11/18/2014 2:37PM

Fornatale: Illinois man jumps into top 10

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Paul Hoffman of Schaumburg, Ill., won Saturday’s contest on NHCQualify.com.

Hoffman, who already had double-qualified for the National Handicapping Championship, was playing for NHC Tour points only. With this win, he will leap up from 20th place in the standings into the top 10.

The win was particularly significant for Hoffman because it was his sixth tournament result of the season. The NHC Tour allows players to use their six best results – at least one of which must be in a live event – to determine their total Tour points.

For Hoffman to challenge current Tour leader William Shurman, he will need to improve two of his other scores before the season ends – a tall order, but not impossible.

Hoffman finished Saturday’s contest with $160.20, about 3.3 times the initial of bankroll of $48 in the 12-race, $2 win-place contest. That’s above average for the format but makes sense because there were a number of big prices that came in that day. Hoffman had three of them: Zee Bros in the De Francis Dash at Laurel, Son of War in Del Mar’s fourth race, and American Sun in Del Mar’s sixth race.

Zee Bros paid $60.20 on the tote but was limited to $42 for contest purposes. Son of War was also a capper, paying $54 to bettors but $42 on the win end in the contest. American Sun paid $21.60 at the track and in the contest, since she was under the 20-1 cap threshold.

Four players advance from Saturday’s event on to the NHC itself. They are:
◗ George Bosch of Brooklyn, N.Y., $144.50
◗ Bill McKinney of Erie, Penn., $143.00
◗ Rick Broth of Dunwoody, Ga., $140.30
◗ Tarik Kouchtaf of Bayside, N.Y., $140.20

Bosch took an approach similar to Hoffman’s. He nailed Zee Bros and Son of War and added a couple of place horses and one chalky winner, Coalport ($3.10), in Hawthorne’s sixth race. It’s a good thing he did because without the $5.60 he got in total from Coalport he would have fallen out of a qualifying spot, proving once again that sometimes favorites can make the difference, especially in the typical online format.

McKinney and Broth followed the same path. Both had Son of War but still had a mountain to climb approaching the last two races of the tournament. But climb it they did. Each played Alette in Hawthorne’s eighth race for $21.60 on the win end, then each played Play Hard to Get in Del Mar’s seventh race at a $24.60 win price. They should meet up for a cocktail in Vegas.

Kouchtaf hung on to the fourth and final qualifying spot by only a single dollar over Richard Grose of Wentzville, Mont. Despite having both Zee Bros and Son of War, Kouchtaf nearly missed the cut. Fortunately for him, he came up with crucial place points on Kepi ($5.20 to place) in Hawthorne’s eighth race.

Qualifying action returns to both NHCQualify.com and BCQualify.com next Saturday. There will be more details about both events available later this week on those sites and drf.com.