11/23/2015 2:00PM

Fornatale: Keeneland's Goodman gains NHC seat


Jim Goodman ought to understand a thing or two about handicapping contests. After all, he’s been running live-bankroll events at Keeneland for the last ten years. Four years ago, influenced by all the fun the players were having in his events, he started playing in tournaments online himself. After a great day on NHCQualify.com on Saturday, Goodman is headed back to the National Handicapping Championship for the third straight year.

Like most good players, Goodman is able to handicap himself as well as the races: He knows the conditions that suit him. “This is the kind of day I am competitive; lots of mid-priced horses with no cap horses,” Goodman said. His longest prices winner was Bird Humor at 7-1 in Churchill’s eighth. “Sophie Doyle took a horrible spill earlier this week and when I found out she was riding on Saturday even though she was really banged up, I took a look at her mounts. I thought she was especially live on this one and the price was great.”

Ten minutes later, Goodman connected with Irish shipper Jeremy’s Legacy ($15.40) at Del Mar, thanks to a tip from a fellow player. He added $46 to his bankroll and moved to first with a fairly good cushion. “I had the lead for the last three races, but the leaderboard was complicated,” he said. “I was just focused on the margin I had on the fifth eligible player.  It was $26, so on the last race with the way the wagering was spread there were six horses who could not beat me.  I took a 12-1 shot with speed in case he got a clear lead, just to protect myself.  When the winners came in at 6-1 and 2-1 I took a deep breath; all of us have been beaten by cap horses in the last race on the West Coast!”

He ended up with $102.90, second overall and $13.30 clear of fifth. Goodman, 61, is also the Director of Mutuels and Simulcasting at Keeneland, responsible for the mutuels operation, simulcasting contracts and rates, managing the off-track facilities at Red Mile, and programs distribution. “I retired from the Kentucky Department of Parks 12 years ago, and went to work as a mutuel clerk at Keeneland during live meet, basically just to be around the track,” he said. “I then got an opportunity to apply for a management position, and I went from being semi-retired to working full-time at the greatest race track in the world.”

For a while this year, his qualification for the NHC seemed in jeopardy. “We just finished a little event called the Breeders’ Cup, which definitely cut into my tournament playing time this year,” Goodman explained.

Also qualifying for Vegas were Rick Broth ($97.20), Wendy Long ($94), and Kevin Willett ($90.70). Bird Humor was the common denominator among their entries. Broth and Long needed Rusty Slipper ($14.20) in the anchor leg to qualify. Willett had a nice late run of three winners in a row to secure his position.

With the hunt for NHC Tour points in full swing, many players on Saturday were already double-qualified for the NHC and looking to move up the ladder into the Top 20, where they’ll be eligible to compete for an additional $25,000 in prize money at the new tournament-within-a-tournament. Seven of the top 25 finishers were in this boat. Trey Stiles ($104) did the best of this group, winning the contest outright. Coming into the weekend, he sat 33rd on the Tour but he’ll move up significantly after besting a field of 259. Stiles, a 14-time NHC qualifier, is certainly one of the players to watch at this year’s event.

Also on Saturday on BCQualify.com, two players won their full $10,000 buy-ins to next year’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at Santa Anita. Joseph Cicatello topped a field of 152 players with a score of $110.60. He had five winners overall including a torrid finish where he nailed four of the last five: Bird Humor, Jeremy’s Legacy, Nublado Bling ($8.20), and Rusty Slipper. Second-place finisher Kevin Costello ($100.30) is also BCBC bound. Sky Flight ($12.20) got him off to a good start in the very first contest race but the additions of Bird Humor and Rusty Slipper certainly helped. Place points in the penultimate race were critical as well. Without the $7.60 he earned from Call to Congrats, he would have just missed out.

Qualifying action returns to NHCQualify.com next weekend on Saturday and on every Saturday for the remainder of the year. BCQualify.com will run two contests in December, on the 6th and the 20th, both Sundays.