10/26/2015 9:48AM

Fornatale: Another tie in NHC qualifier


There nearly was another three-way dead heat for first on NHCQualify.com this past weekend. Two players finished knotted up for first, and a third contestant was just 40 cents behind in the show position. In one sense, the tie for first was even more unusual than the prior weekend’s three-way tie, where the three players all collected points from the same races. In this instance, the top two players cashed in different races.

Unlike the prior weekend, there was no unlucky loser this time. The top three players all won seats to the National Handicapping Championship. Kevin Geraghty, a popular figure in the contest world, was awarded first overall via tiebreaker because he had the most third-place finishes among his selections.

He collected points in five races overall, with four winners – Patton Proud ($9.40) in the opener, the capper Invading Humor, Fast Magoo ($9.60), and Mr. Winter ($28.80) – for a total of $138.40. Those last three winners came in the last quarter of the contest and will send Geraghty back to Las Vegas for a chance to win his share of the more than $2.5 million expected to be awarded out of the NHC.

The win was Geraghty’s fourth top-10 finish on the NHC Tour in 2015. His wife, Lee, is already double qualified for the NHC, having won seats earlier in the year on NHCQualify.com and at Surfside.

Alan Hoffman achieved the same score as Geraghty in a slightly different manner. Like, Geraghty, he collected place points with Temper Mint Patty ($5), but he added a place capper ($22) with City of Vengeance at Santa Anita. Then he backed the cap horse Invading Humor and Mr. Winter, like Geraghty. For Hoffman, this was his fourth top-10 NHC Tour finish on the year and his first NHC qualification for the 2016 event.

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Edward Lawless ($138) also benefitted from Invading Humor and Mr. Winter after scoring with Patton Proud and Cougar Ridge ($5.60), and he collected $10.20 to place on Frosty Margarita. Lawless’s only previous NHC Tour score this year came in Del Mar’s free meet-long online contest, where he finished 154th.

Speaking of the NHC Tour, Saturday’s contest also is likely to have implications for the race to finish in the top 20 overall. Players ending the year in the top 20 will compete against each other in a tournament within a tournament at the 2016 NHC. Sean Nolan, ninth on the tour heading into the weekend, ended up fourth in the contest, and Robert Engelhard, who started the weekend in 13th on the tour, finished 12th. Both are in good position as the NHC Tour turns for home.