7, 2007.