05/16/2016 12:34PM

Fornatale: Double pays big in more ways than one

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In real life, the $2 double on the sixth and seventh races at Belmont on Sunday paid $516. But for two horseplayers, that combination of $35.60 winners gives them a shot to win their share of $2.5 million at the National Handicapping Championship.

Edward Osterhout led the way on NHCQualify.com, one of three players to win into the NHC, along with Jim Clark and Paul Weizer.

Osterhout ($160.20) and Clark ($157.80) qualified easily ahead of the field on the back of Mongolian Prince and The Crocheron Kid, the winners who provided the $516 double. Both longshots seem reasonable plays in retrospect. Mongolian Prince took money in his lone dirt start at Gulfstream, where he had trouble and was racing against the race flow. Granted, he seemed suspiciously cold on the bold given his connections -- guys named Pletcher and Velazquez -- but other than that he made sense. The Crocheron Kid chased a 1-5 shot last time and ran a mostly competitive race with that winner. He was only 6-1 on the morning line despite his boxcar mutuel.

Weizer ended up with $133.50, good for third despite just two winners, The Crocheron Kid and the limit horse Honorable Partner in Monmouth’s eighth. In the previous leg, he had added critical place points – also at the cap of 10-1 – on Majestic Endeavor in Churchill’s eighth. Those three prices alone wouldn’t have been enough, however. The $2.80 to place he collected on Gunlock in Belmont’s sixth ended up being just enough to keep him up in qualifying position over unlucky Matthew Ache ($132.40) in fourth.

Sunday will never be the same for ninth-place finisher Ken McMahan, who, beggaring belief, received his third straight Sunday top 10 appearance on the NHCQ final leaderboard. The bad news, such as it is, is that with five strong online scores already, Sunday’s ninth-place finish won’t end up counting for his overall total. The points will count for the NHCQ Cyberstars contest, where the winner will receive $10,000 and a shot at a $1 million bonus at the NHC Finals. But don’t shed any tears for McMahan in any case – on the same sequence of races on DRFQualify.com he won a $2,500 prize package for the June 4 Monmouth Pick Your Prize contest.

Speaking of the Monmouth qualifier, Sunday’s contest was a raging success, with five players winning their $2,000 buy-ins plus $500 in travel. Brooklyn’s own Joe Scanio led the way ahead of McMahan, Tony Kite, Gary Gristick, and Sean Nolan. Look for more Monmouth qualifiers on DRFQ over the next few weeks.

On Saturday on DRFQ, Mike McIntyre won his way this weekend’s Preakness Betting Challenge at Santa Anita. McIntyre had previously finished second on DRFQ on both April 16 and April 23 so it was good to see him get over the top. McIntyre is half of a handicapping contest power couple along with his wife, Cheryl, who has won a remarkable four entries already to the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

Qualifying in second for Santa Anita was one of the most accomplished players in handicapping contest history, Duke Matties. Matties’s resume already includes multiple Santa Anita wins and a six-figure score at this year’s National Handicapping Championship, won by his brother Paul.

Players looking to buy-in to the Santa Anita contest next weekend may still do so. Entries cost $4,500 and can be purchased via http://www.santaanita.com/events/2016-santa-anita-preakness-challenge/#.VznnjoQrLIV or through contacting Nate Newby at Santa Anita. The prize pool will be comprised of cash, BCBC seats, and NHC seats.

Also on Saturday, 22 players advanced to the May 27 Round 2 contest on BCQualify.com. The final Round 1 event will be held next Saturday, May 21. This month, up to eight players will win their full $10,000 seats to the BCBC, the world’s richest live-bankroll event.