10/05/2015 12:06PM

Fornatale: Johnson double-barreled for BCBC, NHC

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This Sunday on NHCQualify.com, Carlos Soto and Joe Johnson won seats to the National Handicapping Championship out of a field of 158. Soto had four collections worth at least $20, and was more than $30 clear for the top spot with a total of $162.20. He backed Pegasus Red ($16.20 to win) in Belmont’s sixth, More Than Rainbows ($32.20) in Belmont’s ninth, Chanito ($20.20 to place) in Santa Anita’s fourth, and cap horse Edeline ($65 to win on the tote but limited to $42 for contest purposes) in Keeneland’s 10th.

Johnson finished with $130.80, just a $1.20 in front of unlucky third-place finisher Tony Brice ($129.60), who was second at the 2014 National Handicapping Championship. In fact, there was a pack of chasing contestants who all played too well to lose, including John Farrar ($128.60), Amy Brantley ($126.80), and Jennifer Prince ($126.40).

But Soto and Johnson are the only ones who advance to Vegas out of this event. Earlier this year, Johnson won seats to the BCBC and the NHC in the same contest. His efforts on Sunday ensure that he’ll be playing the maximum two entries in n January, effectively doubling his chance to win his share of the more than $2.5 million expected to be on offer.

Johnson, who got into contests at the urging of his son, hit five winners overall, including the first two and last two in the sequence. He showed flexibility in his late selections by winning with a cap horse, Edeline in Keeneland’s 10th and a heavy favorite, Verraco ($4.40), in Santa Anita’s sixth.

On Saturday on BCQualify.com five players won their full $10,000 buy-ins for the Breeders Cup Betting Challenge. Leading the field of 172 entries was Tom Hofner with $162.10. Hofner batted .500 for the contest, collecting in six of the 12 races. His longest priced winner was Fioretti ($36.40) in Keeneland’s sixth.

Michael Weiss, who finished second with $155.40, also used Fioretti but needed late help from cap horse Mishegas ($68.40) in Santa Anita’s fifth.

The Larmeys will be the next handicapping family to be represented at the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. Alex Larmey, son of noted contest player Chris Larmey, finished third with $149.40. He backed five winners overall, including the last two, Secret Stash ($12.20) in Keeneland’s 10th and No Silent ($15.80) in Santa Anita’s sixth.

Kevin McFarland, who ran second in the 2013 BCBC and has won the summer Del Mar contest twice, totaled $135, good for fourth. His two biggest winners were Fioretti and Corps de Ballet ($33.20) in Santa Anita’s third. McFarland has to be considered a contender in any contest he chooses to play.

Last but not least, Daniel Johnson got up for fifth after a rocky start. Johnson, who finished with $131.70, had only one place collection through the first seven races. He caught fire from there, backing Brody’s Cause ($25.80) in Keeneland’s eighth, Mishegas, and No Silent.

Additionally this weekend, DRFQualify.com sent two players to the Santa Anita Autumn Championship. On Saturday, Steve Tartaglione used a late surge (he backed four of the last six winners for a total of $122.90) to get past Gary Young ($119.20) and 55 others. On Sunday, Michael Ray bested a field of 58 with $172.30.