05/06/2015 11:28AM

Fornatale: Goodall earns 13th trip to NHC


Rich Goodall qualified for the National Handicapping Championship for the 13th time Sunday at an onsite contest in Las Vegas, one of three qualifiers at Treasure Island last weekend. Goodall, the 2008 NHC champion, also is an accomplished cash player. The 71-year-old Las Vegas resident said the two endeavors are as different as night and day.

“I’ve played and handicapped for many years, and handicapping and contest play are almost polar opposites,” Goodall said. “When I hear people on your blog espousing anything that comes from the old world of handicapping, in my opinion, it’s not the way to become a successful contest player.”

At the same time, Goodall said the harshest critics of contest play are even more wrong.

“On the other hand, you see people saying that contest play is all about stabbing with longshots,” he said. “That’s also a bunch of baloney. You have to handicap, but you have to handicap based on the dynamics of where you’re playing.”

He summed up the difference between contest play and cash play succinctly.

“In handicapping, the right horse is the right horse,” he said. “That’s just not true in contest play, where you need to be able to adapt as the situation changes throughout the day.”

The key to Goodall’s success Sunday was a $99 horse named Financial Pathway. Goodall smoked the horse out with the help of Daily Racing Form’s own Formulator.

“I like that column ‘Bet This, Not That,’ ” Goodall said. “And that’s the type of work I try to do in my own handicapping with Formulator. I go through the various trainers and look to see what things they do well and what things they don’t do so well.”

In the case of Financial Pathway, Goodall had earmarked the race as one of the few Sunday that was likely to produce a price. He eliminated the favorites based on price alone. There were five possible longshots remaining.

“I believe it’s more likely that a negative trainer pattern will continue than that a positive one will,” said Goodall. “Based on that, three of those longshots had no chance.”

Goodall watched Financial Pathway’s last race and wasn’t thrilled with the ride.

“Now he was changing to an apprentice jockey, and long ago, he had a pedigree to outclass them,” Goodall said. “Maybe it was a bit of a stretch, but it was grounded in reason. You’ve got to hang your hat on something.”

The key to Goodall’s contest success is preparation.

“When you’re playing for cash, you can always just pass,” he said. “When you’re in a contest, it’s completely different. Most online contests, you have to play all of them. If it’s a Saturday contest, you can get to work on Wednesday and learn everything about who is running, have an idea of what you might do if you’re ahead, if you’re behind. You’re ready for any contingency.”

The end of Sunday’s contest provided a perfect example. Goodall was ahead and just needed to pick the winner. Going into the last race, 2014 NHC Tour champ Eric Moomey, a player who has patterned his own game after Goodall’s, was in striking range. Goodall’s horse won the race outright, and he was heading back to the NHC for a 13th time.

“Eric played the right horse for his circumstance,” Goodall said. “I probably should have played the same one to block him, but I didn’t like the horse.”

Very few players have as much contest experience as Goodall. He has seen big changes in the contest world since he first started playing.

“The contest scene today is totally different,” he said. “Back in the early days of contests, you’d hear cheering for a 2-1 shot coming down the stretch in the first race of the contest. If you hear people cheering a 2-1 shot, that’s a weak field. People are betting on horses they shouldn’t be betting on. But you don’t hear that anymore. People have caught on, and the game is much, much tougher. There is very little dead money.”

Friday, Treasure Island

Rank Name; Score; Prize
1. Gary Johnson; $145.60; $20,750
2. Louis Constan; $120.60; $8,300
3. Paul Weizer; $117.00; $6,225
4. Rob Ruocco; $115.30; $4,150
5. Gary Knepper; $98.20; $2,075

Top four receive seats to the NHC.

Saturday, Treasure Island

Rank Name; Score; Prize
1. Frank Sorensen; $146.20; $21,000
2. Don Allen; $131.40; $8,400
3. Gaylord Grundy; $127.40; $6,300
4. Jose Arias; $117.60; $4,200
5. Paul Shurman; $117.20; $2,100

Top four receive seats to the NHC.

Sunday, Treasure Island

Rank Name; Score; Prize
1. Rich Goodall; $163.20; $24,000
2. Eric Moomey; $145.80; $9,600
3. Steve Turner; $135.80; $7,200
4. Louis Constan; $116.00; $4,800
5. Louis Constan; $113.10; $2,400
6. David Curry; $111.60

Goodall, Turner, Constan, and Curry win NHC seats. Moomey already was double-qualified.