12/08/2014 10:12AM

Fornatale: Eight players stamp tickets to NHC


Eight more players punched their tickets to the National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas in Saturday’s NHCQualify.com contest. Two of the players – Wendy Long, of Surrey, British Columbia, and Basil DeVito of New Canaan, Conn., earned their second NHC berths of the year.

Long’s husband, Steve Nemetz, also has two entries, making the Long-Nemetz household a formidable force to watch at the NHC. DeVito, a longtime fan who works as an executive at WWE, will be playing in the main event for the first time.

The overall winner was Robert Schwartz, of Pittsford, N.Y., who finished with $142.20. The Claiming Crown races at Gulfstream were kind to him. He had St. Borealis ($29.80) in the fifth race, Saffron Hall ($13) in the ninth, and Catholic Cowboy ($37.80) in the 10th. Those three alone would have been good enough for an NHC qualification, but Schwartz added Expression ($14.40) in Aqueduct’s eighth for good measure.

Long ran second with $122.20. She had three winners, including Catholic Cowboy.

Third-place finisher Nick Alpino, of Laguna Hills, Calif., is no stranger to NHC success – he was third in last year’s contest, where he won $100,000. He advances to the finals again, and he didn’t even have the bomb in the last leg. He did have three other Claiming Crown winners – St. Borealis, Buster Rose ($16) in the seventh, and Saffron Hall – to notch a final score of $110.70.

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Marino Sciancalepore, of Clifton, N.J., was a little unlucky throughout the contest, with four horses who placed but didn’t win. But Catholic Cowboy came to the rescue in the anchor leg, giving him a final score of $108.80.

Robert Moore, of Woodbury, Minn., who ended up with $103.20, had four winners in the first two-thirds of the contest: St. Borealis, Best Behavior ($7.80) in Gulfstream’s sixth, Buster Rose, and Grande Shores ($11) in Gulfstream’s eighth. In the third-to-last race, he got place points for Rose Brier ($7 to place), though he would have qualified by a whisker without that race result.

John Dougherty, of Henderson, Nev., tallied $100.40. He got off to a slow start, with no winners in the first two-thirds of the contest (though he did score place points in three races). Business picked up for Dougherty with R Sassy Lass ($8.60) in Tampa Bay’s ninth. From there, he grabbed more place points with Rose Brier and Catholic Cowboy in the last. It just goes to show how valuable any points along the way can be when you can get home a bomb late in the contest.

Cayne Collier, of Chicago, took advantage of a hot start. Collier had the first three winners – St. Borealis, Curious Cal ($8.50) in Aqueduct’s sixth, and Best Behavior – before enduring a six-race dry spell. Fortunately for Collier, Saffron Hall came in. The final score of $95.50 was just enough for qualification.

The aforementioned DeVito secured the final qualifying spot in a similar fashion: St. Borealis, Expression, and Saffron Hall. He blanked on the late double within the contest, but $94.30 was enough to hold sway over the unlucky Mike Kappel, of Belleville, Ill. Kappel had Catholic Cowboy but needed the win or place prices to pay $1.60 more to catch DeVito.