06/13/2014 12:26PM

Fornatale: Full tournament slate this weekend

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What’s the best cure for a Belmont Stakes hangover? You could always try your hand in a handicapping contest this weekend. Qualifying for the 2015 National Handicapping Championship began shortly after the 2014 NHC in January, but the season really picks up this weekend with a series of live events around the country and plenty of online action.

This Sunday at NHCQualify.com, up to five NHC spots will be awarded. The NHC will take place at Treasure Island in Las Vegas from Jan. 24-26. It’s the world’s most prestigious handicapping contest, with 500 players expected to compete for up to $2 million in prizes.

The Sunday format on NHCQualify should be familiar: After a $165 buy-in, contestants must make a $2 mythical win-place bet on one horse in each of the 12 races selected. Here are the contest races:

3:24    Belmont 5
3:39    Monmouth 7
3:55    Belmont 6
4:07    Woodbine 7
4:10    Monmouth 8
4:26    Belmont 7
4:41    Monmouth 9
4:57    Belmont 8
5:10    Woodbine 9
5:12    Monmouth 10
5:28    Belmont 9
5:45    Woodbine 10

The card is a little turf-heavy, which is probably a good thing given the preferences of most contest handicappers. Plus, as a special concession for Father’s Day, it ends a little early – plenty of daylight left for barbecuing after you book your seat to Las Vegas. California players may be unhappy to see no Santa Anita races on offer, but given the quality of the card, it’s difficult to question that choice.

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On Saturday at BCQualify.com, there is another chance to put up $110 to try to qualify for Round 2 on June 27, when contestants will have a chance to win $10,000 buy-ins plus a travel allowance to play in the Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at Santa Anita.

This popular format requires players to finish in the top 10 percent in Round 1 to advance. In Round 2, a similar percentage of top finishers win the BCBC seats. Nineteen players have already punched their tickets, and Saturday offers a great chance to join them. As with the NHC qualifying event, contestants must place mythical $2 win-place bets on 12 races. Here are the races:

4:30    Arlington 6
4:41    Monmouth 9
5:00    Arlington 7
5:12    Monmouth 10
5:30    Arlington 8
5:43    Monmouth 11
6:00    Arlington 9
6:00    Santa Anita 5
6:30    Arlington 10
6:30    Santa Anita 6
7:00    Santa Anita 7
7:30    Santa Anita 8

With bad weather expected at Belmont and a lot of statebreds on offer, New York fans won’t get much love on Saturday. Due to the weather, Monmouth is limited to just one turf race. Notably, Arlington’s ninth race and Santa Anita’s fifth race are scheduled to go off simultaneously – same thing with Arlington’s 10th and Santa Anita’s sixth. Make sure you have default picks in and that you’re paying attention. The good multitaskers will be rewarded.

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The races for the PublicHandicapper Challenge have also been announced for this weekend. In addition to the overall and monthly prizes, PublicHandicapper offers a weekly prize to anyone who picks all four races correctly – a 10-card Daily Racing Form past-performance plan. It’s never too late to sign up. This week’s races, all on Saturday, are as follows:

The Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita
The Vanity at Santa Anita
The Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs
The Regret at Churchill Downs

The races start at 7 Eastern and wrap up at 10:11, so East Coasters can stay up late and West Coasters can enjoy happy hour while playing along on PublicHandicapper.com.