05/01/2015 2:23PM

Fornatale: Get your wagers in early for Santa Anita qualifier


There is only one contest in the Daily Racing Form universe on Sunday, and it’s happening at DRFQualify.com. The buy-in is $90, and up to four players will win their $4,000 entry fee for the May 16-17 Santa Anita Handicapping Challenge, along with a $500 travel voucher.

The qualifier will be using the “all-in” format, meaning all the picks for the contest must be in before the first race. The bad news is this means players won’t know the final odds of any of the horses running except in the first leg. The good news is that once your bets are in, you can enjoy the rest of your Sunday, whether you’re watching the races or not. This format makes sense on the day after a lot of horseplayers have spent two consecutive days holed up watching the action from the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby.

Many players like the all-in format because their competition can’t just pick longshots based on price as the contest progresses. You have to really have a reason other than price to play every horse you select. In this sense, the all-in tournaments might offer the purest handicapping contest format, though it must be noted that they are less about handicapping in the traditional sense (weighing chances vs. prices) and more about just picking winners. Of course, all-in contests require their own type of game theory as well, but that’s a topic for another day.

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The May Santa Anita contest figures to be a popular one. Santa Anita has become the leader in live-bankroll events, hosting several such contests a year, and player feedback is always great. The weekend of the contest is Preakness weekend, and players will be able to wager on the second jewel of the Triple Crown in addition to two days’ of racing from the Great Race Place.

Of the $4,000 buy-in, $1,000 goes to fund the prize pool, which will be fully returned to players in the form of cash and seats to the National Handicapping Championship and Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. The other $3,000 acts as a live bankroll. Players keep whatever portion of their bank remains at the end of the contest. Permitted wagers for the contest are win, place, show, exacta, and trifecta.

Here are the races for Sunday’s qualifier (all times Eastern):

3:02 Pimlico 5

3:14 Tampa 6

3:30 Gulfstream 6

3:58 Pimlico 7

4:18 Tampa 8

4:51 Tampa 9

4:57 Belmont 8

5:00 Gulfstream 9

5:00 Santa Anita 4

5:28 Belmont 9

5:30 Santa Anita 5

As always, free past performances will be available on DRFQualify.com. To sign up, go to www.drfqualify.com/buy_advanced.aspx.