07/08/2015 11:42AM

Fornatale: Arlington hosts free live-bankroll contest

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Arlington Park is hosting its annual no-fee, live-bankroll handicapping contest on Sunday, July 12. Four spots to the National Handicapping Championship and one $10,000 seat to the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge will be awarded. Arlington's contest is one of the best deals going in the contest world.

Arlington's Manager of Communications Brian W. Spencer explained, "We're really excited to run a contest with no entry fee where players will have a chance to wager and compete for five seats to major tournaments."

The buy-in for the contest is $2,000 but only $400 of that sum must be wagered to qualify for the prize pool. Beyond the required four $100 bets on Arlington races, players can sit on their bankrolls if they wish and take home any unused portion. There's no reason for anyone at Arlington on Sunday who plans on handling $400 on the day not to play in the contest. Entries are limited to two per player and a maximum of 130 entries will be accepted. 

The contest tracks include Arlington, Gulfstream, Monmouth, and Belmont with the restriction that the simulcast races included must take place within the window of the Arlington live card. Eligible tracks/races in Sunday's Handicapping Challenge are Arlington (1-8), Belmont (3-9), Gulfstream (4-10), and Monmouth (5-11).

Last year, Arlington's contest was dominated by new live-bankroll player Eric Israel of Chicago. He finished first and fourth with his two entries, securing seats to both the NHC and BCBC. “I approached the contest just like any other day at the track,” he said. “I imagine I was at a disadvantage from a strategy standpoint, considering my inexperience in contests, but I simply focused on maximizing my profits through good money management and by making selections that I felt had fair value.”

Things didn't work out exactly as planned for Israel at the NHC or BCBC, but he's eager to get another shot. "I made a run at the BCBC and the NHC," he said, "I didn't cash at either one but I had a great time at both."

Israel has been quiet on the tournament scene so far in 2015, but this is a home game for him. He will be back with two entries once again this time around and will be one of the players to watch. "I'm coming back to defend my title," he said.

Permitted wagers are win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, and doubles. The latter provides an interesting wrinkle as there are not many live-bankroll contests that allow any form of multi-race wager. This was one of the things that attracted current NHC tour favorite Jonathon Kinchen to Chicago this weekend in search of that elusive on-site victory that will solidify his position on the NHC Tour.

"It's a two-birds-one-stone thing for me," Kinchen said, "I have always heard such great things about Arlington Park as a facility and I'm super excited about the ability to play doubles. That really fits my normal style of play."

Because the prize pool is seats only, scores in the contest are expected to be lower than might typically be expected in a live bankroll contest that had an entry fee and offered cash. Last year, Israel's winning total was $7.072.30 and the fifth-place finisher and last seat winner, David Gutfreund, totaled $4,626.

To sign up online, go to  http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?orgid=45089&pid=8033086. Entries may also be purchased by phone by calling 847-870-7223. Unless they sell out -- which they very well might -- walk-up entries will be accepted in cash on the day of in the International Room, where the contest is being held.

To see the full contest rules, go to  http://www.arlingtonpark.com/trackside-otb/contests-events-promotions/2015-arlington-handicapping-challenge